Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Budapest, Rising Up with the Ruin Pub Culture

Lush,and repeated x 1,000
Budapest if you didn't know is Buda on one side of the mighty river Danube which has the palaces and the Old Town up on the hill, and the other side is the main city Pest where I was based. Gloriously wide boulevards lined by stupendous 19th century Secessionist archictecture.You will walk these streets with sore neck and mouth agape, and yet the decades of dirt defiantly cling to give this grandeur a somewhat grimy edge. There are so many things to see as regards to Art,museums & heritage it's untrue.I only managed to do the National museum (£3 for over 2 hours viewing) to which, by luck,featured a special exhibit of my fave photographer Andre Kertesz.However, this is a living,working city which likes to play hard - nothing really comes alive 'til late and keeps on going.With beer between 90p and £1.50 a pint and fags at £1.50 a packet this is one cheap party playground, so don't plan on getting up early for your cultural tourism.
Pest viewed from Buda hill
It has to be said though, that I did witness a fair degree of homelessness & alcoholism.One day a chap stops me, begging,blurting on in Hungarian, so I reply "Bocsanot,Nem Ertem,Angol Vagok" Sorry mate don't understand I'm English.I give him some dosh and he thanks me with the parting shot in English "Who Is Foreign?". Maybe deeper than he intended but yeah,I like that.
Anyways, a further draw to me was Budapest's  Ruin Pub culture. Basically old factories or apartment blocks with courtyards turned into bars with a liberal dose of Art & Music.I soon found out my £17 a night hotel was slap bang in the main Ruin Pub area, so with free Wi-Fi on tap I planned out my mission. Initially I encountered Grandio a Ruin Pub/Cheap hostel with live music,and went down into the cellar to see indie/post-rockers Midas Fall.This venue was like a large underground Nissen Hut,with great acoustics,cheap beer and a superb laid back atmosphere which made for a fine old time.Another night I was out at Gondozo which was cool,artwork everywhere and a Hungarian folk band; nice but I wanted more... so off to Szimpla I went for more upbeat tunes.Walk in,POW! Face cracks into inane grin, visual overdose time, lights,camera,Action! A Ruin Club really: huge bar, 5 rooms downstairs traffic lights,pipes,structures abound,like a mental factory overtaken by the drones or a serious party in Steptoe's Yard. Upstairs more madness,huge bars,collapsing old sofas,valve radios,5 or 6 alcoves for secluded sessions,cocktail bar, food lounge. All the while I'm downstairs watching old 8mm films of Hungarian life,football matches,Szimpla being started in '94 -another projector plays a loop of removal men struggling with a fridge (??!) with a soundtrack of top indie tunes,I ain't smiled so much in years.
Aside from some nights in bars watching footy I finished off the last night by going to Fregatt (Ship) which was an underground rock bar in the style of a Nelson era gundeck. Drinking Zlaty Basant in memory of my former Slovakian neighbours, I was heartily amused by the aural madness of mashups -Sex Pistols v Madonna,Iron Maiden v Frankie and the best fit Pink v Dandy Warhols. Then off to Csaba for "a last pint" well that didn't happen -another great ruin pub -and some good DJs -saw a fine if somewhat late end to the trip.
A beautiful,amazing,crazy city -now get off this page and go to EasyJet or whoever and GO!