The next destination on our tour around Europe was the infamous Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary. Sziget, also known as the Island of Freedom, is a weeklong festival that incorporates music, art, culture and performance into a single island adventure. For one whole week in August, the island is transformed into a massive creative space filled with nearly fifty different performance stages and a wide variety of atmospheres. Originally a post-Soviet rock and roll festival in the 90s, Sziget now features world-renowned artists from all different music genres. The festival includes all different vibes in separate zones for each and every disposition you may fall into during the crazy 168 hours you’ll spend there.
The island is basically an open camping zone with designated washroom facilities and separate caravan parking areas. Unfortunately, our self-converted campervan didn’t qualify for a caravan parking pass, so we got settled into a campsite only a ten minute walk from the festival. Although the walk wasn’t long, there were a couple nights we just couldn’t make the trek back to the van and found ourselves waking up at noon on a grassy noel outside a shopping center. Of course, there were cabs flooding the streets but we had just spent $30 on this gorgeous blanket from a shop on the island and decided our money was better spent on a makeshift bed, rather than a cab fare. That’s island logic for you.
The hours seemed to pass without any warning and the days turned to night over what felt like an eternity. It was as if time didn’t exist on the Island of Freedom and your money was no good. All that mattered was the music and your Festipay card; similar to a reloadable gift-card registered to your name. There were restaurants and bars everywhere, all with different specials and there were art installations on every corner. The walkways were illuminated by rows of ferry lights and the trees were filled with handcrafted lanterns. Every night when the sun went down, it felt like we had stepped away from the real world and into dreamland. The stages lit up like firecrackers and we were blessed with incredible performances by artists from across the board. Sia gave a heart-wrenching performance accompanied by an incredibly moving dance performance, which we all sang along (and cried) to, while bands like Sum 41 and The Neighborhood shook the very ground we stood on.
It was a good time all around and the island quickly became a community. We danced together, we broke bread together, and we shared our stories with one another. We even took naps together. We stayed up all night laughing and counting stars, lying in a field of strangers who all felt like family. We ran into our friends from around the world and made news ones every day. People wore outrageous costumes and came together to relish in the creativity of the island as a whole.
Sziget has everything from its own private circus to a wedding chapel! There was food from around the globe and performances to satisfy any interest. One of the most interesting sights to see on the island was the Luminarium, designed by the UK-based Architects of Air. The Luminarium is a tent-like structure with walls that curve into themselves and light up while trance music lulls you into what feels like an alternate universe.
Whether you’re the type of festivalgoer to seek out melodic indie bands and chill-out on the grass, or the type who loves to headband and blow the roof off with a crazy light show, this festival is for you. From inspiring artistic expression to just down right partying ‘til the sun comes up, Sziget truly is an island of complete freedom.
My advice for lasting the week at Sziget would be:
- Bring as much toilet paper as you can possibly fit in your pack.
- Invest in a waterproof tent with an air mattress that will keep you sleeping above the ground, not on it.
- Allocate a specific signal or meeting place for your group of friends so you can find each other easily in the masses of people. We got an inflatable frog to hold above the crowds.
- Stay hydrated.
Be sure to check out the official Sziget 2016 Aftermovie to see what you’re in store for!
(Joey and I made the cut!)