English festivals can be great but, more often than not, they encompass the utmost tedious qualities that a smooth-sailing festival should not have: rain, expensive food, unreachable locations, steep ticket prices, bad showering facilities, overpriced drinks, and being stuck in one place. If, like me, you are not a huge fan of these characteristics, I advise you to branch out!
I went to my first international festival in 2012. I have seen the light and there is no going back. If you find pleasure in leaving a festival in the day, or perhaps not having to carry your whole life with you in a car (that is if you drive, let us not speak about having to be a ‘walk on passenger’ on the ferry that escorts you to Bestival. Is harrowing too strong a word to use?); or, maybe you want guaranteed sun and a city break rolled into one escapade? If you are nodding, and also remembering inconvenient festival trips, then take a look through this guide. It will highlight: costs, convenience, value for money, the type of people you can expect to bump into, and many other tips!
Before we go onto the guide I will quickly share this nugget of wisdom. Number one international festival rule – explore the sites that the country you are in has to offer, BEFORE the festival. I learnt this the hard way. Four intense days of partying and a lack of sleep is not the best state to be in if you plan on climbing 500 steps of the cathedral in the city you have settled in – just saying.
No matter how tired you are when you get to the festival, you will find a way to have a good time. When it is the other way around, I guarantee you will crash and burn.
Remember how bad you felt after Glastonbury? Imagine if you were backpacking around Bulgaria afterwards feeling like that, it is not fun.
Location: Gdynia, Poland.
Price per ticket: £100
Dates: Beginning of July, dates differ.
Jamie xx, Alt-j, Devendra Banhart, Kendrick Lamar, Lykke Li, Blur, Stone Roses and many more.
Take a short cab ride to the beautiful Gdansk. This picturesque town is known for its amber, so check out the cheap jewellery they have to offer. It has amazing ice cream, cheap, good food and a chilled atmosphere.
Open’er is Europe’s equivalent to Glastonbury. With an impressive line up, clear skies and a great crowd, it is a great substitute if you missed out on any English festivals or feel like trying something new. Situated in an old army base, the festival is spacious, yet all three stages can be seen from one another. With the festival being sponsored by Heineken, it helps to like beer if you want to enjoy Open’er.
Open’er is in the Polish city of Gdynia. As this place is relatively unknown, your options for flights are limited. One of the few airlines that fly there is Wizzair so be happy that the flight is cheap but do be ready to run for your seat if you want to sit next to your friend. You may want to train for this – that is optional. Once you’ve landed at the airport, the festival is the usually the most exciting thing happening in the region, so the festival transport is impeccably signposted. A short but bumpy bus ride takes you right to the front gate. Look for a line of super muscly men clad in reflective jackets – that should be the entrance. If not, then I do not know what bus you took
Like lots of European festivals, Open’er offers you the option to stay in apartments nearby. This would now be my preferred option, but I was young and foolish so therefore chose to camp. The best tip I can give you when it comes to camping is bring shade! Poland in July is hot, I am talking 34 degrees hot, so unless you do not like sleeping past seven am and enjoy being effectively smoked out of your tent by the blazing heat … bring something to make shade. However – small problem – the camp site at Open’er is literally just a field, no poles to hang tarpaulin, no shade, nothing. Thinking positively though, this is one’s chance to get creative with how to make shade. My group and I stuck some spare tent poles in the ground and threw a cover sheet over it and even though we had to dodge the poles like lasers in a diamond vault at least we had some protection from the brutal sun.
Food and Drink
Inside the campsite the food is not so good. If you love noodles from an industrial sized wok (that you have to pay for with your food tokens that you do not understand and that definitely do hustle you) then head over to the noodle shack that is to the east of the campsite. If that’s not your thing, feel free to take a short walk to the pizza joint just outside the festival. These pizzas are the best thing on a hangover: cheap, good service and you can roll home after because you will be so full.
However, if you want something a little more fancy, once in the arena you are spoiled for choice. The canteen is breezy and offers a great variety of food with the fun, added hipster edge. Who does not want a burrito served out of a van on a recycled slate? Or perhaps an overtly American influenced pancake house with giant Nutella jars and the man who serves you is fist pumping to Disclosure, with an interrupted YouTube advertisement. If none of this sounds tempting, then do not fret. There is a huge Lidl 20 minutes down the road where you can purchase fresh fruit to tinned spam.
Open’er does not let you down on the food options; drink, however, is a different story. Open’er is sponsored by Heineken. Therefore, Heineken and Desperados are the only alcoholic beverages available AND you are not allowed to bring in alcohol from the supermarket.
What does one do? If, like me, you cannot bear to drink beer all day for 5 days then there is a solution. This is when the wellies that were not needed, due to the ground being as dry as the Nevada desert, come in handy. Yes, a great idea is that a lot of vodka bottles in Poland are flat, so you can slip a bottle into your wellies and stroll in. The guards’ search is not that meticulous at the camp site gates, so you should pass through. (Be ready for another search at the arena gates. This one is little more stringent, so ladies use those bras for hiding). Or you could pour out a bottle of mixer and decant the alcohol into it – that works just as well. Another great thing about Open’er is that drinks in Poland are cheap so, if you want to treat yourself to a bottle of ‘Absolut vodka’ that you will pour into a limeade bottle, it is only going to cost you a fiver. Thank you Zlotys.
Summary and Top Tip
Overall this festival is amazing. The amount you are paying for the acts you can see is ludicrously cheap. To be able to see the Black Keys and Jamie xx in one evening is value for money. The variety of good artists brings in a great crowd, the festival is well-organised and you can do all of this on a budget due to the exchange rate favouring the pound.
Final word of advice, this festival is really hot, so bring clothes for chilling in Battersea Park. 1 – Because no one at the festival dresses up. You will be committing less social suicide by wearing straight cut jeans and slip-on Vans than a glittery top and a headband, for real. 2 – It is hot, so do not be tricked into wearing wellies. As much as the line-up is similar to that of an English festival, the weather is not. Wellies are only needed for sneaking in vodka. Once that deed is done leave them in the tent, because you will look dumb.