The Hungarian Woodstock
Since 1993, every summer a music festival is organised in the middle of Budapest. The Obuda island (Obudai Sziget), which lies in the Danube in between Buda and Pest, is turned into a huge festival area where for a week hundreds of bands play all sorts of music.
Although the festival is relatively unknown outside of Hungary, it is huge. In 2002 a maximum of 65,000 visitors per day was estabished, to keep the island from becoming overcrowded. This makes for a total of almost 400,000 visitors for the whole week. Because of the size of the island, further growth will be difficult.
Every kind of music is represented: in 2003 there was a jazz stage, a metal stage, a world music stage, a folk stage, an ambient stage... more than 15 tents and stages. There were also theatre, film, lectures, a swimmingpool and a circus. The festival features Hungarian musicians as well as many internationally famous artists. Bands who have so far played at Sziget include The Cure, Slayer, Lamb, Muse, Patti Smith, Shaggy, Shame McGowan and the Popes, The Skatalites, Laibach, Massive Attack and many many more.
Tickets can be bought for the whole week (75 Euro in 2003), or for one or several days. A ticket includes the possibility to camp on the island. In theory you can put up your tent anywhere you please, in practice putting it right next to the main stage would be unwise for several reasons, most of which you can probably imagine.
Once you get to the island, it's perfectly possible to stay there for the duration of the festival. The organisers have thought of everything, there are free showers and toilets, condoms and emergency contraception, food of all kinds and a booth where you can buy the toilet paper you forgot to bring. You can even rent sleeping mats and blankets if you stay for longer than you'd planned. Due to the Hungarian prices everything is very affordable.
Unfortunately, the majority of the information avaliable at the festival is in Hungarian, which is notoriously hard to understand for non-Hungarians. Most people there speak a bit of German or English though, although this isn't much help if you're trying to understand why Massive Attack isn't playing yet.
Sziget can be reached with public transport from the Budapest city centre, by boat or by taxi. Travel companies in Germany and France organise bus tours to the festival. Unfortunately you cannot take your car onto the island.
For more information on the last editions of Sziget, pictures and information on what's to come, see www.sziget.hu