Why you need to go to Open’er Festival in Poland
Gdynia: not particularly a word that rolls off of the tongue with ease, yet this is the name of a beautiful beach town at the top of Poland and home to a festival of increasing popularity called Open’er Festival.
This summer, I was drawn to Poland with the promise of good music, cheap vodka and a copious supply of sausage meat. I had never considered Poland to be a holiday hot-spot and, to be perfectly honest, probably would have never ventured there without the allure of quality bands like Blur, Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys beckoning me to the town’s music festival. Prior to arrival at Gdansk airport (The Polish like their place names to be confusing for my English tongue), my mind painted an image of Poland that had been pieced together with Hollywood’s typical portrayal of most of Eastern Europe: uniform tower blocks, an overcast sky and perhaps a goat wandering down a deserted road. However, after a cab journey into Gdynia, I was not met by a baron town decorated with a pallet of different shades of grey; on the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised by a newly-developed sea-town with modern buildings, a wide selection of bars and restaurants; and vast white sands which rolled into the Baltic Sea.
Open’er festival – Polish for ‘Open Air’ festival – is staged on the airfields of Gdynia-Kosakowo Airport. The festival is a 45 minute cab journey from Gdansk Airport – provided your cab driver knows where he is going, unlike mine – and should, if legitimate, cost around 150 zloty, which translates into approximately 30 pounds sterling.
Upon arriving at Open’er, it is clear to see how the festival spills beyond the barriers of the airfields into the surrounding town, Gdynia. The festival was perfectly integrated into the this pretty beach town with a regular shuttle bus service and, most importantly, the local shops and bars accepted the ‘Pay As You Go’ top-up cash-cards available for purchase at the festival site. This top-up card, in my opinion, was a fantastic addition to the festival experience. Instead of carrying around a wallet full of cash, you are able to pay for a small cash-card of the exact amount of money and top it up with additional funds at festival cash-points (no paperwork, pin numbers or signatures necessary). The fact that some shops and bars in Gdynia also accepted these cash-cards proved extremely useful when dispensing the money left stored on my cash-card after the festival had come to an end. This cash-card was one of many indicators of the festival’s immaculate organisation.
On the whole, the promoters did a fantastic job in effectively organising the entire event and, although only boasting a maximum attendance of 50,000 people approx. in comparison to the Reading/Leeds festival’s 80-90,000 capacity or the 180,000 pilgrims which gather at Glastonbury, Open’er festival’s organisation put its English counterparts to shame. Although I resented it at first, the idea to allocate specific areas of the arena for the consumption of food and drink away from the music stages was extremely wise. Preventing festival-goers from taking beers to the stage not only ensured what must have been a speedy clean-up job, but also meant that those flying cups of suspiciously warm ‘cider’ had finally become extinct. Not once, during the entire festival, did the words: ‘Wait, was that what I think it was?’ pop into my head. Neither did I take any embarrassing tumbles after slipping on someone’s leftover noodles; Open’er was an impressively clean and orderly event.
How can I possibly preach cleanliness at a festival without mentioning that which all festival-goers fear the most: the campsite toilets. I’ll keep it brief. They were emptied regularly (three times a day in fact) and were never an issue.
Food and Drink
Whenever one ventures abroad it is always necessary to keep an open-mind when it comes to another country’s interpretation of what a breakfast should consist of. Unfortunately, the word ‘breakfast’ clearly does not transcribe easily from English to Polish. Instead of a plate full of bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms and fried tomatoes, the Polish believe that a frankfurter, slices of cucumber, an entire plum tomato and a slice of unbuttered bread constitutes your first meal of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I still devoured every morsel, yet each bite was one of complete confusion.
It is important, however, to express that this was the only instance where my tongue was disturbed by a culinary culture clash. The rest of my time in Poland was filled with a plethora of delicious meaty flavours including the tongue-seducing kielbasa sausage. Beyond the walls of the festival, the beach town provided a great number of high-quality alfresco restaurants which served fish straight from the sea. Without exaggerating, a large percentage of the food I tried during my time in Poland was of the highest order.
A festival would not be complete without an abundance of alcohol and the Tricity area (the inter-linking towns of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot) did not disappoint. Open’er festival was sponsored by Heineken so there was no surprise as to what beer was on offer around the arena. The rows and rows of Heineken tents with the odd Desperados bar sporadically dotted around the food and drinks areas were a safe bet to please many a thorough-bred Anglo-Saxon on tour, yet I would have enjoyed the option to try some local beer whilst in the festival arena. I say this because my ventures to the beach bars of Gdynia and Sopot revealed quite a vast selection of enjoyable local Polish brews available – one bar even boasted a mammoth 180 different types of lager and stout. Yes, there were many beers which I found to possess the same chemical composition of Windex mixed with tree sap; however this area of Poland revealed itself to be far from baron of good beer.
Not much could be said about spirits during the festival, they were not sold in the arena – another frustrating, yet well-planned decision made by the promoters. This becomes a completely different story once you enter the surrounding towns. Vodka is plentiful, easy to drink and cheaper than water. The latter can even be attributed to many named brands, such as Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan’s rum, as the majority of bars priced a rather sizable ‘double’ with mixer for under £3. Also, I’d like to add that it was apparent the Polish have no concept of what a double measure is and simply aim to see how much spirit they can fit in your glass – not that I was complaining.
During this article I have frequently made references to the cost of things. This is pure due to my utter amazement at how inexpensive almost every aspect of this holiday was. The festival, for 4 days of incredible headline acts and supporting artists with 6 days of camping inclusive, cost the modest sum of £120 approx. It is important to point out that this price was reduced to roughly £90 if tickets were purchase before January 15th as part of Open’er’s ‘Earlybird offer’. Although the cost of travel and spending money needs to be included, I can guarantee that the total cost of attending this festival is dwarfed by the likes of any British music festival. It is the perfect combination of an inexpensive holiday and music festival – a music festival which year on year brings in performances from big name bands and artists.
This summer, Gdynia will again host this well-organised music event which breathes great energy into the surrounding Tricity area. World-renowned acts such as Pearl Jam, The Black Keys, MGMT and Phoenix have already been announced as part of the 2014 line-up with plenty more talent still to be revealed. If you were looking for an answer as to whether you should attend this year, I’ll merely conclude saying that I have already ordered my tickets and I hope to see you there.