February 7, 2011

The Fog, Our Foe

{this is a continuation of my earlier post below entitled "Oh the fog" in which I promised to share an adventure story that Sarah and I had in the fog of Budapest...}

In an earlier plan they had made for the day, Sarah and Deanne decided they would end their day of sightseeing in Budapest by paying a visit to the world-famous Gellert Baths in the Gellert Hotel. They thought soaking in the hot mineral water would feel especially great after walking all day in the chilly winter air.

"Ok, are you ready?" Deanne asked Sarah. "I think we better get going because I'm not sure how long it's going to take to walk there."

They were at the Buda Castle and according to the map, the Gellert Hotel was just a few miles away, on the same {Buda} side of the Danube river. Deanne felt confident that she could successfully navigate her way to the baths, even though she had never visited them before. It was her fourth time in the city so she felt she knew what she was doing. And after all, she had even spent one summer working as a tour guide in England.

"We need to go this way," said Deanne, "but I don't know if there's a way to get around to the other side of the castle."

The fog was so thick that Sarah and Deanne could only see about 10 yards in front of them, which was not enough to tell if they could indeed get around to the other side of the castle. After circling it in front and then in back, it was clear that there was no way to the other side of the castle but to go down the hill.

It was only 5 p.m., but Castle Hill was eerily quiet. There seemed to be no other tourists and the fog was so thick that it drowned out all sounds of the city. The lights made the fog glow a yellowish-orange and although the historic buildings looked hauntingly beautiful peering out from the fog, they also looked a little creepy, too.

Sarah and Deanne found a path leading them down Castle Hill towards the river. Again, no one in sight. They walked for about two miles, criss crossing traffic and narrow sidewalks. They had opted to walk to the hotel rather than take public transportation because they both so enjoyed exploring foreign cities on foot.

They finally arrived to the base of Gellert Hill, where a famous statue is illuminated on the cliffs. Deanne opened her guidebook to examine the map.

"Look, Sarah. According to the map, the hotel is at the top of the hill, just beyond this park."

"So we need to go up?" asked Sarah.

"I think so," said Deanne.

Deanne was thinking that the hardest part would be to climb the hill and from there, it would be easy to walk through the park to the hotel. What Deanne didn't realize was that the top of Gellert Hill only contained a large park and some monuments, while the Gellert Hotel was located just beyone Gellert Hill, but at the level of the river.

The fastest way to the top of the hill was right in front of them. There was a path leading straight up the side of the cliff, with rows and rows of ramped walkways and staircases zig zagging their way up.

Sarah and Deanne began the climb which didn't take more than twenty minutes, but was quite the intense hike, which made their leg muscles tire out quickly.

As they neared the top of the cliff, they could see lights above. They kept going up, up, but it seemed no end was in sight. As their bodies and spirits were anticipating seeing the hotel through the park's trees at the top, they peaked to an especially harsh realization.

No hotel. No anything. Just an empty, endless park submerged in dense fog. The light of a few lamp posts dotted the fog here and there.

"Um, ok. We're obviously in the park, here," Deanne said as she showed Sarah the map.

"So then we just walk this way through the park and the hotel will be just over there, right?" said Sarah.


Sarah and Deanne started traveling along the very loopy paths of the park, which seemed to go in every which way and always forking off into different directions. They tried to maintain a general direction of going south, but the maze of paths was making that quite difficult.

It was dead quiet. The noise of traffic below was muffled by the fog so that it was barely audible. Without a single soul in sight, and with thick fog enclosing all around them, Sarah and Deanne were not liking their walk through the park. In fact, they were starting to feel a little anxious, wondering if they would they ever get out.

"Do you have the feeling," said Sarah, "that we're still in the Labrinyths even though we're really not in the Labrinyths?"

"Yeah, totally," replied Deanne. "This just feels so surreal. Everything looks so weird and creepy."

After continuing along the winding paths, Sarah and Deanne found themselves seeing bright lights coming closer.

"Maybe that's the hotel!" said Deanne.

But after emerging from the fog, they realized it was a sort of citadel, not the grand Gellert Hotel. Deanne pulled out her map.

"Oh my gosh, look," Deanne said as she pointed down at the map. "We've gone further into the middle of the park. This citadel thing is right in the middle."

"What should we do now?" Sarah asked.

"Well, at least we know where we are on the map. So obviously we just need to keep going in this direction," Deanne said as she pointed to the edge of the park on the map.

The backtracked their path a little and tried to keep to the general direction of south, but once again, it seemed the paths had a mind of their own and made it nearly impossible to keep a sense of direction. Sarah and Deanne were growing frustrated and more anxious. They could swear that the paths were working against them, almost in an evil sort of way.

After another twenty minutes and feeling more confused than ever, they knew they needed to do something.

"Ok, what do you think, Sarah? How about we just forget about getting to the baths and go back the way we came, and climb down the hill. Then we can take the tram and metro back to our hotel, " said Deanne.

"Yeah, let's do that. And we can always go to the baths tomorrow," replied Sarah.

They started backtracking, but once they did so for a little while, they realized with the maze of paths crossing and forking, they'd never be able to remember the exact way they came.

"Ok," Deanne said determinedly. "Let's just take any path that leads us down. As long as we can get to the river at the bottom of the hill, we can find the tram."

The chill in the air was biting cold. The light was dim and the fog relentless. Their feet were tired, their cheeks and noses frozen. Most of all, their spirits were weak, feeling defeated by the park and left wondering if they could ever find a way out of there.

Deanne was feeling more weary of the fog and no longer thought it beautiful. She linked arms with Sarah and silently they trudged along.

This is like something out of a scary movie, thought Deanne. She knew Sarah was thinking the same thing, but neither wanted to say it out loud. It was the perfect set up for something horrible to come leaping out of the fog.

Drip, drip, drip. The silence was broken only by the sound of water droplets, formed by the dense fog, dripping from the trees and plopping onto the dead leaves on the ground.

Sarah and Deanne descended down, down, down, and their spirits started to lift ever so slightly as they felt certain at least they were coming down off the nightmarish park on the hill.

They could see more lights ahead. A lot more lights. Their pace quickened.

As the trees thinned out and they emerged from the fog, Sarah and Deanne were standing near the bottom of the hill, directly facing Gellert Hotel.

"Hooray!" said Sarah!

"Wow, we were wandering on the hill for an hour and a half!" Deanne said as she glanced at her watch. "Oh, and the baths close in twenty minutes," she lamented.

"That's ok, we'll go tomorrow. At least we're out of there!" Sarah exclaimed.

"You're right. And now I know that Gellert Hotel isn't actually on Gellert Hill. Stupid map," muttered Deanne. "Let's go get dinner and back to our room to relax."

As they turned to make their way towards the tram, Deanne paused.

"Hey, Sarah? Tomorrow, when we come here...let's take the tram."

Sarah laughed. "For sure."

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