SZIGET EQUALS SUMMERTIME IN BUDAPEST
If you’ve never been to Budapest, there’s no better time than in August!
I can speak from personal experience, you’ll not be disappointed. If you’re looking for art, culture, food or fashion, it’s all here and here’s a plethora of open-air spas and of course, the famous Hungarian, Goulash stew.
I coincided my visit to Hungary with the Sziget festival, it’s held every August in northern Budapest, Hungary, on Óbudai-sziget, a beautiful 108-hectare island located on the River Danube. One of the (many) great things about the Sziget festival is that you can get one, five or seven day tickets depending on how long you’re staying. Many people opt for camping on site, but with the typical August heat (30+ degrees) I opt to stay in the über-cool Art’Hotel, a mere 15-minute train ride away in the city centre.
Using the trams and trains around the city is so easy and there’s a dedicated team on site to help with any travel requests (Southern Rail- please take note!!!). It’s also a great idea to get the weekly travel pass too, another wristband which allows access on all trams, trains and tubes across the city. Although I probably didn’t use this to its full advantage, and preferred to get lost by foot.
Whilst in the melee of losing myself, I actually found myself! In the contradictory way which seems to happen when you are in a foreign city.
Going to a festival simply to see the acts is so passé these days! Making new friends and notching up experiences is what it’s all about. Selfie sticks were widely spotted, but most people were devoted to enjoying themselves and having fun. In a festival like Sziget, talking to strangers is a breeze – and sharing your hopes, fears and inspirations in the afternoon sun with new friends is the best way to make them. As is dancing until the sun comes up, embracing the foam, colour, confetti or pom-pom parties. Who knew that getting so totally covered in things could be so liberating?
I have been to quite a few International festivals, and even though I’ve never been to Sziget before, it is definitely up there in my top three favs – with 23 years of experience the organisers certainly know how to entertain. With more than eighty stages for music and performance, there is something in this ‘Free Island’ to please even the most jaded festival go-er!
If I was ever to get married, I’d definitely consider this as a riotous hen party destination. There is no obligatory fancy dress theme, but there was plenty of interesting festival fashion to be spotted and embraced. In particular, a plethora of girls in onesies, cowboys and a flight of dragons! A festival wouldn’t be a festival without the shopping markets and stalls and Sziget does not disappoint. With everything from tie-dye, to sandals to records and juggling clubs and you can eat your way around the world with every type of food, a great range of cocktails and for sophisticated types like me, there’s even a champagne bar.
The chill out beach, is the perfect place for lazy afternoon lounging. No paddling allowed, but the bean bags, shady tress, DJ and waterside bars were the ideal respite from the frantic festival.
Some people might be persuaded to go to a festival because of the headliners, and this year they went for a biggie! Rihanna played to a wedged audience on the Thursday night- embracing the Hungarian hospitality, she blasted out all her hits. But she was not the only one on my radar. With biggies like Jake Bugg, Noel Gallagher, Tinie Tempah, David Guetta, Naughty Boy, The Chemical Brothers, UNKLE, DJ Scratchy and Mr Bongo, I missed just as much as I saw! I did have the intriguing sounding Tesco Disco on my wish list, but alas, at that point of the evening, could not for the life of me navigate to the Telekom Stage!!
However there is plenty to see away from the norm, and The World Music Stage, Europe Stage, Afro-Latin-Reggae village, Blues Park, Tribute Stage, “Cirque du Sziget” are all worth a look, as well as the Magic Mirror tent, for late night drag shows and a LGBT-friendly programme. Start the day with some yoga, ping pong or game of chess, perhaps get in line for a bungee jump, and spend the afternoon getting involved with debates on social issues, Sziget rightly claims to involve all; Starting life as a student festival, it has obviously embraced commercialism, but art, social activism and ethics are a vital part of what makes the festival unique.
Politics are challenged, and a series of workshops and events in the ‘Tent Without Borders’ is the place to get involved. With over 50 specialized TED x talks, there is the opportunity to take part in panel discussions, listen to lectures on topics including diversity and migration, and question dozens of NGOs, and engage in some very lively discussions.
What more excuse do you need to book up for next year? I have the dates (10-17 August 2017) blacked out already and I am planning my bikini wardrobe…. There’s 90,000 daily visitors who are all potential friends I haven’t met yet! And with champagne at £20 per bottle, I don’t need much more reason to celebrate.
See you on the Island of Freedom. Anything can happen and probably will.
For more info on the festival visit www.szigetfestival.com