How ruin bars got ruined

Budapest’s most exciting quarter is definitely the area that is compassed by Rumbach Sebestyén – Dob – Kazincy – and Király streets. Throughout the years it has become the entertainment center of the city with its trendy yet quite cheap tap-houses and pop-up bars. The most surprising in the whole thing is that this is exactly the historical area where not so long ago thousands of Jews were relocated by the nazis, whose only purpose was to take them to death camps. However, nearly nobody thinks about that while walking through the former ghetto since the area has a completely new meaning now.

A couple of years ago no man would have imagined that ruin-pubs were going to be considered as Hungaricums, that they will be among the most important tourist attractions in the city. I remember the times when my friends & I always went to Kuplung since there was no place like that at all in the blurry city. The drinks were very cheap, the music was way too loud yet we spent almost every night in that dark place. We would have never imagined that our haunt would be soon a trendy place to be at.

In the beginning there were only a few modest taps, located in moldering or deserted buildings surrounded by a dozen second-hand and used furniture shops. They were cheap, they were also chic, it was just easy to hang out there: in a very short period of time scores of people became curious about the secret of the ruin-pubs.

The alternative youth soon realized the coolness of Kuplung and started to visit it more frequently, since it was exactly in the center of the downtown, easily approachable. I remember the nights when we couldn’t even get a seat to drink our ridiculously cheap beers. That was the time when we felt the need to find another place to hang out. And we did.

What I experienced is that the original meaning and conception of these places have been lost since then. If you take a closer look at the streets nowadays, there are plenty of ruin-pub kind of bars: Szimpla Garden, the oldest of all, has totally changed, all they care about is their image, they don’t give a damn about cheap prices anymore. On a Friday night my friend Alma suggested to go and have some drinks at Szimpla before we go to a party she wanted to attend. So we entered the place, fully dressed up of course, ordered two glasses of wine – it took almost 15 minutes to be served– but the funniest of all was that we had to pay a fortune yet we felt really uncomfortable about our look because the whole place looked like a mess. This is when I realized that the original concept of places like Kuplung, the cheapness yet coolness, had totally disappeared and the opposite started to take over control.

High end wine bars, forward thinking underground clubs, Mexican, Thai and international cuisines are now attracting the visitors with not so friendly prices. As a result, despite the large variety I cannot find a place any more where I can fit in. In two years, Kazincy street has become the party-section of the downtown, the area is completely unideal for peaceful, quiet weekday evenings.

The true essence of Budapest is where these pubs are, beyond doubt. Pushy German tourists, hipsters with longboards and lovers walking hand in hand, are all pieces of this huge and troublous puzzle called the ruin-bar district. This quarter really has the chance to become the epicenter of something that will probably define not just the taste, but the interests and the presence of Hungarian youth. Although it has lost its original meaning through the years it can still be a great experience for those who have never seen it before. For others, the past few years have been about exploring new places.


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