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How an Expo hut became a retro hit in City Park – the curious history of the Pántlika

Writers

  • Gábor Wágner

07/06/2021 4.03pm

Along the north-eastern flank of City Park facing Hermina út, you find one of the best retro spots in Budapest, its cult-like following extending across the city. Nowadays, the Pántlika is a popular place for cyclists, young families and dog owners, but over the last six decades, it has undergone a few changes, been higher and wider – but it’s still standing, an indelible feature of Budapest’s most popular green retreat.

Initially, the annual Budapest International Fair (BNV) carved out a large area, specifically one third, from City Park. The monumental Industrial Hall stood on the Hermina út side, where the BNV was held every year, but the building suffered severe damage during World War II, so it was demolished.

Photo: Fortepan / Bauer Sándor

In its place, in 1947 they built the biggest hall of the BNV complex, No.5, which serving its purpose until 1974 when the fair moved to Kőbánya. First the hall became a furniture warehouse, then a legendary concert venue, the Petőfi Csarnok, where the likes of Nirvana and Björk played in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This, and the rest of the complex, was also knocked down until only one building remained: the one that would house the Pántlika.

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Shaped like a sine wave, this futuristic edifice functioned as a kind of information pavilion for the BNV. There was also a garden next to it. Over time, the two became one, only that it not called Pántlika but Lepke, and it quickly became the most popular place in Városliget.

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

After the change of régime in 1989, it was briefly renamed Zöld Ember (’Green Man’) until 1995, when Pántlika (’Ribbon’) stuck. Although it had its good times, it had little competition and it gradually lost its allure. Then Kertem opened nearby, a lively transplant from the ruin-bar hub, and the Pántlika had to clean up its act.

Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

The Pántlika underwent a major renovation in 2007, when it went full-blown retro. A bunch of objects from the 1960-70s was collected to make the atmosphere as Socialist-Realist as possible. Lamps and sofas were brought from the Socialist Party resort at Balatononaliga, including Party leader János Kádár’s floor lamp, alongside TV star György Rózsa’s speakers, chairs from the holiday cinema at Zamárdi and the chandeliers of the Siófok Panorama bar, among other retro treasure. Kertem and nearby music venue Dürer Kert still attracted more customers.

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Photo: Kőrösi Tamás - We Love Budapest

Pántlika was always more intimate, though the music impeccable, with quality burgers and pálinkas on the menu. As an outdoor spot, without the competition of Kertem or Dürer Kert, no longer with us, it should do a roaring trade this summer.

Pántlika 
District XIV. opposite Hermina út 47
Current opening hours: daily 11.30am-11pm 

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