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Most of us have been to the Western part of Europe, even may have braved the cold weather of northern Europe. Eastern Europe however, is a different story and not many people have yet to venture to this part of Europe. For the longest time Eastern Europe had this dark cloud that loomed over it, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Communism was a destructive period for Eastern Europe and kept the world from crossing its borders. It was not until recently that Eastern Europe started to become a more desired destination.
Budapest, Hungary is one of these cities that is now re-gaining the reputation of being the Paris of the East. It’s a tall order to be compared to Paris but out of all the cities that I have visited Budapest definitely was one of the greatest cities I have been to and has earned the title, the Paris of the East.
Budapest is a city that has thrived since the fall of communism in Hungary. The city has been completely revitalized which has made it a top competitor in the travel world. Ashley and I had always wanted to visit the city and it had always been a dream destination for us in Eastern Europe. After hearing it called the Paris of the East I had to check it out. So for Ashley’s birthday we hopped on the bright purple and pink WizAir airplane and headed of to this gem. The city did not let us down and showed us a city that we could see ourselves living in. I could go on about how great the food and wine was or how gorgeous the architecture was but that will have to come in later articles because what fascinated us the most was how creatively this city took its old communist apartment blocks and turned them into something positive for the city by transforming them into bars, clubs, gallery spaces and communal places for people to gather and enjoy good company. They completely recycled negative history and turned these apartment blocks into areas that people could be proud of. They are scattered across the city and are known as the ruin pubs. They range from small pubs to go and just get a beer, to huge clubs that have music, art, and dancing.
We decided to go and check out one of these famous ruin pubs and decided to go big and hit up Instant, a ruin pub/club that takes up an entire building. We were amazed at how enormous the space was even though we knew that often times the pubs could be the size of a block. We entered into the massive main room with several different bars and stairways leading off and realized very quickly how lost you could get. As we sat down with our beers we chanced a look up at the cavernous ceiling and saw numerous bunnies jumping through the air and through the walls, along with a massive owl staring down upon us and a huge wall sized family portrait. It was surreal to think that this building once represented the oppression of communism and is now a site of so much creativity.
After we downed a few beers to try and acclimate ourselves with this overwhelming main room we decided to go exploring, choosing one of the stairways at random. As we wandered through one set of stairs there were even more stairs off of it and even more rooms, all playing a mix of music from techno to trance to rock and roll, along with one room for karaoke. Each room had its own theme of crazy art and music. We met a couple group of businessmen from Denmark having a drink with their boss, they were taking turns on the pinball machine trying to top each other scores. We brought up some chairs and started to drink. The boss came back from the bar and set down a bunch of shots with a big smile on his face. You could tell in his eyes that he wanted to have fun. We ended up sitting there for about three hours with them enjoying this bizarre bar/club.
We then decided to go out and explore even more. We left the ruin pub and separated ways with our new friends from Denmark but before they left they told us how to get to an even bigger ruin pub then this one. Ashley I had decided to venture over to the new one. It was quite a distance away and so we ended stopping in a Mexican restaurant/bar because as any good Californians we missed anything that dealt with the Mexican culture. We had a couple of Margaritas and sipped on some tequila and then felt we were ready for this next ruin pub.
To tell you the truth we had no idea what it was called and still do not remember what it is called but it is supposed to be the largest one in Budapest. We came upon a very long line of people waiting outside smoking cigarettes and drinking beer as they waited to go inside. Ashley and I discussed whether we wanted to wait or come back another night but we decided that since we were already here we might as well go in. This one had a small cover charge to keep up maintenance but it was not much. We were herded inside and then up a couple of stairways that led us around the top floor of the place. The center floor was even bigger than the last one and sprouted off into a spider web of rooms. We were led to the coat check and dropped of our gear and headed back down stairs into the main floor.
This ruin pub had not just three upper levels of different bars, dance floors, and lounges, but also had a complete basement level of rooms. There was a spot for everybody. Ashley and I got lost in a trance of energy as we danced and sang from one room to another, with only a few breaks for sitting down at lounges to rest our feet. This place had no clocks, no windows, or the windows they did had had been blacked out. We completely lost track of time as drank and danced.
After what we thought was hours of dancing and we began to think that the club would be shutting down soon so we headed up to the main floor and danced just a little more in one of the smaller rooms. Then we decided to head back to our hostel. We grabbed our stuff from the coat check and head outside. As we walked down the street I asked Ashley what time it was. We thought it was probably five or six in the morning but it was only 3:30. We could not believe that it was only 3:30. Nonetheless we hopped into a taxi and headed back to our hostel.
Our time in Budapest was amazing and like I said there will definitely be more articles to come about the food, culture, sights, hostels, and their great wine. The ruin pubs of Budapest though left an impression on us. I am not usually a person who enjoys going to clubs, but these were different and a must see if you ever go to Budapest. The Paris of the East might be the wrong thing to call Budapest because I now believe that it can stand on its own as one of the greatest cities in the world and I only just told you about the nightlife.
If you want more information on Ruin Pubs check out their website