Sightseeing reengineered: budapestflow.com

Hofle AttilaI met Attila at a café in downtown Budapest to learn about his new project: budapestflow.com. In a few minutes I asked if I could take some notes, as I felt I really wanted to share it with you.

What is budapestflow.com all about? How would you define it?

We organise alternative city walks in Budapest for tourists and expats in small groups (as a maximum of 5 or 6 people) and we focus mainly on the 7th district of Budapest which is known as the party district of the capital, but we do not organise pub crawls on purpose, because we want to show our guests the alternative art scene of the city: street art, design shops, flea markets, community centers and the cultural perspective of the ruinpub scene. That’s why we don’t offer any welcome drinks and our tours start in the late afternoon. We also have a kind of Sunday morning tour where we explore the farmer’s market and the most intimate parts of the city.

What is your story? Where do you come from? What is your main drive, your mission?

Although I’ve been living in Budapest for more than 17 years now but sometimes I still have the feeling as if I was a tourist. One of my favourite freetime activity is just hanging around in the city because I always find something new to explore or to gaze at, so I thought it would be a good idea to share it with tourists.  I find it also very important to show the local perspective of the town. As for me, my best vacations abroad were those when I could meet a local guy.

We all have different attitude to the so called flow-experience. Some people are attracted by extreme sports or music, for me flow is when I feel lost in the hidden details of Budapest, see budapestflow.com

Our goal is to focus our guests’ attention on the fact that there are still a lot of underground cultural spots and treasures in the party district of Budapest and the best time to visit them  are not in the regular evening periods.

How did you get the idea to start ruinpubs.com and the Hungarian version, romkocsmak.hu?

It happened on a Saturday nigth in 2009. I was having a chat over a beer with my friend and we just walked to a recently opened ruin pub in the Kazinczy Street. I was deeply impressed by the atmosphere of the beer garden – on that particular night I came up with the idea to create a website about ruinpubs both in English and in Hungarian. To understand the situation better, at that time Facebook and Forsquare was not so popular and widespread in Hungary as today, so all this information about different pubs was much harder to grab.

My idea seemed to be working because from the following year on there was a boom of the ruinpubs, and quite a few new ruin bars were established within easy reach of the Kazinczy street.

I have been always interested in the cultural aspects of the ruinpubs, as there were a lot of bars, which were not only a place to drink but they were cultural centers, too. I like the open model of those places: I conducted a filmclub with my friends for many years and once I was asked by a ruinpub If I could organise a filmclub there.  They were very keen to do that and I did this filmclub for two seasons. I also made an event for the 10th birthday of the Szimpla which is the most famous ruinpub in Budapest, I organised a photo exhibition about the ruinbars and a workshop about the history of the ruinpub scene. With our guided tours we also want to present this side of the 7th district.

What is the business model behind these projects? How do you see the future?

I belive that the ideal number of the participants on our tour is 4-5 people in order to get personalised tours, create a familiar atmosphere and give our guest local tips. Consequently I never want to make a big project or business like the ’Free walking tours’.

Although the keyword of our tours is ’ruinpub’, much to our surprise, most of our guests belong to the 40-50-year generation, mostly from upper high class and people with high education.

As for the future, next year I’m planning to make a guided tour by bike which is not focusing on the downtown but on places not very often visited by tourists.

What do you enjoy the most about these tours?

What I really like about these tours is variety.  It gives me the opportunity to meet guests with many different cultural background from all over the world. Apart from Western Europe I had guests from Australia, Brazil and Singapore. During the guided tour I always listen to the reactions of the participants and I can get an immediate feedback to make our route flexible, so we never make the same way on the tour.