Many people have been comparing Budapest to Berlin recently. Generally, the East of Europe seems to be in the rise when it comes to underdog parties, creative movements and — as always — affordable lifestyles. All aside political and economical issues, Budapest is always mentioned when people talk about how the “scene” is moving away from Berlin as soon as it becomes fully commercialized. Personally, I hope Berlin manages to somehow keep the balance between making money and staying sexy, but not everybody shares my optimism. Now beyond the cynism, how true are those rumors about Budapest being the new Berlin? I figured I’ll never know if I don’t go and see for myself. So I jumped at the chance when I was invited to the Electronic Beats Festival by Telekom with a couple of other authors, photographers and bloggers for a 24 hours trip. I assumed a party with a killer Berlin-Style line-up could not be the worst place to start “finding” Budapest.
Budapest afternoon. The weather was just as bad — maybe even worse — than in Berlin. Rainy and muddy all over. At least Berlin avant-garde would not have to get used to another climate, I thought to myself smirking. Equally shitty weather makes for a good rave with dark mooded, heavy bass music at night, right? Alas, due to the circumstances and the shortage of time I could not stroll around the city on our first night. Since our hotel was located in Buda (which I heard is not exactly the pulsating heart of the city) and not in Pest (apparently where “shit gets down real heavy”) I spent my evening enjoying the company of the other Berliners, making new friends and getting a bit under the influence as always. The Electronic Beats Festival — with no less than Modeselektor, Nicolas Jaar, Junior Boys and new super-group Mostly Robot as repertoire for a killer lineup — was set at the Milleniaris Theatrum, a location that would work perfectly in Berlin. I’m just saying.
On entrance Mostly Robot, a very Berlin EDM “band” (invented and put together by Native Instruments, a very Berlin music company), were killing it. Jamie Lidell, DJ Shiftee, Tim Exile, Mr. Jimmy, Jeremy Ellis & Pfadfinderei = Mostly Robot. Definitely a Berlin Night Out in Budapest. I hadn’t heard anything of them before and I was pleasantly surprised by their sound. Surprised, because it was so unlike Berlin. A funky, breaky, bassy sound with few Techno elements. I don’t mean to diss Techno at this point, I’m just saying it was nice for a change not to have Kalkbrenner repping the city, if you know what I mean. Ahem, Berlin Festival. Ahem.
Anyway: let’s just cut it short at this point and say that it was a perfect party. I loved Nicolas Jaar, always a great pleasure to watch and hear his magic played live. I missed out on Modeselektor because I got too involved with all the interesting stuff that happened backstage (read: my cozy hotel room bed), but I heard it was a blast, what with the pillow fights and all. And of course: the people. In only three hours I fell in love with eight different Budapest residents, just because they’re super smooth, super sexy and horribly flirtatious. I won’t say it was sunday-afternoon-at-Berghain-flirtatious, I wouldn’t go that far. But give it a couple of years, some stable gay crowd and a couple of no strings attached party people avant-garde, and voilá, Berlin is out and Budapest is in (although Hungarian people still have to go a long way in terms of style. Maybe the EB-Festival was not the right place to judge individual fashion, but on a personal note: get yourself some new shoes, Budapest!). Check out more pictures over at MitVergnuegen who organized the trip for us kids.
The next day gave us about four hours of walking around Pest before we had to catch our flight back to Berlin. Although tired and a bit worn from the party we gave our best efforts (and believe me, I tried to do the obligatory Hungry/Hungover/Hungary wordplay but I just didn’t figure it out and I’ll leave you to it). Despite the ever so shitty weather we were amazed by what we saw: great architecture, AMAZING (!) courtyards and this distinct feeling of being somewhere in Europe where nothing is European. I’d never been so far out East (within the borders of Europe) before, so everything felt new and exotic to me in such a weird familiar way. I always assumed Vienna would look like that: impressive Parliaments and huge castles and really old buildings and everything is so worn out and yet, somehow, the streets manage to look fresh. I liked the hesitating graffiti on the centuries old walls and doorways. Budapest looks unfinished, like “hey, we can settle down and do something here”.
With all that said I really want to point out how I felt in about 3 – 4 hours of “sightseeing”. You know how sometimes tourists in your city stop to take the most random pictures of the lamest — I mean the LAMEST — things? That’s how I felt. Budapest looks amazing and it feels amazing, but that was not nearly enough time to find anything. Except I still manage to spend a million worth of Euro, no matter how short the stay. Anyway: Budapest, I’ll come back to you (and maybe a couple of thousand other Berliners if the rents keep rising. We’re on a mission to gentrify the rest of the world, too). And Electronic Beats, thanks for the party!