There was a time when Szimpla Kert was my last port of call on a night out. When I first arrived in Budapest, it fascinated me with its nooks and crannies, its clever (re)use of junk and other people’s cast-offs, and its eclectic mix of people. But that was years ago. Before it made the guide books. Or before I realised that it had made the guide books. So now it’s somewhere I bring visitors for a look-see. to show them what a classic ruin pub looks like and to show them a side of Budapest that many don’t get to see during their weekend-stay in the city.
In addition to being a late-night hangout, Szimpla has now added a Sunday morning market to its repertoire. And seeing the place in daylight is quite an experience. Room after room is furnished with bits and pieces from everywhere and anywhere. Graffiti passes for decor and the whole place has a sense of old-style destitution that once laid claim to regality. I’ve heard tell of those who can spend hours in front of a painting in a museum and still not see everything it has to show – I feel a little bit like this about Szimpla. I thought I knew the place inside out but each time I turned my head, I saw something different.
Vintage toys seem to litter the place but on closer inspection appear more strategically placed. For all is mismatchedness, everything seems to fit and have its place. Perhaps that’s a reflection of Hungarian society in general – or simply the way it is in Szimpla. Perhaps its beauty lies in the depth of its shallowness and nothing more.
I was there a few months back with an Australian mate who had dropped in for a few days en route to Ireland. We sat upstairs and through the window watched old black-and-white silent movies from way back when – fashion shows of days gone by. This Sunday, the silent movies were replaced with cheese and sprouts and jams and jellies and all sorts of homemade goodness.
I’ve been converted to sprouts and have them now for breakfast, dinner, and tea. Who’d have thought that Szimpla could have wrought such a change in my diet? It just goes to show that surprises lurk in the strangest corners. I’m still working on the cheese thing though. There’s plenty going on and lots to choose from, so if you’re in the neighbourhood on a Sunday morning and fancy a snoop ’round Szimpla, drop by. You can stock the larder at the same time and indulge in some homemade cakes and pastries on the top floor. Something for everyone really.
And seeing the scene that was the ‘night before’ in broad daylight isn’t the disappointment it usually is. Funny how nothing quite looks the same when the real light of day shines on it.