Monday, January 12, 2009


Budapest, I was assured, is no colder than New York City in the winter. Usually. Except every five or six years, when Budapest is as cold as Warsaw. Well, guess which kind of winter I'm enjoying, here on lovely Gresczeszenczesbrushszesmezo Utca where I sit attempting to digest nineteen pounds of rich creamy pastry?

Ever since a traumatic night at University of Rochester that was so freezing I've never entirely warmed up, I've had a thing about being cold. It's partly psychological. I learned something that long-ago night about Cold that a person is not supposed to grok until advanced old age. I won't pass on the insight, as it's downright crippling. But in spite of aggressive countermeasures ranging from grad school in sunny Miami to frequent thirty minute sweat-outs in health club steam rooms to a drawerful of thermal underwear, I endure winter chills with frigid fraughtness.

The standard defense - aggressive layering of protective gear - leaves one sweaty and miserable, dreading transitions to indoor settings, and yet still, in key body places, cold. But finally, after decades, I've found the answer. As I stride down wind-swept Hungarian streets, late at night in single-digit weather, I laugh at the cold. I've beat this thing. Here's how I managed it:

Obviously, there's got to be a sweater or sweatshirt under the top coat. Those who simply throw a coat over their shirted torsos deserve to suffer. But, beyond that, I'm packing three add-ons, none particularly ingenious or creative. No gadgets or gizmos, just a certain optimal and harmonious combination of age-old solutions. It required spending a bit more than I'm ordinarily comfortable with, but the return on my investment has been mammoth (in the woolly sense).

Gorgonz Ear-Grips Ear Warmers (in this case relabeled "EarPros") keep ears warm-not-hot without crushing them or matting hair (you wear them behind the head, not over the top). Their size and angle is perfect. They are adjustable, though you must figure that out on your own (the things don't come with an owner's manual). These ear warmers absolutely rock. So much better than alternatives. Here's a differently branded version of the same product.

I've never been the type to buy or wear $45 gloves. But then again, I've previously been the type to shiver miserably on cold days. J Crew's
leather cashmere-lined gloves offer instant-on warmth. No need to huff in to preheat the finger holes. Cold digits never languish coldly. These things are toasters. If you feel too non-yuppie to don cashmere-lined gloves, you clearly have not frozen your ass off sufficiently. Go out into the winter and come back when you're serious - prepared to fully fight frigidity.

Finally, an oversized cashmere scarf. Yes, it's a bit Mr.-And-Mrs.-Howell-ian to garb oneself in multiple iterations of pricey cashmere. But scarfs are on deep sales right now. And between the gloves, the scarf, and the earmuffs (plus a prudent sweater or sweatshirt), you will be untouchable. You will be unaffected by howling sub-freezing winds, yet neither will you wind up an over-swaddled sweaty mess. I look and feel completely composed upon unwrapping in warm cafes (only the foggy eyeglasses give me away). I am astronaut-like in my seamless transition to and from an alien and menacing environment. I've nailed it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

have you hit up the borok haza yet?

one of my loveliest memories of budapest was going up to the top of one of budas hills and seeing the amazing greenery spread out below - impossibly beautiful.

and the baths! in the open air on a freezing winters day - heaven.

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