We spent most of our time in Budapest wandering the streets, staring at places we would love to live, and straying down alleyways we probably shouldn't have. In all of our travels, we have realized that this is what we do: we gaze at the unattainable and explore the wilds of a city until we happen upon a hidden gem, where we will return as often as possible during our stay. Such a place is Szimpla, a “ruin bar” in a forgotten alleyway in the midst of the Jewish Quarter on the Pest side of Budapest. Ruin bars are reclaimed sections of ancient, often bombed-out buildings being converted into small bars and restaurants, a trend unique to Budapest.
Walking into a seemingly innocuous alleyway, you may find yourself entering a secret world, where dingy doorways open to the airy, cavernous interior of a unique local establishment catering to the young and hip, the family with children, and the elderly chess players and pipe smokers who gather at the city parks in the morning, and then filter to the ruin bars to escape the heat of the afternoon sun. Gems like Szimpla are the things which sear the memory of a specific city into my mind, places where the experience is so unique and invigorating that I will forever be transported back to the moment I first entered the establishment, each time I glance at a photo or hear people speak of Budapest.
The specialty of Szimpla: giant carrots, with the skins shaved away, revealing the most succulent carrot I have ever experienced. Yes, I said succulent when referring to a carrot. No other word will suffice to explain these carrots, they were indeed succulent!
My HLF sums up our experience nicely, with this photo and a few words:
“Big city charm with small-town ease. Delicious food, friendly people, rich history and beautiful weather. Our trip could not have come to a better start than Budapest.” – S.S.