Sziget 2014: a visit to the Island of Dreams & Budapest

In early August, I had the pleasure of visiting Budapest for Sziget Festival! The week-long festival is a fantastic, colourful affair that offers visitors (or Szitizens) an array of arts, culture, and exciting events in addition to the ridiculously amazing and varied line-up of talented musicians that they source from around the world. Now in the 22nd year, it’s the biggest music festival in Hungary, and one of the most popular, colourful festivals you’re likely to find in Europe.

After attending NOS Alive (previously known as Optimus Alive) back in July, my standards were set pretty high – but I really underestimated just how massive Sziget would be.

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Set on Obudai-sziget (known as ‘Old Buda Island’) along the Danube river, the island boasts over 266 acres, and over 415,000 people attended this year (which would explain why it was so busy!) I only attended for two days, but the line up throughout the week was incredible.

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Tuesday 12

Brody Dalle

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Brody was the first act we saw upon arriving, who put on a belter of a show! It was a great start to the festival for me. I’ve been into her music since her days with The Distillers, and was really excited when she played some of their material live, alongside tracks from her recent solo album.

QOTSA

The Queens of the Stone Age set was the highlight of the festival for me band-wise, and unsurprisingly, they were one of the main bands that made us actually want to book tickets for Sziget in the first place! Growing up they were my favourite band, and this was the fourth time I’ve seen them perform – they always do an amazing set. The atmosphere in the crowd was fantastic, and I think I may have very nearly injured myself from over zealous dancing!

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Weds 13

Placebo

Although I didn’t get any pictures, it was great to see Placebo live for the first time. They played a few of the classics (Pure Morning, Every You & Every Me), and a fair bit of their new album as well – it was a shame not to hear Nancy Boy though!

Tom Odell

After watching Placebo, we made a short trip to the A38 stage to catch the end of Tom Odell’s set. He’s extremely talented, and I only wish that there hadn’t been a clash between the two sets! I also never thought I’d see one tent so packed out – his set was really popular.

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Clean Bandit

Clean Bandit were the final act we saw, and it was a massive battle to actually get into the A38 stage – they were extremely popular, and the atmosphere was electric – almost like being at a rave! London Grammar were meant to play, but had to pull out a week before the festival due to illness. Initially when I got to the tent, my mood was slightly dampened as I’d just been stung by a wasp 😐 Fortunately, music is definitely the best medicine! This was the fourth time I’ve seen Clean Bandit, and over the past 12 months it’s been amazing to watch their stratospheric rise to stardom. The first time I saw them play was in a small wing of the Tate Britain in September 2013. This was in a part of the gallery that less than 100/200 people, so seeing them packing out a tent a year later that can apparently hold up to 10,000 people was a great experience. Granted, the tent was rammed, hot and squashed, especially when they played Rather Be! But it was so worth it.

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And the rest..

The two days we spent at the festival seemed to come and go so quickly, and the final night was spent enjoying the rest of the festival.  In between seeing the acts at night, there’s plenty to see and do – you’ll never be bored at Sziget! We did the Skybar, which is a similar concept to Dinner in the Sky – you get to go up 50 m into the air for a cocktail, which was also a great way to watch the Skrillex set going on below!

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 There’s also plenty of pop up art, graffiti, poetry, and lots of other wonderful things to discover and explore dotted around the site – the balancing act below were one of my favourites!

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The dragon below (with a special appearance from Nyan Cat!) had been constructed entirely out of recycled materials by local Hungarian secondary school students. There were many installations around the site similar to this, and I think it’s wonderful how the festival encourages and champions creativity, whilst giving emerging artists an opportunity to showcase their work.

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Sziget was by far one of the most incredible festivals I’ve ever been to, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what Sziget 2015 has to offer! Watch this space…

Budapest

The capital of Hungary boasts a plethora of things to see and do. Although I was only in Budapest for 4 days, here are some of my highlights from around the festival:

Pierrot

Part of a group of family run restaurants, Pierrot is located near the iconic St Stephen’s Bastion. They gave us a delicious taster of local ham and cheese to try, and some tasty homemade bread. To start, I had roasted duck liver (which I’d never normally try, but it was amazing) with strawberry, brioche and celery – it may sound random, but it really worked. For the main, I had mangalitza pork. I’ve never tried it, but it was one of the best pork dishes I’ve ever tried. It was succulent, cooked to perfection, and is sadly a specialty that is only reared in certain parts of Europe – but all the more reason for me to go back to Budapest soon! (And maybe I’ll even take some pictures of my meal – the food was too good to wait!) For more details on the restaurant, check out their website.

Fisherman’s Bastion

The walk from Pierrot to the Fisherman’s Bastion is short but lovely, and the view from here down to the Parliament building across the river is spectacular. A must-see if you’re in Budapest, especially at night.

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Corvinteto

We met up with some friends who had also flown over from London for Sziget Festival, and headed to this rooftop bar for ping pong and drinks – adds a next level of challenge if you go on a windy evening! They also serve food, which I’ve heard is pretty good. Also, try the photobooth! For more details, head to the Corvinteto website.

Szimpla Kert

This is the oldest ruin pub in Budapest, and is a quirky, cavernous place with a myriad of areas to explore that are spread over two floors – as well as a big outdoor area. It’s name translates to ‘Simple Garden’ in English, but this is no simple pub! It was really busy when we got there, but there are so many alcoves and rooms to discover, you’re bound to find a spot to have a drink and admire the venue from. They also hold art exhibitions and serve food.

It’s a bit hard to find, so you should probably get a taxi there if you want to check it out! Really reminds me of Proud Galleries in Camden (a bar in Camden Market, North London) – if you’ve been there and check out Szimpla Kert, you may see what I mean… here’s the Szimpla Kert website for more details.

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Although it was a fleeting visit, I’ll definitely be returning to discover Budapest properly!

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