Every year a festival in Bulgaria called Meadows in the Mountains brings together a group of people so kind and welcoming they could melt Theresa May’s heart.
For five days we lived in the Rhodopian Mountains in a back drop so beautiful it genuinely stimulated the follow responses:
- “Nah mate must be a blue screen”
- “It’s just so freakin beauuutiful”
- “Probably just stay here actually”
- “That toilet is so lucky to always have that view”
There aren’t that many views in the world that leave you feeling as though you’ve entered a Homeric epic poem … or leave you feeling like you’ve entered the Truman Show and the whole thing is just some sort of beautiful, sick joke.
As you may have imagined however, getting to the festival isn’t the easiest process in the world. But it was still 1000% easier than getting into Reading festival.
I thought long and hard (at my desk at work) how to structure this memoire of my time up in the clouds but decided the best way would be to recount every day.
So here is the story of that beautiful Pentad of day’s running through those fields of wheat in those meadows in those Rhodopian Mountains.
After travelling by taxi from Plovdid mentioned in the prelude we were dropped off at the wrist band collection point. Cars and buses were dropping of groups of excited bohemians and festival seekers from around the globe (but mainly from Hackney).
You can get a transport shuttle from here to a middle meeting point. Situated here was a cluster of locals homes (many of the people who live here have offered their homes as accomadation for the festival), a man selling coffee from behind a stall and a public water fountain.
This also marked the spot where you had to start walking up the mountain… to reach the camp site and festival.
I’m sure it would be an easy walk for a well rested, spritely individual. Not so much for a group of people hazy from red wine and late night oil related anecdotes. (I’ll explain if I ever write a Plovdiv post).
Also being weighed down by many a goon sack, meadows mugs, tents and wavy garms could not have helped.
The walk was only ten minutes but I was heavy with the knowledge that I had to put up my own tent as my camping partner (Bridget) was still on a bus from Sofia. Not being able to put up a tent was going to be very embarrassing and everyone would judge me for my lack of common sense.
I mutter a self assuring mantra in my mind “It’ll be fine, you got this, you can do this.”
The following happens:
Unzips tent bag, looks at tent, reads tent instructions, looks at tent again, puts tent on ground, looks at other people’s tents, does the pole thingy, releases something’s wrong, stops doing pole things. Releases she’s been putting tent up wrong, asks for assistance from friends, friends help, she still does it wrong, seasons change, festival comes and goes, the next year’s festival arrives, she is still holding poles.
It was a complicated tent…
(I can’t believe we left the roof off Joules).
But once you get all the tent assembling out the way and have all your pals in a lovely circle it’s worth it.
Shortly after the tent was successfully assembled Bridget finally turns up.
… Come the fuck on Bridget. Why are you always late?
The line up hadn’t officially started yet but there was still a live act on the main stage and the bars were open.
So of course I thought it would be an excellent idea to spend all my cash on the first night on bottles of Bulgarian Prosecco (it was actually economically the best option).
Members of the group arrive slowly and we all excitedly say hello, grabbing at each other and dancing.
Probably over did it for the Thursday night actually…
* Clambers out of the tent with all of the grace and ease of a full grown male warthog in a mud puddle.
But it’s fine no one saw. I’m on the side of a mountain in Bulgaria woooo.
Being the first day some pretty basic festival preparation is in order. Glitter, walking boots, bum bag, booze… okay so that’s me sorted from 10:10 am – 7:30 am tomorrow morning.
Yeah I hate myself too.
With secret messages hid in trees, artists selling prints, work shops, jamavan and amazing structures designed so we could escape, days rambling around the festival site were never going to be wasted days.
Lounging on a wooden platform looking out onto the beautiful mountain with Bridget we couldn’t quite believe how lucky we were to be in such a place.
Then a whisper spread through the mountain… I rumour in the wind, a murmur through the prosecco.
The last of our gang had finally arrived.
We all headed back to camp to greet our friends, some of us had been separated for over a year – it was all pretty emotional. But naturally en route back to camp we decided to stop and try some local food. A Bulgarian potato salad, coleslaw and mystery meat for those who’re into that kind of thing.
As the sun sets we head back into the festival site. The night is a blur of meadows mugs, tecno and rollies but clarity came when the sun began to rise over the top of the mountain.
That view was completely unforgettable.
You dance through the night until the sunrise.
And it’s glorious.
Everyone slowly turns there back away from the DJ to look out to the mountains, as if they’re praising the mountain as a God.
The omnipotent mountain!
Eventually our legs begin to weaken and it’s time to slowly walk back to the tent, appreciating the beauty and surreality of it all.
And then you pass out in someone else’s tent … ruining their night.
On Saturday there was a bit of a heat wave in the morning so Meadowers slept out of their tents on the grass.
Some of us ventured back into the camp site to lay under the trees on barrels of hay.
It was an emotional day with some failing to recover from the heavy night before. There was a lot of staring out into the distance of the mountain, crying and proclaiming how beautiful it all was.
Luckily the Lev pun’s were in full swing at this point to lighten the mood, because at the end of the day we did all have a lot of lev to give.
We also snuck a goon of wine into the festival site; which made me a bit too happy.
It was also my favourite day for music.
In the morning we had met members of a band called Agbeko and promised we’d catch their set.
Agbeko are an 11 piece Afrobeat/Ethiojazz band from Manchester.
And they’re so amazing – go see them. NOW.
Directly after this amazing time was an awful period of limbo where the boys paid for burgers and had to wait approximately an hour for them. Just to be cheated by cruel strangers from their rightful munch.
And I had some really shit chips.
… Where is the lev?
But this was an amazing start to one of my favourite nights of music, ever.
“Possibly the best house set I’ve ever heard” – Anonymous
The Mist was thick on Sunday morning and the lights of the stage turned the clouds an amazing pink. Just as the sun began to rise our group – which had separated a couple hours prior – all found each other again and we danced in the new day together – worshipping the mountain god once again.
Sunday was my favourite day.
We ventured down the hill for a chopska salad in the Pink House after picking up provisions for everyone (beer and wine).
The chopska salad came with a side of Prosecco.
We all got very day drunk and merry, went on the zip wire, did a yoga workshop, waited an hour for ‘the last hot food left on the mountain’.
Whatever we wished for the mountain seemed to gift to us, Leo wanted a beautiful girl from Rio, I wanted Sangria, Joules wanted some dank Garage. Everything seemed to fall perfectly into place for us.
Then suddenly the temperature dropped and we all grouped into tents for warmth, sipping red wine and layering up to go and listen to a night of music.
Me and Bridget got stuck in the forest stage for a very long time, desperately clinging onto trees to stop us falling down the slope of the mountain.
Every beat we danced to was off.
Garage normally has that affect on people, right?
Most of this night was spent sat around a fire, keeping warm and admiring the view – Ben lost and found his Charlotte three times, Fran and Rosie slept next to the flame. Me and Crispin looked at a toilet.
Then as the sun rose everyone rose up with the last of their energy and danced in the new day; professing love for one another (I blame the mountain god).
“But seriously man, you’re like my best friend and I freakin love you”… oh do pipe down Bridget.
Everyone I met at Meadows in the Mountains was warm, generous, welcoming and kind hearted. I will never forget those mornings on the sun rise stage seeing a new day come in with amazing music and kind souls.
The walk back to the campsite on that Monday morning was emotional.
- AKA the worst day ever
- AKA I can’t believe it’s over
- AKA I might just cry
- AKA What even is life
- AKA Why am I about to get on a five hour bus ride to Sofia.
- Five day hangover.
- WHY DO I HAVE TO LEAVE
I may have been a bit grumpy this day… sorry.
Meadows in the Mountains was so stunning, intimate and perfect that I felt bad being there amongst the original patrons. I’m so thankful I was given the opportunity to go, and meet such fantastic people.
Thank you Meadows.
It was Peak.
Do you believe in life after Lev?