Texts by – DAVIDE PARLATO (Budapest – a glimpse of) & GIUSEPPE ORIGO (Sziget, the revival of an ideal)
Translation by – JULIA PERRY
Budapest – a glimpse of
Catapulted into Hungary in the middle of the night, our pilgrimage began with a tour of the capital dacha. Budapest is a city surrounded by a magical aura, the nature of which seems to oscillate between ruins and life, coming to be amidst the stench of urine and urban shambles that still dominate certain districts of the city and that go beyond the rather surprising and fascinating vitality and creative exuberance of the premises and of the various pubs that illuminate the city.
Still recovering from the Second World War bombings and showing visible signs of the notorious ongoing economic crisis (as well as certain, particularly unpopular, policy measures), Budapest lies wounded among the gentle slopes of the hills above it and the Danube plains, which silently flows, painted by the few colors the night brings. The Hungarian night, in fact, is dominated by a penumbra that on one hand makes it increasingly charming, while on the other, seems to bring to it a certain indifference amongst its inhabitants: almost as if the city would like to sleep quietly. The neighborhoods of the old city (Buda), hybridization sites that are a mix between Victorian architecture recovering from conflict and modern day constructions, sinuously wind together in complex structures and labyrinthine branches that host a stream of tourists, both young and old patrons of the festival, as well as a large number of the city’s homeless that silently, like everyone else, roam around picking up knick-knacks.
Described this way, the city may result as an awful place: it’s true that everything in the city hints at its ruins, but it’s also true that the city hides, in all its center city’s small crevices, a real glimmer of vitality and initiative. There where everything has been destroyed and left alone, the creativity and the will to rebuild are what lead to the realization of these small places that are as unexpected as they are fascinating. These so-called Ruin pubs, are meeting places created from the renovation of urban areas that were dilapidated or relict due to the bombings. Entire buildings, or parts of them, are partially fixed and redecorated (in both a creative and tacky manner) in order to be used as pubs, hookah bars, or simple meetings places for local youth. From a night drink to foosball: Ruin pubs in Budapest have proved to be the most charming surprise of our short visit.
Between a beer and a glass of fröcs (red/white wine, sparkling water, and ice – a culinary crime for every Italian of course, but a surprisingly refreshing and appreciated local aperitif), we really got the chance to experience the city: not only by visiting common places of interest, streets, monuments or cathedrals – but by really actively participating in a local culture that takes on (at least in these peculiar pubs) a vitality that stems from the ashes of an ominous past.
All of this couldn’t have been anything but a remarkable and exciting premise to our festival experience: another item that can only add to the ongoing regeneration of this city.
Sziget, the revival of an ideal
At the center of Budapest, surrounded by the Danube (which for the record is far from dark blue and more of an okra tone), is the island of Óbuda, stage of, from the 11th to the 18th of August, the Sziget festival (literally “island”): with 480 thousand tickets sold in its current edition, it has been imposed as the biggest festival on the planet.
After having arrived and having entered the area, the first impression can only be one: that of a dip in that reality, now idolized by decades of parental and media stories, of the mythological Woodstock.
It’s true; the comparison may seem rushed and tacky…
But it is the only comparison capable of summarizing the flurry of excitement, loudness, eroticism, humor and mood that is, in these moments, enveloping the island of Óbuda.
Music, the real star of the show, in its most global and inclusive form: every genre, every country, every decibel and every note. Sziget is the festival of all and for all and it demonstrates this through its heterogeneity of its public, from all backgrounds (and with “all”, I really mean “ALL”) and all ages (refer to previous brackets for further clarification on the meaning of “all”).
But the festival isn’t only limited to music since it also succeeds in providing experiences from a multicultural point of view.
Art installations of all shapes and sizes dot the multitude of tents and framed lawns that canvas the scene, while food and gastronomy seem, at times, to be the main theme thanks to the incredible amount and multitude offered to the respondents.
Ladies and gentlemen, men and women, boys and girls: words such as “crisis”, “anxiety” and “stress”, in short, the fixings of everyday life, are absolutely banned here and are replaced by the ideals of brotherhood and weightlessness that in any other context, would almost seem old-fashioned.
Sziget is the naked man that, riding a plush-toy cow, was set to destroy our crew’s camera by hitting it repeatedly with his private parts.
Sziget is Blink 182 that takes us back to our now “fictionalized” adolescence.
Sziget is the liter of beer downed at breakfast, followed by the falafel, eggs and bacon, “pizza carbonara”, and yet another liter of beer.
Sziget is bungee jumping from cranes, it’s volleyball played on trampolines, it’s night that can’t be distinguished from day: Sziget is something that you MUST do “at least once in your life” in order to truly experience the world of psychedelics and Eros that animated the ideals of the 60s.