B2B – Budapest/Balaton Part 2

Travelling by train seemed to be one of the quickest means of transport to Balaton Station however to put it lightly, this was no luxurious train journey by any means. There was no air-conditioning, no pull out tray tables or electricity plugs in sight. However, on the contrary to this I believe that you need to be put into these types of situations, to appreciate what you have and how much worse off you really could be. Thats what travelling is all about, so smile, suck it up and embrace it.

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On another note, Charlotte and I decided to splash out and book into a plush hotel just 5 minutes walk from the festival entrance. This hotel was called the Wellamarin and I really couldn’t have wished for anything better. Call me a diva, whatever but I’m at that age where camping in the heat doesn’t really tickle my fancy. I like to come home to a shower, fresh sheets and a comfy bed so if that meant spending a little extra, so be it. The hotel itself had some luxurious facilities, including a state out the art spa, outdoor pool with bar servicing fresh lemonades and included in our rate was half board. Thus meaning we were treated to breakfast and dinner every single day of our stay. Not bad I say, not bad.

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After settling in to a modern surroundings, we got ourselves festival ready, bellies filled with a couple of glasses of vino (or more like a bottle..) and made our way towards the beating sounds of Balaton…

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with this festival, its actually been running for 10 years and is one of eastern Europe’s largest. In fact over 180, 000 people graced through the gates over the five days which is mind blowing for something that is in a pretty remote spot in my opinion. Its situated on a glistening lake which means by day, you can relax, take a dip and lap up those gorgeous water views. By evening, you have the most perfect sunset back drops, the humid warmth against your skin and a nonstop rave marathon of wicked beats from an array of different dance genres.

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As I was lucky enough to bag myself a press pass for the event (plus I had VIP) it was a nice touch having an area you could go to with fresh clean toilets, chill out areas, a view of the main stage and even a wine bar. Now were talking 🙂 I also have to point out how super organised everything was. I’ve never been to a festival that was being cleaned up the minute the first stage was closed, it was nice to see that the organisers were on it and something that UK festival should seriously take note of!

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Another thing I really loved about this festival (and there are many!) was the paying system. As the event was sponsored by Mastercard, naturally the best thing to do was set up a debit card type system which was topped up with cash or card and tapped on each vendors machine as if it were contact-less. It also gave you a balance to check on the disgusting amount of  money spent and consumed on alcohol.

Kidding. But all jokes aside, this payment system is very much the way forward – no mucking about with silly tickets or cash which is easily lost under boozy influences (as we all know).

 

Now back to the music itself. The line up for me wasn’t too bad. There was quite a mixture of genres including EDM, hiphop, trance, house and techno. Artists this year ranged from Duke Dumont, Booka shade, Matador, Chocolate Puma, Sven Vath, Chris Brown and Steve Aoki. There were dozens of stages, including the main stage which was quite spectacular at night and very bright during the hours of the day. Plenty of beach bars which had tons of sand bought in plus a Heineken/local radio stage and not forgetting the massive Telekom arena, which was a definite favourite but will get into that a bit later on.

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There was a wide range of food stalls with a mixture of cuisines – mostly Hungarian but I didn’t mind because the quality was there. Something that festivals are definitely improving on and compared to years ago when it was all about the greasy pizza, hot dog and chips… yes we’ve all been there! I even managed to find somewhere that sold fresh watermelon and of course there were what seemed like a gillazion cocktail bars to keep the hydration at bay.

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On the Wednesday evening, being the first day and all, the excitement was amplified times a thousand and the anticipation of what to expect for the week was quite overwhelming,  I just couldn’t wait to shake my booty until the break of dawn and lap up load of sunshine.

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One of the first big act that I wanted to see were Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – an American hip hop duo, who were scheduled to come on fairly early into the night and had certainly pulled a rather large crowd of people towards the colourful main stage. I can’t say I was overly amazed by their performance, particularly after watching them have a tea party and throwing cakes into the crowd but whatever works to stoke the party atmosphere into gear! Not really my cup of tea 😉

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The actual layout of the festival was very on point. Widely spread so big crowds of people could depart and arrive through the gates without a fuss, plenty of grassed areas for relaxing by the side of the water & stages placed accurately apart so the tunes weren’t overlapping. The beach bars in particular were awesome, built a few good metres above the waters edge and bought a real Ibiza type feel to the lake. After the disappointment of Macklemore it was a win stumbling across a rocking bar with a bucket load of sand, decked out with wicked house tunes… it was already looking like a winning start to the evening.

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The biggest and best find was the humongous Telekom arena, which was pure white and seemed to spread for miles. It was probably the only area we spent the most time in for the duration of the week, so you’re probably wondering if that was the stage that had the best artists and you might be dead right about that one.

Also to note was the outside chilling areas with beanbags which were a huge drawcard for our group, although it was some-what a struggle to pull myself  out of them a few times – comfort level was about a 10!

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We managed to catch most of Oliver Helden’s set in the arena and having not seen him play live before was not only incredible  but a very impressive way to stipulate my high expectations for the week ahead. He played so many classics, I just couldn’t stop dancing with a huge big grin on my face.

Its rare to find any top DJ pumping out so many old school tunes in one set. Loved every minute of it!! Hungarian duo, Muzzaik came on after and even though I had never heard of them before, they were equally as admirable and good enough to keep me going until about 4am. Early night of course 🙂

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As to be expected, I was feeling a little rusty around the edges the following Thursday morning. All I can say is, praise the lord for booking a hotel. Meanwhile, our poor friends were cooking back at the campsite and had barely slept a wink with the heat of their tent… but one things for sure, at least with this type of festival you have the luxury of sleeping beside a gorgeous clean lake, even if that means walking 20 metres to the more peaceful areas to keep away from the music.

We made use of the pool for most of the day, catching some rays and licking our way through ice creams! Definitely a perfect way to get rid of a nasty hangover, so once that was been and gone it was back to the festival for round 2.

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We thought it would probably be good idea to spend some time in the VIP area, since we did pay the extra to have the privilege, it made total sense to take advantage of it wherever possbile. Charlotte and I started on the vino and just in time for US DJ KSHMR’s set. I started to see a number of people flowing by the droves into the gates and running over to the main stage in a scurry, so I had a feeling it was not going to be a disappointing set especially when he belted out his top 1o track Secrets! The atmosphere literally changed within seconds and it even had me up off my chair bopping away (or maybe that was the wine starting to kick in). Later on into the night, Don Diablo and Nervo played their sets and sadly, I weakened and had to go back to the hotel for some shut eye… I’m afraid this is a sign of getting old kiddlies!

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Friday I woke up with a spring in my step. It really is quite astonishing how good you feel after after a well rested sleep, almost like a new person but whats even more funnier, is that I’ll no doubt go and do this all over again and basically never learn my lesson.

Which is exactly what happened….

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After another day of tanning by the pool (someone has to do it) I was revitalised, pumped and ready for another raving session. Also uber excited as the Trance lads were headlining aka Ferry Corsten,Paul Van Dyk and Aly & Fila. Again, all the legends were playing in the Telekom arena and I was so ready.

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To start the Friday evening off, Charlotte and I met with the rest of our friends for drinks just outside the festival area at a wicked shack looking bar and purely for a change of scenery. I loaded up on energy drinks which is a complete no no for someone with caffeine sensitivities and definitely not recommend but I needed the extra energy to last the night away and this was my only opinion. We headed straight for the long white cloud.. I mean tent and just in time for Mr Corsten’s set, which kicked off the balmy night with a mixture of uplifting & hard trance tunes.

Everyone was undoubtably looking forward to PVD’s set, only recently returning to the stage after his horrific fall, it was hard to know just what to expect but of course, it was completely flawless (as I had imagined). I don’t think I’ve danced that hard in quite sometime but with the laser lights beaming in all directions and the tunes banging,  the energy in the arena was really indescribable, I just knew I was going to be an early morning finish with atmosphere being so intense.

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Come Saturday lunchtime when I decided it would be an appropriate time to arise, I was feeling a little under the weather, drained and no where near on form but the beauty of being at a music festival means that you truly aren’t alone with these hideous feelings of wanting to curl up and die. Fortunately for me, I miraculously managed to bounce back come late evening as there was no way I was missing my very last night, even if it was for just a few hours – it was time to suck it up.

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Armin Van Buuren was the headliner for Saturday and as you would have guessed, it was completely rammed. A contrast to Wednesday and obviously one of the most popular nights out of the week, the vibe was buzzing and although AVB belted out a number of very commercial tracks, I surprisingly got into it and found myself dancing around with the last bit of energy I had – I think this is called second wind HA.

Meanwhile my crazy friend Jon decided that it was a good opportunity to have a go on the bungy jump directly next to the stage. He then later tells me, that it was very relaxing. No thanks.

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I forgot to mention that around 10pm every night, they set off spectacular fireworks to mark the closing of the main stage and these lasted for a good 5mins every time. Nice little touch don’t you think 😉

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Sunday morning, I was feeling 80% with it and after our last hearty breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the festival to soak up the sun for the last few hours before having to catch a train and flight back to London. We could have had the option of staying until It finished on Monday morning but it was time to go home, back to work and face reality. Which I wasn’t ready for AT ALL!

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Balaton is probably one of the best and most promising music festivals I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Anyone that is looking to venture overseas next year and is wanting an experience which incorporates the glorious sounds of music as well as basking in some breathtaking scenery should add this to their list because if I could do it again, I would do so in a heartbeat!

 

Photo credit – Jon Self photography

https://www.facebook.com/jonselfphotography/

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