By Claire Van Zee |
Summer weekends in Budapest are a cause for excitement. The city buzzes with lights, music and people from all over the world. They’re typically filled to the brim with too much food, historical sights and for some people, late nights meandering the cobblestone streets. By Sunday morning, people are ready for some rejuvenation to prepare them for the week to come.
The city is covered with hip restaurants, fully equipped with cappuccinos and Hungarian breakfast spreads to do the trick, but none compare to Szimpla Kert (translation: Simple Garden).
Contrary to its name, the ruin bar-turned-farmers market is far from simple. The old factory building is elaborately adorned with broken disco balls, old kitchen sinks, gaudy chandeliers, string lights, and plants. An open courtyard greets its visitors with lively merchants who show up every Sunday, ready to sell their honey, jams, and breads to a swarm of people eager to fill their bags.
One could easily spend the whole morning stocking up on fresh goods and people–watching with a cold glass of lemonade. But the real energy comes from the farm fresh breakfast buffet on the upper level. An entire room replenished by the second, with every breakfast food one could imagine. It’d be rude not go back for at least three plates!
Ruin bars are a relatively new Budapest invention, and Szimpla Kert being the original, set the precedent. Back in the 2000s, abandoned buildings in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter sat idly for years, after their destruction during World War II. Local entrepreneurs had the idea to transform the crumbling buildings into havens for Budapest’s young creative crowd.
Szimpla’s mission is to “shape their environment, making it more livable and human friendly by searching for the cultural treasures of Hungary and the world.” The farmers market promotes sustainable eating and creates a space for the community to make conversation and support non-profit organizations such as The Common Cauldron Project, a group of locals selling soup to support a variety of charities.
But what really makes Szimpla special is its’ unique and personable merchants. Having been weekly since our first week in Budapest, I became a regular at the honey booth. Every Sunday, I was excitingly greeted by the beekeeper and his English translator, Berta.
On my first visit, I became entranced as I watched Berta spoon a large scoop of white creamy honey out of a jar. I had never seen honey like this before and was never actually a huge fan of honey at all. Berta looked friendly and about my age, so I walked over, and she kindly educated me on the unexpected diversity of honey.
I’m not sure if it was her kindness toward me or my taste buds’ sudden maturation, but I became obsessed and suddenly had to limit myself to only buy a few. I left with multiple jars, which found themselves empty within the next two days.
Berta and the beekeeper remembered me the next week and said if I came by the following Sunday, they would have fresh stock from the latest season waiting for me. I felt honored to receive such inside information, so of course I had to follow through with my new friends.
I came back the following week to find the rosy-cheeked beekeeper saved a giant jar of the creamy honey just for me! He handed it to me as if we shared a secret no one else could understand, and somehow, I felt we had developed a loyal honey friendship.
The creators of Szimpla have created a place that welcomes the everyday local and one-night tourist, giving them a space to cultivate creativity, community and wellness. They’ve taken advantage of a place that holds remnants of some of the country’s darkest years and revolutionized it as a source for good. Its’ unique environment is something everyone should experience while visiting the up-and-coming city of Budapest.