Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sziget Festival: an Old Fart's View

This guy has a great attitude -- unlike me. Photo courtesy of  the Sziget Festival.
These are the dog days of summer in Budapest so along with heat waves, tick infestations and a virtual shut-down of the non-touristic economy, there is the annual bane of my commuting existence -- the Sziget Festival. In my younger days, of course, I looked forward to this international pop music extravaganza. But now that I'm a crusty old fart who doesn't even recognize most of the names on the Main Stage programme (The Beatsteaks? Two-Door Cinema Club?), the festival has become for me just a week-long nuisance, situated as it is on the Buda Quay right in the middle of my work commute.

The festival is on Hajógyari Sziget (Boat Factory Island -- during the rest of the year, a tranquil public park with an incredible, free-of-charge collection of slides for the kiddies) and the way that most day visitors get there is by taking the Szentendrei HÉV. They get off at the Filitorigát stop and from there it's a jam-packed queue of about 400 metres to the festival entrance. The queue is right on the bike path so if you happen to be cycling there in the evening, when most people come up to the Sziget, you will get caught in the queue.

This year the organisers worked out a detour and they've posted maps of it along the bike path at both the northern and southern approaches to the Sziget. The last two days I've stopped and studied these signs but I couldn't decipher them. Both days, I forged ahead following some yellow arrow signs that I assumed delineated the Sziget detour. But within a couple hundred metres, the arrows ran out and I was lost on some back street by a district heating plant in this industrial no-man's land west of Szentendrei út. I ended up coming back to Szentendrei út a couple kilometres north of the Sziget, and then riding on that street for about 5 km to Békásmegyer, where I could finally rejoin the bike path. Szentendrei út is a busy, 70 km/hr thoroughfare that's a hazard to anyone not encased in an army tank. I've decided for the remainder of the Sziget (until Sunday evening), I will stick to the bike path despite the queues of festival goers.

I should say, as a public service for those who like music festivals, that the Sziget Festival actually has some excellent accommodations for cyclists. For the past several years, they've offered free, guarded bike parking on site. Previously, it was managed by the Hungarian Cyclists' Club, this year it seems to have been taken over by MOL, the Hungarian petrol station chain. Is this a case of green washing or a commercial contingency for the post-petrol era? MOL actually has a multi-faceted "bike programme", which I wrote about here.

The Sziget organisers have a whole "mobility management" plan to deal with the tens of thousands of people who come to the festival -- half from outside Hungary. I wrote about that here.

This year's relevant info on Sziget bike parking and other travel pointers are here.


Bikeurious said...

Petrol? Queue? Quay? Programme?
Are you becoming some kind of Brit, Greg?

Greg Spencer said...

At work, I got in the habit of following UK usage on certain words, with "programme" being a good example. We do EU project work and "programme" crops up several times in almost any document I edit. It's become part of my DNA. As far as "quay" goes, that's always the given translation of "rakpart". I don't even know what the US version would be.

There are other Britishisms that I just like: "petrol" is more specific, less ambiguous than "gas"; the same with "queue" versus "line". I've also come to prefer "lift" over "elevator" and "flat" over "apartment" or "townhouse" or whatever an American would call these spaces we live in in Budapest.

However, you won't catch me spelling "tire" "tyre". I also think "sidewalk" is better than "pavement" and "molested" better than "interfered with".

Bikeurious said...

"Quay" would be "key," as in "Key West." If you like to sail, you've probably heard the term "keyside," which the Brits write "quayside."

Do pop 'round for a spot of tea, luv!