In my experience if people are thinking about O.Z.O.R.A. festival at all (I’ll be calling it Ozora for short), they’re thinking about it in one of two ways. Either they’re in the camp that believes it’s a wondrous place full of magic, or they’re convinced it’s a completely debauched gathering, a convention of crazies where ‘normal’ people would never dream of setting foot. Now I’m not and never have been into Goa music, and Ozora is fundamentally a Goa music festival, so I participated with somewhat of an ‘outside’ perspective, and as such may be able to write something that’s interesting for both parties. The big fans will get some insight into what attracts laymen to the festival, and the doubters can read an unbiased review that isn’t written through the distorted lens of a diehard Goa fan. (By the way, if you have no idea what kind of music Goa trance is, check out this song, for example. This is a kind of Goa-esque Dire Straits remix that even I like, but I know that – yuck! – it’s way too mainstream for the average Goa fan. These days the music being played at Goa parties is way more intense, not this melodic… I love this one as well.)
So to make a long story short, I got into this world by way of my husband. These days I like to think he is more inclined to listen to jazz or French chansons together with me, but in his younger days there wasn’t a worthwhile Goa party that took place without him. He was a co-founder of goa.hu and remained a prominent member of the channel for years, and even played gigs as an amateur DJ at Goa parties. We went to Ozora together in 2009 and repeated the experience in 2016. I won’t go into detail about my own personal experiences here — I thought that I’d write a list of observations instead, gathering the most important points that I think are worth knowing about Ozora.
1. There are only week-long passes – it’s pretty pointless to come to Ozora for a short period of time, as there are no day passes and the only alternative to buying a week pass is the weekend ticket. Incidentally, this costs just as much as if you’d purchased a week-long pass two weeks before the festival (130 euro in 2016). Even at the gate, the week-long pass is only 20 euros more than the weekend pass. I’ve heard a lot of hypotheses about the reason for this — the most prevalent is that this way, festival goers are encouraged to stay as long as possible to really soak in the Ozora essence, while at the same time, the tight community is protected from bystanders coming in for the price of a cheap day ticket just to ogle the goings on. By the way the ticket includes not just entrance to the festival but also a camping spot, parking spot and admission to all of the programs.
2. There’s basically no litter – at all of the other festivals I’ve visited in my life (Sziget, Volt, Balatonsound, etc.), it was basically a given that within a few hours of arriving you could expect to be walking through litter. At Ozora, festival goers are more eco-friendly and nature loving than the average person, so the majority of people don’t even throw away their trash. In the off chance that someone does litter then it’s only a matter of minutes before someone, usually a festival goer, picks it up, or in the rare instances that doesn’t happen, then someone from the staff will show up to the scene within seconds and take care of it. There are rubbish bins every 5-10 meters so you don’t have to carry any trash very far before you can throw it out. If you look at the cover photo for this post, you won’t find a single piece of trash, even though that photo was taken in front of the main stage on day three of the festival. I don’t mean to cast judgement here, but imagine for a second Balatonsound with an army of garbage collecting body-building boys and litter picking fake-nailed girls…:))
3. There are no advertisements either – there aren’t any logos, posters or advertisements from major sponsors, nothing brand oriented whatsoever besides the nameplates of individual small businesses at their stands. This in itself is completely refreshing to one’s eyes, that are otherwise used to unrelenting advertisements competing for our attention every day.
4. It might just be the most international Hungarian music festival – I’m not sure of the official statistics but judging from our own experience, out of every 10 sentences that we heard walking around the festival, 6 were French, 2 English, 1 German and about 1 Hungarian. There was an unbelievable, almost shocking number of frenchies — I don’t know who advertises Ozora there and how, but we basically felt like we were in France the whole time we were there.
5. The property is completely dedicated to the festival – Sziget takes place at Hajogyari-sziget, Balatonsound goes down on the Zamardi beach, and so it goes for the rest of the Hungarian festival locations that I know. They all take place in locations that otherwise serve a completely different purpose on a regular, non-festival day. Because of this temporality, the structures at these festivals are built to last for a single week — all the structures are temporary and portable tents, shipping containers or stalls. Ozora on the other hand, located in a giant field, has been developing constantly since 1999. I first visited in 2009, and the change since then has been incredible: there’s a flagstone path across the meadow, paved roads, permanent buildings (“bar,” “restaurant,” etc.) built of brick, stone, wood, reeds, built-out showers, toilets, a playground, snaking stairs, tunnels, bridges, walkways, and much much more. Each and every one of these structures was built for the festival and wait for that one week in the year when they’re actively used. Nowadays there are even a few fixed lookouts built on the festival property, where you can get a bird’s eye view of the whole area.
6. There are tons of very young kids – I meet kids at other festivals as well, but at Ozora there is a surprising amount of nursery and kindergarten aged kids. By now they have their own playground shaded by trees, complete with a sandbox, castle, rope course, hammocks and a crafts corner, perfectly equipped to spend an entire carefree day.
I also know this firsthand, because this year we partied for 2 days without kids, and spent the other two days with our 2 and 5 year old sons at the festival. Without any prompting, they told us that the festival was a massive experience for them, and that they didn’t want to come home at all and want to return next year. I would add that most of the adult festival goers are also revisiting their childhoods, happily taking part in any and all “childish” antics like riding on the ringelspiel and playing around in the mud.
And of course it doesn’t hurt that anyone under the age of 14 is guaranteed free admission.
7. You can find decidedly older partiers here too – yes, there are lots of older people here, mostly hippies of course, with long beards, hair, tattoos, the kinds of people you otherwise don’t really meet in Hungary (that may be because most of them aren’t even Hungarian).
8. You won’t find this many barefoot people at any other Hungarian festival – you’ll see as many kids as adults running around barefoot, that is to say many people ditch their shoes, and often. There are even those who go soleless at night, although my toes would definitely freeze if I tried that…
9. Every night there’s a giant bonfire in front of the main stage – when I went in 2009, the bonfire wasn’t surrounded by a fence, there were just a few bigger stones around it. We watched with mouths agape as a few crazy festival goers crawled around the fire on hands and knees, even singeing themselves a bit in the process. By now the fire pit has become decidedly more safe, they’ve built an elegant fence around the bonfire pit, precluding any chance fall into the fire even by those who’ve really lost touch with reality…
10. The toilets aren’t ToiToi stalls – unlike other festivals where you’re forced to answer the call of nature in an incredibly smelly ToiToi stall that inevitably becomes filthy within a matter of hours, Ozora by now is equipped with real toilets, not flushable, but fitted with toilet seats and about 2 square meters of legroom, not to mention ample ventilation from above and below. The 1 or 2 cleaning staff members that are always around power washing the whole thing every 20-30 minutes are just icing on the cake, but thanks to them the toilet was always spotless every time I visited.
11. Get ready for cold showers – brrr, I never take cold showers, no matter how healthy they are I can’t get myself to do it. Alas, here I had no choice if I didn’t want to be completely sweaty. There are tons of showers and the only time I ever had to wait was the 10 minutes I stood in line during ‘peak hours’ over the weekend, when the big crowd arrived. In the first few days, aside from a possible short line during peak hours, you could basically always count on getting in immediately. These, too are ventilated from above and below, and cover your body completely. If I had to make a suggestion to the festival organizers on where they could improve, the first thing I would suggest would be to make warm showers available as well, even in exchange for a few cents to cover costs. It would really come in handy if somebody wanted to take a shower at night or if it wasn’t as hot as it was this year.
12. The community is really strong – of course this isn’t all that surprising at a festival, but in this case the community spirit saturates all parts of life: you can cook together in big stoves or over fires, there’s a communal garden where you can pick herbs and other things for your food, there are tons of communal crafts programs,
The sanded area maintained for fire dancers and encircled by space for the audience on all four sides, is open to any dancers who have experience, they even provide you with gear for it if you need. And these are just a few examples.
13. It’s not true that only “bohos and hobos” take part – Everyone comes to Ozora with a tent – the whole thing is a huge tent camp that the cars are parked next to, there are tons of Audis, BMWs, and other indisputably top-notch cars. Without a doubt there are also completely run-down hoopties as well, but definitely not to the extent that those who have never been to Ozora believe to be. We actually partied with a lot of business owners, high-level managers and C-suite executives, and the rumor that there are only “poor, torn hippes” at Ozora is just that, a false rumor.
14. Here you can see the Dothraki men introduced to us by Game of Thrones in real life – jokes aside, you need to see this! I have never really seen these kinds of guys in these numbers elsewhere. These days, everywhere else you go you’ll find ‘skaters,’ or ‘gym bros,’ or athletes, squares, hip hop guys, even the odd punk, but ‘dothraki’ men are only at Ozora, and on top of it all they even smile, despite their serious glares on TV. So calling all girls who dig this look — it’s time to visit!
15. This is a paradise for flat girls – it may be sexist of me to write about this kind of thing – or what do I know, I’m sure there will be those who are bothered by this – but first of all, I’m writing about this as a woman, and second of all, I have to make mention of this because it’s just so (not) in your face. At Ozora, 70% of the girls don’t wear bras, and those who do, definitely don’t wear push ups. They wouldn’t even think of hiding their chests or covering up the fact that they’re not as well-endowed as today’s worshipped ideal. Where elsewhere girls are trying their hardest to prop up the twins, even going so far as to pump them full of silicon, at Ozora I didn’t see a single pair of fake breasts (insofar as they are recognizable). Bras were almost as hard to find, with about 3 in 10 girls sporting them. So, for those guys who are into these kinds of girls, or for those girls who have zero confidence about having a small chest, Ozora is the place for you. The guys will be blown away and the girls will get enough confidence to last the whole year, guaranteed…(UPDATE: When I say “they don’t wear bras” I don’t mean that they’re walking around naked, but that they’re not wearing bras UNDER THEIR CLOTHES. I added this to quiet the complaining comments. I saw a few topless girls as well but not more than one would encounter on the beach in a less prude country, that is to say: about 5 girls in 4 days.)
16. You won’t find aggressive, crass or belligerent people – I don’t want to pass judgment on what any individual person chooses to “drop out of reality with” at different festivals, but one thing is for sure: you won’t find any aggressive, belligerent drunks at Ozora. Most people smile nicely, or they may even laugh at you (kindly), but even then no one is pushing anyone around or raising concerns about personal safety.
17. If you lose your cell phone, you can be almost certain that you’ll get it back here – last year my husband’s brother lost his phone and the next day he found a note on the message board, letting him know where he could retrieve it. I put my faith in this story when this year, I myself very cleverly left my phone somewhere on the very first night. I won’t lie, I did go back to the lost and found five times and asked if anyone had turned it in, and even sort of gave up by the fifth visit, but even so within 24 hours of losing it, it was in my pocket again without any damage or internal issues. I’m not even talking about some cheap brick, but an iPhone. At Ozora people are like that, they don’t steal if they find something.
18. The world’s friendliest and most helpful security guards work here – at least this year this was definitely true. They answered everything very nicely, and I never saw any yelling, aggression or threats from them. They were really there to help and to help relieve the tension instead of heighten it. A special thank you to them and the organizers for this, it’s a good feeling to be able to party like this.
19. They have their own corner store, fruit and vegetable stand – This is especially significant because you can’t really wander out of Ozora. You enter, you pitch your tent and in x amount of days you leave. So it kind of matters whether or not you can buy some bread rolls for breakfast. And yes, you can get everything at the store that you might need at a camping festival in 40 degree weather, from ice cold chocolate milk to pastries to fresh fruits.
20. People are constantly “gifting” each other – they paint your face for free, give out massages, teach, play music, practice yoga, offer you a taste of what they’re cooking, and a whole laundry list of other stuff.
22. When it comes to visuals, it’s unbeatable – there are so many unique, amazing, rare and of course psychedelic sights to see wherever you go, that the whole week wouldn’t be enough to see them all.
Pictures, statues, wall murals, light projections in the most unexpected places, tons of tattoos, colored hair, colorful clothing, completely unique styles, feathered accessories, uncommon necklaces and jewelry, and so so much more. Enough inspiration to last months.
If you’ve never been to Ozora and this list has inspired you to make a trip out, or if you were thinking about going anyway, I suggest you go at the beginning of the week. You can enter as early as Sunday, but the really big crowd only arrives Thursday afternoon. That’s when getting food, standing in line, and getting from A to B becomes time consuming. In the first couple of days, the whole atmosphere is much more relaxed, there’s more room to breathe, there’s significantly less people, I enjoyed it much better this way.
If you have any other questions, write them in the comments, I’m happy to answer.
Special thanks to Réka Forgach for the cool translation!!!!
(publication date of the original Hungarian post: 9 August, 2016)