Budapest – a city which knows how to use what it has

Nestled in what is really central Europe not eastern, the city of Budapest is a thriving metropolis. It has a vibrant life full of culture, restaurants and happening bars. It

Nestled in what is really central Europe not eastern, the city of Budapest is a thriving metropolis. It has a vibrant life full of culture, restaurants and happening bars. It is known for its high-tech startup companies and has a hip vibe.

Yet it manages to be an established capital city, the center of the Hungarian government and a beautiful old city as well.

A city of two halves

Before 1873 there were two cities one Buda and the other Pest. (In Hungarian the s is pronounced sh as in push). The Danube river which flows between them is wide and for a long time, there was only one bridge between the two.

Though now just the one, there is a definite feel to both halves. Buda is greener in the sense of more parks, hills and outdoor places. Pest is the hip, happening part of town, home to the parliament building, government and thriving commerce.The city is established, comfortable and relatively small. Its total population is less than 2 million and in recent years has actually dropped slightly as some of the population move a little further out in search of more space.

With a unique Hungarian feel

Somehow Budapest has managed to remain Hungarian, so much so that even though English and German are both spoken well, some of the older residents will refuse to speak in anything but Hungarian even when they understand something else.It is quite the achievement. There have been so many passers-through and the city has only recently come out from under communism (1991). Since then a multi-party system of government prevails with the current prime minister being a right-leaning Christian Democrat.

The rise of the Ruin Bar

With a satirical nod to the recent past, one of the hottest trends is the Ruin Bar. The idea was a development almost by accident. It started literally in the ruins of buildings which were literally in the dilapidated Jewish Quarter of the city.

It seems hard to believe now, the Second World War ended in 1945, but Budapest was liberated by the Russians who kept it under tight communist control until 1991. This meant that many areas which became ruins during the war stayed that way.

The first of the Ruin Bars happened in the early 2000s but the opening of the first really popular one in 2004 became the impetus. The bars are literally set up in buildings which are in ruins or even condemned.

The concept was a place for the younger creative crowd where drinks were cheap and if the place was closed down, there was not so much to lose.

The original managed to stay in the building even when it got spruced up, now it is more for the visitors than it is the homegrown whizz-kid programmer. Regardless, the ruin bar is all about modern Hungary, a place that is undergoing change, but making the best of it.