Road to Sziget – A Brief Prologue

Summer 2016

I can’t honestly explain why with any logic, the decision making behind buying a pass for a seven day festival in Hungary on a whim. It was in Berlin, just another anonymous sunny day when we met Cher, a Dutch traveller who had been soaking in the atmo of Berlin and smoking Marlboros all afternoon, dark hair seemingly hiding a plethora of stories that moulded her devil-may-care cavalier attitude towards life. She was in her own world on the rocky balcony that complemented Comebackers, a hostel in the heart of Kreuzberg (the Turkish district which has gained notoriety for its high population of immigrants from all over). Lady Stardust had struck up a conversation with her after a few hours of noticing her relaxed state of isolation. The conversation escalated quickly from simple pleasantries and observations of weather patterns into discussions on refugee policy and immigration reform, with each sentence adding another blanket of depression with the state of it all from both sides. Whatever it was that brought about the conversation about Sziget, Cher would unknowingly turn out to be a catalyst for some major reinventions in the long run with a simple recommendation and passionate description.

  They were both lazing back in the midday sun relishing the freedom of boredom, occasionally covered by pockets of shady cloud. I was having a quiet day, trying to book things for the next stop and write whenever I could (shit it’s a lot harder to write on the road when there’s a bar in the hostel lobby…), so I quickly gave in to the idea of procrastinating. I joined them just as Cher began talking about music to brighten the mood and bring the sun back to our day, she offhandedly mentioned a little festival called Sziget in the golden city of Budapest. Coming from Australia I always believed our music festivals were famously fantastical on the worldwide scale, I mean c’mon people basically piss themselves for the flower crowns of Splendour in the Grass…Well fuck if I was ever more wrong, we’re on goddamn training wheels compared to Europe. 

The way she described Sziget was like hearing a sonnet read to you by Morgan Freeman as you laze in a bubble bath with candles and scotch. The camping, the wild freedom, the craziness of being surrounded by acts that were ranging from dutch Dj’s to Robbie Williams. It was intoxicating to even hear about such a festival when all I had really heard of outside Australia were the major league Tommorowland and Glastonbury types. It already had the vibe a college movie, there were the cool jock festivals— and then there was Sziget: The Outcast Island Of Freedom. Where decency reigned above showmanship and freedom was celebrated in every level of humanity, not quite on the trippy level of Burning Man, but close enough to merit a family tree connection. As Cher described the variations of music and interaction on the island I was already on my phone looking at the lineup for 2016; Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, Crystal Castles, The Lumineers, Sum41, Muse, SIA, Hardwell and so much more. It was reminiscent of opening Christmas present after christmas present, each one gaining momentum and insane excitement which led in the ultimate decision to buy the ticket and take the goddamn ride. Add to the mixer a healthy dose of TED talks, Carnival games, Bungee Jumping, Cirque Du Soleil and bars around every corner…we were sold. 

At the time it was probably not the smartest fiscal decision to buy the tickets so early in our adventure, but we were still drunk from the air of a new continent— so inebriated decisions were pretty common back then. It was almost 2 months to the day when we bought the 7 day tickets, and little did we know the roller coaster of obstacles and frets that would eventually culminate into an inescapable week, that has scorched itself into my own story. The highs and lows eventually culminated into a week of true detachment from the depressing reality of a cannibalistic world, and into the main vein of Neverland.

The island is its own animal in Sziget week, so many faces and tribes of old friends and new camping side by side all over the 108 hectare island. It was hard to find yourself through the crowd let alone anyone else without simultaneous Wi-Fi connection, which is harder to find there than a shower. We never did see Cher again, at times I think she was like the ghost of Kenobi telling us to go to the Dagobah system to learn the ways. Turns out that night she had vanished to another hostel and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Life can suck like that sometimes, underwhelming you with reality—No, like Jules Winnfield or a traveling monk I like to believe she’s walking the earth. Looking for more recruits to enlighten about the speakeasy of freaks and lost souls for the outcast commune.

More on Sziget later, too much of anything is terrible for appreciation.

To the birds, Hallelujah.