The history of these places, although very recent, is extremely cool. Ransacking of the Jewish quarter by the Nazis, followed by four decades of Communist rule, had left Budapest with a large number of derelict and decaying buildings, in varying states of disrepair. During the early 2000s, with many city dwellers on the breadline, these derelict buildings became makeshift bars, a place where people with little money could congregate and enjoy cheap booze. Characterised by bare walls, graffiti, and mismatched furniture as they grabbed what they could, these ramshackle places quickly grew into social hubs and their numbers began to increase.
Ruin bars became a kind of genre of their own, and, twenty odd years on, have a place in Budapest’s culture. Some have grown into big rambling establishments, some are intentional copies of the originals, but the semi open air feel – tarpaulins instead of roofs, crumbling brick walls – of the ruin bars is all part of a great atmosphere.
Our first experience of Szimpla Kertmozi, the original ruin bar, and the rest of our first day, is now posted on the journal. Go to the Cities section of the main menu and select Budapest.