With the end of summer comes the end of peak festival season and having hit the circuit relatively hard this year, we thought we’d attempt to collate what we learnt along the way and give you a few “How To” posts. Kein ding, bitte schön, here to help. We’re kicking things off with the one closest to Bron’s heart – the Croatian music festival, as experienced via Dimensions Festival in Pula.
As always this 5-day affair was a highlight of the year – showcasing a bloody strong and original line-up spanning house, techno, disco, dubstep, jazz, soul, pop and everything in between, taking place in a 150-year old fort, on boats on the Adriatic sea and in a 2,000 year old Roman amphitheatre. We’ve said a lot about the festival itself before – find that over here – and our 2014 edition of The Disposable Camera Project is on it’s way shortly. For now, here’s what we learnt for getting the most out of the festival and for making it a proper vacation. Did we miss anything? Hit us up below.
MUSICALLY – GO EXPLORING: Looking specifically at Dimensions, on any day you’ll find a beach party in daylight hours, 6 boat parties and 8 stages to choose from at night, with sound systems – and artists – tailored to each space. Furthermore, shit’s in a pretty incredible Fort, and it’s worth finding time to check out each stage – from the perfect rave cave of the Moat (bring earplugs), to the free-for-all dancefloor of The Clearing, Mungo’s Hifi (where you really need to catch Mala) and intimate vibes of the Ballroom. I’m not suggesting you run around on manic mission to see everything at once, but being adventurous and checking out the full offering of festivals like this one, you’ll get even more from your experience.
BOAT PARTIES ARE THE VIBIEST – BUT IT HELPS TO COME PREPARED: It’s pretty easy to see why these are so heavenly – the backdrop is the Adriatic sea, the sun is out, maybe you’re lucky and score a sunset (any party that falls over 19:45ish) and well, at Dimensions in particular the boat party line-ups can be pretty unreal (Anthony Shakir & Marcel Dettman on the RA Boat – I’m looking at you). This is an undeniably vibey time, however if like I did, you plan to do a lot of these it doesn’t hurt to board prepared, and avoid rolling off the boat so sunburnt/dehydrated you mess up the rest of your day.
Day time boat? Do not underestimate the heat on that uncovered top deck. It’s fucking heiß. Dress comfortably, match beers with water – or do as the Zleep x Dance Tunnel boat team did and bring water pistols (just don’t aim them at the djs, you dick). Night time boat? You’ll probably head straight into the festival afterwards – think about that. Like to drink? Sea thirst seems to be a thang. Bring lots of money.
STAY COMFORTABLY: Not into camping? While staying on-site at Dimensions is actually pretty picturesque, ridiculously convenient and mostly full of vibes, for more comfort/that vacation feeling, Airbnb is loaded with options, even at the last minute. We stayed around 2km from the festival site in Veli Vrh, with the total per head (we were 7) being around €10/night. The apartment had everything, our hosts were lovely and damn it was nice to shower/sleep/cook properly. The only downside of this was being about 1.5km from the nearest beach. For beachside options – try Horizont Resort or Bi-Village, which during festival time tend to host a nice mix of German families and DJs.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH LOCALS: In 2013 a friend and I took up an offer of a ride from our resort into town from a local, rather than paying double the price to jump in an taxi. As he dropped us off, through limited English he introduced himself as Silvester and offered to pick us up later that night. Silvester became our driver for the remainder of the festival, not only giving us a reliable lift at a reasonable price, but all sorts of wonderful scattered English-Croatian chat, local tips, and on one occasion a glass of wine at the local supermarket (supermarket bars – a thing), where we met his son.
Silvester was just one of many incredibly friendly and helpful Croatians I’ve met over three summers of Croatian festivals, and I can’t recommend enough at least attempting to strike up conversation with locals you meet – and you might make a friend for life, or at least until the next year*.
(*I randomly bumped into Silvester again this year, he explained that he’d heard my voice across the water and recognised it immediately).
TAXI – AGREE ON A PRICE: Know what your price should be – most festival websites should have a guide on this in their FAQs – and agree on it before jumping into a taxi. Or make sure the meter is switched on. I’m not suggesting that all taxi drivers are shady, but we experienced quite a few who were – from charging double the price we knew a ride was worth to refusing to turn on the meter.
GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER EARLY – FLY DIRECT: One of the bigger obstacles surrounding these Croatian coastline extravaganza’s can be the whole how-the-fuck-do-i-get-there thang. In my first year of attending Dimensions & Outlook festival I left sorting out my return journey until I was already on site, and working with a tiny budget ended up on a 18 hour journey involving 3 buses, 3 trains, 1 plane and zero sleep, travelling to Berlin via Milan. NOBODY SHOULD DO THIS. If you get onto things early enough, you’ll find direct flight into Pula from all over the UK, and Berlin, and months out they’re not that pricey. For anyone that’s done the across Italy connection, or even flown into southern Croatia then bussed north, you’ll appreciate the luxury of landing in Pula and arriving at your accom 25 mins later.
NOT SO ORGANISED? DRIVE: Did you realise the northern part of Croatia, eg Pula or Rovinj, is less than 12 hours from Berlin, and 6 – JUST 6! – from Munich? Got a license and access to a car, or up for renting one with a crew? This is a very real and affordable option and you’ll also then have the option of beach/day trips outside of festival time. Plus – ROAD TRIP! It’s the shit summer dreams are made of.
PREPARE FOR ALL WEATHER: The coastline of Croatia is known for perfect Mediterranean days, sun sun and more sun. What Tourism Hrvatska fails to advertise is that this little part of Adriatic paradise can also experience freak, sudden, end-of-days storms – and fuck me, I challenge you to find a more severe storm in Mediterranean Europe. We experienced one of these on the final night of Dimensions, causing extreme damage across the festival site, forcing a number of stages to close and destroying 1000s of pairs of otherwise sweet trainers. See exhibit A (formerly these) below. Fortunately the organisers were prepared and no one was hurt.
In short – prepare for everything. Pack the usuals – sunnies, sun cream, summer outfits – but don’t shy away from throwing in a raincoat, or a pair of trainers that can either be thrown in the washing machine or left in a bin somewhere in Croatia.
SENSIBLE FOOTWEAR: An extension of the above really but worth emphasising – Dimensions & Outlook in particular are held in a rocky as fuck fort – the ground is uneven, the rocks are chunky and there’s the odd incline/decline. Being beachside doesn’t mean you can get away with flip flops, sandles or bloody hell, heels. Trainers, solid boots, anything with support to keep you dancing for 10 hours+ in rugged conditions are the ones.
EAT WELL – LOCAL SEAFOOD IS A VERY REAL & GOOD THING: Whether you’re staying on site or in town, it’s worth taking a break from paprika-flavoured everything and 2L plastic bottles of Laško to re-fuel properly and try some local fare. Rolling with a large group, want local seafood? In Pula old town, Popa’s Fish Grill (hidden down a side street off popular shopping street Slavoluk Sergijevaca) – was a great value choice. We spent €10-12 each for a range shared plates of whole snapper, grilled calamari, prawns, simple sides and far too much local wine. A 15-min walk out of town and stretching beyond seafood to other Istrian dishes, Konaba Kažun is also a solid choice (don’t let the highway location put you off) or for pizza, try Pizzeria Tivoli in Veli Vrh, which for Eastern Euro lols is also located within a sports centre.
DAY TRIP: Arrive a day or two early and get more out of your trip – Croatia is a day tripping wunderland. From Pula, for example, you can head 45mins to Rovinj for a hit of picture perfect fishing town (this is also your nearest town for Unknown), take a boat trip out to the Brijuni Islands, or head inland via bus (3-4hours-ish) for all sorts of next level nature c/o the Plitvice Lakes and surrounding national park (which we’re told is complete with wild deer, boars, bears and wolves – hiya).
FACTOR IN SOME DOWN TIME – BEACHES: This is an obvious one, and if you stay on site or at a resort you’re kinda sorted, however if not, or for a change of scenery Pula and surrounds are completely spoilt for perfect beaches – go exploring! When we say beaches, we mean rocks and pebbles, however they’re still divine and jumping into that perfect blue water is perfectionnnn. Verudela (next door to Horizont Resort) is one stand-out (although crowded) and further afield the beaches of Fažana and Banjole are possibly quieter and are surrounded by lush pine forests.
(All images taken via disposable cameras at Dimensions 2014, except camping ground pic taken in 2013. Full Disposable Camera Project haul coming soon!)