Exclusive Interview: Abel ‘Szimpla’ Zsendovits, Who Created The Ruin Pubs Tourism in Budapest
There can’t be too many places in Budapest where you can get a buzzy atmosphere of a ruin pubalongside an art gallery, screening room, a grocery and a flea market -Szimpla Kert seems to be absolutely unique in all sorts of ways. On a chilly Budapest afternoon I headed to this very first Hungarian ruin pub, to do an interview with one of its founders – Abel Zsendovits. In the early noon hours Abel was already in his element, fully engaged in the working process of the Szimpla Kert. Every day he makes sure that the bar operates at the best of its abilities. We sat down for this honest, utterly inspiring and at times a little tongue-in-cheek interview, to determine what lies behind the phenomenal success of the Szimpla/Szimpla Kert:
DailyNewsHungary: Szimpla Kert has definitely become a trendsetter among the pubs of Budapest. Recently more than 30 ruin bars have opened its doors and that is only in the downtown area of the city. But what was the inspiration behind the very first ruin bars of the Hungarian capital – Szimpla and Szimpla Kert?
Abel: Back in the days there has not been enough diversity of bars, in fact there were no bars at all. As simple as that. The party scene of Budapest back in the early 2000s was very limited. While other people were busy creating conceptual restaurants, we decided to open a place that would suit our personal taste.
DailyNewsHungary: Budapest has always been famous for its lavish, extravagant restaurants and cafes; yet you decided to take a completely opposite direction – to open a ruin bar. What was you goal?
Abel: The idea was to offer something new, to bring morevariety. At the very beginning we had multiple pop-up bars all across Budapest and even Hungary: we moved from one festival to another. That is when we realized that people were very excited and delighted to have a place that captured the free spirit and was distinctively different.
DailyNewsHungary: Budapest has a lot of the districts with abandoned buildings, why did you choose this particular are of the city for bringing your idea to life?
Abel: The most important thing for us was the location. I mean you have to be inside of the city; and this is the heart of Budapest.
DailyNewsHungary: The first place, Szimpla, was opened in a booming neighborhood of Liszt Ferenc Square. Back in the days, this particular area was considered an uber popular meeting point with several fancy, elegant places on the radar. Nevertheless, astonishing amount of people chose Szimpla over them. Why do you think is that?
Abel: During those days people had very limited choices of where to go, what to have or how to spend a free time. There were not too many place to go, to enjoy a pleasant afternoon or eveningwith friends. Now the city’s venues became strikingly more diverse and vibrant, but back then Szimpla was an opportunity to experience something original, unusual.
DailyNewsHungary: As far as I know, when you first started, you have not used any advertisements or social media to promote Szimpla.
Abel: Ohh, those were the golden years…without the Facebook…people talked to each other. (He laughs) To be really honest, we were just four young guys, who started this journey together. We did not have any energy to engage in the modern advertisement techniques. We believed in ourselves, our friends and in word of mouth. And it worked… This city is small in a way (Laughs)
DailyNewsHungary: In a ruin bar décor seem to be playing a major role. Where did the elements of the interior come from? How did you manage to enhance that atmosphere of abandonment?
Abel: Everything simply comes in, just like people. We always have to select what stays and what has to go. We strive to renew our bar in all the tiny details every year, every season. We try to change things around here quite often, in order to bring more excitement. We are preparing for the summer now…so many more things are yet to come.
DailyNewsHungary: Szimpla Kert during the daytime transforms into a completely different place, it hosts variety of different social and cultural events. Could you tell us about it?
Abel: Every Sunday we host a farmer’s market. It became a regular event. We have a set of very strict rules – for example, no chain store products, only goods of local produce. We are trying to be eco friendly, supportive and encouraging to all the local farmers.
DailyNewsHungary: Are there any art exhibitions or design showcases?
Abel: Regularly, on one Saturday of each month there is a bicycle and a flea market. Once a month from May till September we organize and host series of events like literary programs, music concerts, design and art exhibitions, which usually have a huge turn up. We always try to find local artists, farmers and simply enthusiasts; for us it very important to show our support and provide all the help we can to the community.
DailyNewsHungary: Szimpla Kert/ Szimpla most certainly has become a bridge between generations, social classes and cultures. Did you anticipate anything like that would happen, more than 10 years ago when the bar first opened?
Abel: That was the target (Laughs). You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to get an emotional vibe and become a part of an engaging, multinational crowd. There are no words that can describe the feeling you get here. Sometimes I pop up in Szimpla Kert several times during the day- the dynamics and the energy constantly change. To me it feels almost like a living person-chaotic and always in motion.
Definitely many more questions could be asked about Szimpla and Szimpla Kert, but no words are enough to capture the spirit. We hope that our readers will have a chance to visit and uncover the real seduction of this place for themselves.
by Ekaterina Egorova