Horseplay, International

2. Budapest: Get An Odour This

I met the smelliest man in Budapest. This is my story.

Wow, what a flight. The tickets were £21 each and we travelled 900 miles but amazingly, still overpaid. It was one of those flights that was so late that somehow, the airport was closed by the time we arrived.

It was probably the 2nd weirdest airport I’ve ever been to. When we entered the arrivals area, there were a good thirty cleaning ladies, all draped in white, but such different shades of white that no one looked like they were wearing the same colour. The boss definitely said ‘Alright, everyone wear white’ and they all interpreted that in a different way but all managed to be right.

They were forcefully and repeatedly banging at the ceiling with long brooms, presumably cleaning, but looking like they were complaining in unison about someone watching the telly too loudly upstairs.

We checked into our hostel at about 2am and tiptoed into our room. And what a room, I might add. Four-person capacity, curtains on both windows: the works.

Immediately, there was a commotion in the bed nearest to the door. A bloke who looked like a significantly less handsome version of the new bully on Stranger Things inexplicably jumped from the top bunk – yeah, that’s right, the top – and stormed out of the room, fury blazing in his eyes.

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And you know what, he didn’t come back all night. I know because I was up until about 4am (had some reading to catch up on).
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Morning arrived and there was still no sign of him. We thought nothing of it but the second we made to leave, we ran into him. He was furiously stationary and positioned directly outside the room. As soon as we were completely out the door, he jumped back over the threshold.

Bloody odd but whatever. We had a more pressing matter to see to: Experiencing the rich and illustrious culture of Budapest.

First off: The Hungarian National Museum. As with what happens on most holidays, we didn’t bother looking at the website beforehand and the place was closed. Oh well, this isn’t exactly our first time ’round the block so we knew that the key thing about travelling is: always have a Plan B.

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After a fun day filled with learning of Hungary’s extensive culture and testing out the exciting new cuisine, we headed back to the hostel.

There were a couple of things I noticed as soon as we re-entered our room. First off, it’s 7pm, of course, that weird bloke who keeps on running away sleeps at this time. Secondly, why does it smell like Matthew McConaughey’s arse?

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Honestly, I’ve never smelt anything like it, and I’ve shared bathrooms with vegetarians. The smell was so strong and so varied that its actual existence was baffling. It smelt like someone’s feet had B.O, but with a sharp citric sting so it really got you in the eyes. 

My first thought was, the window is open, how is this smell staying stationary? My second thought was, save the women and children. And by women and children, I mean; my belongings. All my favourite clothes were in a bag somewhere in that room. Imagine if this smell somehow got ahold of them and clung on? I’d have to get rid of them and then wear clothes from the hostel’s lost and found, like when a five-year-old shits his pants and has to wear school-brand underwear.

We headed to reception.

‘Hi, can we change room? We’re in 6A and…er…someone in our room, their armpits…how do I put this? He smells like Sunday night at Reading Festival’.

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The women at reception had a good laugh. ‘Smelling like Reading Festival’ is a description that crosses many continents. 

The laughter quickly stopped: ‘The thing is, I don’t think we can change your room, we’re pretty booked up’.

We were shocked. We couldn’t go back in there. I was sure that complaining with a wink and a laugh would sort this whole thing out. Laura looked at me. A smile swept across her face. I knew what she was about to say before she even opened her mouth: ‘Plan B!’.

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I looked at Laura and shook my head: ‘Hooters don’t do accommodation, let’s just wait here.’

A couple of young men arrived and strode to reception, ready to check in. The receptionist looked over at us. We nodded. She looked apprehensive. She knew what to do.

‘You gentlemen will be in 6A’.

‘Great!’

Laura and I low-fived.

We moved to a new room. And what a room. Six beds, two lockers, curtains: the works. We hung up some of our pungent-by-association clothes on the other four beds and headed to the common area.

There was a note on the counter. Probably just about the best note you could ever find.

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No, the other counter.

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This one!

It doesn’t get better than that. What saint was responsible for this? We looked around and saw a charismatic, generous bloke with a smile that stretched from here to Julia Roberts and he was handing out lagers to everyone. Apparently, he went on a Brewery Tour earlier that day and took.his.wallet. And you know what, he didn’t just come back and then mindlessly hand out unchilled lagers. He chucked them in the freezer for the perfect amount of time (35 minutes) and then handed them out. What a pro.

This guy was a real charmer. He was just the best. He was sauntering around like Jonah Hill when he finally arrived at the party in Superbad. High-fiving strangers, dancing in slow motion, making elaborate toasts to himself: the works.

He jovially waved us over. Such a friendly bloke. I don’t drop this kind of language lightly but Christ, he was handsome. A familiar kind of handsome. If this place wasn’t £6.50 a night, I’d be certain that I’d seen him somewhere on the telly.

‘Hey, I saw you at reception with all your bags earlier. I thought you guys left!’

Laura and I low-fived. It’s always nice when someone as respected and influential as the free lager bloke remembers your face.

‘Oh no, we just had to change rooms, there was some smelly bast…oh…no’

In Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, there’s a passage where the narrator dunks a biscuit into his tea. They don’t specify what kind of biscuit but I think it was a Hobnob (Dark Choc). Anyway, he is transported back in time as the smell (of the Hobnob) causes childhood memories to return to the surface.

It’s called Odour-evoked Memory and apparently, it’s not all just hobnobs and childhood.

Someone must’ve left a window open because, Good Christ, a breeze caught the back of this man’s head and transported me roughly two hours back in time.

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The free beer man was the little stinker from 6A!

It was time to fess up. I should just say, look, you’re right, you did see us with our bags in reception. We had to leave because you stink. And then I told a load of people that you stink and we all laughed about it. So, therefore, I couldn’t in good consciousness take (another) free beer from you.

But I didn’t say that.

‘Oh. We just had to change rooms because we needed to be closer to the bathroom. (long pause) Laura has an inner-ear infection. Are there any more beers?’. Laura and I looked at each other. We didn’t low-five.

I started thinking, did I judge him too early? Is it ok to stop hanging out with someone just because they smell like burning sulphur? 

There are two lessons here and only one is relevant: ‘Don’t judge a bloke by his smell’ and ‘All of your senses vanish at the prospect of free beer’.