by Gillian Wood
I’m lying to you. I’m not at a kitchen table – I’m at a desk in my living room. I just thought I should clear that up before I continued. I wouldn’t want you to feel that I was creating a false image of myself ie sat at the kitchen table when in fact it was all a fabrication and I was really elsewhere…
Anyway, last night we booked our flights to Hungary. Tennyson Road is going east. We’re leaving at the beginning of July for our grand tour of South Eastern (vaguely) Europe. The guide book calls it the Western Balkans. I don’t really mind what the area is called, I’m just really quite excited about heading out there.
It started a few weeks ago with one household member, a Glastonbury stalwart, announcing with much sadness that the cows needed a year off so there was to be no Glastonbury in 2006. He wandered around with a forlorn look on his face for a week or two until one day he announced with much excitement that he had found THE festival to go to in summer 2006. I was intrigued….
“The Exit Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia Montenegro.”
“Ah, yes, think I’ve heard of it” (eyebrow raised a little).
“It’s in Serbia, beside the Danube River in a Fortress.”
“Thought that was in Hungary, flows through Budapest?”
“Possibly, yes, but it also goes to Novi Sad and that’s where the Exit Festival is. 65 Euros, guaranteed sunshine (rained last year though..), Pet Shop Boys, Franz Ferdinand, a river, a castle and tents!”
I couldn’t possibly say no. In fact we all couldn’t say no.
But then we forgot about it for while. Winter came. The Glastonbury Ssalwart found love in a car park, some of us took up knitting to pass the time, others set up dating agencies for our brothers, some of us found love in hotels in Brighton, some of us even went travelling but only got as far as the airport then went home. It was an eventful winter. Then it finished. The clocks changed, the flowers came out, a cat moved into our shed and talk of the Exit Festival resumed.
Exit runs from the 6th to the 9th of July. That’s Thursday to Sunday. Quite an untidy looking time frame wouldn’t you say? We certainly thought it was. It was decided that at least a week away required. We began investigating ways of getting there. The most obvious was to fly to Belgrade, but it just seemed so straight forward, too easy. I got a map and looked to see what was nearby (country-wise). Hungary, Budapest, perfect! From Budapest to Belgrade and Novi Sad there is a train line. It takes about 5 hours (approximately). I’ve only been to Eastern Europe once before, to Romania in 1995. I seem to remember everything took a little longer than usual, bit like travelling in London. But we’ll go with the 5 hour train ride for now. I thought it sounded like a really stylish and romantic way to get to a festival.
“How did you travel here?”
“Ah, via Hungary by train. Got some relatives staying in Budapest. Summer house on the Danube. Caught the 8.45am out of ‘Pest, had a little light lunch en route and arrived this evening.”
Much more interesting than:
“6.15am Easy Jet flight EZ1128796ABX out of Stansted. Got delayed, didn’t leave till 10.37am, stinking hangover too.”
We shall be arriving in style. But, the trip does not end there. It’s kind of grown. It was the map. I began to read more about the area. I even accidentally found myself watching a ‘Place in the Sun’ type programme on Channel 4. The couple (house in London, looking for a little holiday something abroad, budget £200,000) were in Montenegro. It was beautiful. I decided I had to visit. Then I saw that Albania was nearby and Macedonia (where men travel by donkey) and then Bulgaria, Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, Prussia, China, STOP! I had to tell myself that. It was getting silly.
The trip had to be extended. It now officially departs on the 1st of July at 12.45pm (Hungarian Airways just to get in the mood) from Heathrow and finishes on the 15th of July back in Budapest.
No idea what will happen in between. I’m not even too sure of who is coming or for how long. Everyone is welcome. Come for the first half, come for the festival, come for the after festival – seven day Balkan party tour (I’ve been reading about the local Plum Brandy. Anyone know anything about it?!).