Not long ago a prominent Hungarian politician decried the attitudes of this country’s college educated youth, claiming they were doing nothing be sitting around brooding in the city’s artfully decorated beer gardens, or ‘ruin pubs’. We hope this wasn’t an inadvertent knock against Budapest’s ruin pubs. As it happens, the city’s ruin bars may be one of the most compelling reasons to visit Budapest: these art/bar experiments are defining local nightlife for residents and visitors alike.
Every summer in Budapest is marked by the opening of more and more ruin pubs, and with them, the arrival of summer tourists. Of course, these outdoor summer gardens need to find a way to stay relevant when the weather turns cold. It makes sense that Budapest’s trail-blazing and most popular ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, is first out of the gate in innovating and expanding its appeal to more than thirsty backpackers. Instead of only selling the occasional beer to regulars on Sundays, the owners decided to open the Szimpla Farmers’ Market. There, you can find homemade pork sausage, pickled edibles, jams straight from the kitchen, salami, and smoked meats. Such markets are a boon for artisanal food makers, who offer home-crafted cheeses, sauces and syrups, honey, chocolate, and baked goods. But this is a farmers market with attitude. Live bands are invited to perform, and children’s programs keep the shopping family friendly. It is the sort of controlled chaos that keeps the event, held every Sunday from 9 a.m until 2 p.m., in line with the general entertainment-minded mission of the pub.
Thanks to the fact that the country’s farms by and large remain in the hands of family farmers, such delicacies and goods are affordable to the general population. It is one of the best aspects of living in Budapest. In many other more ‘Western’ countries, such events are regulated out of existence, or are priced beyond the budget of everyday folk.
So, unless certain politicians object, we will join the families, backpackers, foodies, babushkas, college graduates, and just about anybody who has an interest in healthy locally-produced food (and these days, who doesn’t?) in Szimpla Kert on Sundays. And just to be contrary, we will sit in the sun with a local micro-brew, unbroodingly, perfectly content.