What’s going on underground in Eastern and Central European cities?

With temperatures that fall below zero in winter in many of the eastern European cities, it’s not totally surprising that from Krakow to Vilnius, warm cellar bars are the cool place for young twenty-somethings to hang out. But it’s not the temperature that’s drawing a young cosmopolitan crowd to the new wave of drinking dens in Budapest known as ‘Romkocsma’ or ‘Ruin pubs' (http://ruinpubs.com/).

Ruin pubs began to spring up on an ad hoc basis in the cellars and courtyards of derelict buildings in the centre of town about ten years ago, have now taken hold and are considered to be the soul of Budapest’s underground culture. They can be what they want; pub, club, live music venue or cultural centre, some showing films and exhibitions by young artists.

The décor, or anti-décor, is retro inspired but often comprises a mismatch of sometimes shabby furniture that looks as though it was found at the flea market. It’s the antithesis of designer chic with a dress-down Bohemian atmosphere that affects its punters.

The best known, oldest and possibly largest is Szimpla kert (www.szimpla.hu), 14 Kazinczy Street, a series of multi-bar exposed brick rooms, reports the Economist. Mumus, a short walk away at 18 Dob street is small and more intimate with bright frescoed walls. A new addition to the Romkocsma late night scene is Fogas haz, at 51 Akacfa street which has a programme of art exhibitions, film screenings and concerts.

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