John Malathronas goes on a "tipsy tour" of the ruin pubs of Budapest.
One of the crazes in Budapest over the past few years has been ruin pubs. At £1.50 a pint they won’t ruin you financially, although by the end of a long evening they may well have ruined your plans for an early start the next day.
A ruin pub is actually a bar situated inside a ruin: a crumbling old building, whose walls are covered with bizarre doodles and where the decor features a mishmash of objects seemingly from the local skip: sawn-off Trabant cars, torn 1970s LP covers, evil Chucky dolls – even a grandmother’s chest of drawers (with a mock-up of the grandmother’s corpse on top). As for the disparate collection of tables and chairs, they all look like failed experiments in self-assembled IKEA furniture or cast-offs from a communist-era plastic moulding plant.
I’m in town for some Rough Guides research, so my friend Bogata from Budapest Underguides, takes me on a "tipsy tour" (pub crawl). As most ruin pubs are conveniently clustered in the Seventh District, the old Jewish quarter, we start with a drink at Klub Vittula on Kertész street. Now this is a place you truly need a local to drag you inside, because its basement entrance is hidden behind graffiti of the density you encounter only in angry squats. Maybe it’s an omen: inside I bump my head on the piping which snakes aimlessly through the bar itself. It used to be the boiler room for the (now deserted) building above.