Only in Budapest by Duncan J.D. Smith

118 43 District VII Pubs in Ruins District VII (Erzsébétvaros), Szimpla kert ruin pub at Kazinczy utca 14 M2 to Astoria From Castle Hill to Heroes’ Square, Budapest is a city beloved by visi- tors for its architectural diversity. Splendid palaces, ancient churches, bath buildings, and imposing arcades all contribute to the feel of the place, even though some of them are crying out for restoration. That is the reality of Budapest in modern times: Vienna it is not. But how many visitors would actually go out of their way to visit a badly dilapidated apartment house, especially if it was of little apparent historical interest? The answer, surprisingly, is quite a few! Moreover, they are not looking for art and history but rather drink and entertain- ment, in one of Budapest’s so-called Ruin Pubs (Romkocsma). The phenomenon of the Ruin Pub originated in the run-down Jewish Quarter of Pest in District VII, where lack of money, neglect, and an absence of gentrification has created an abundance of crum- bling and sometimes abandoned late nineteenth century apartment buildings. The cost of restoring such huge structures remains prohibi- tive but this hasn’t deterred a new type of Budapest entrepreneur. Leaving the buildings almost exactly as they are, potential landlords of Ruin Pubs acquire a lease – and move straight in. All that’s needed is a makeshift bar, a sound system, and some battered furniture from the local flea market and a Ruin Pub is born! Against this unexpected but friendly backdrop the city’s youth are coming together to revel in the ruins, a beer in one hand and an opinion in the other – and visitors are more than welcome, too. The granddaddy of Ruin Pubs, Szimpla Kert at Kazinczy utca 14 (District VII), was the first to be opened and remains arguably the best of them all. Typically the building’s façade has been shorn almost entirely of its plaster exterior, victim to the elements and decades of little or no maintenance. Similarly, its once imposing balustrading and wall brackets are slowly crumbling away. And yet this building remains a joyful and lively place. A row of bicycles are parked neatly outside, troughs of flowers are hanging from the rickety old balcony, and cheerful signs inviting passers-by to step across the threshold. Inside, the Szimpla consists of several rooms, as well as a large open-air garden, which together can accommodate hundreds of people.