During slightly more than three weeks, we went with two cars from Prague to Hannover in Germany, then through France, around Spain to the Boom Festival in Portugal and back – 7500 km with all the surrounding journey branches. This is the description of our journey – full of unpleasant surprises and despite that, full of sun and relaxation. The blue icons in text are hyperlinks to Google Earth data, which will take you to the spots I’m mentioning. UPDATE: I’ve added photos. I was too lazy to make a gallery, so it’s a kind of all-in-one report. The photos were taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ20 and Nokia N70, panoramas made by AutoPano. Don’t mind the ghosts please.
The Harmonikka festival in Germany, to which our fellowship went first, wasn’t quite the event it should have been. It practically only started on its second day, since it had to be moved from the original place into a stubble-field among dozens of wind power plants . We had a pleasant time nevertheless and spent two days sunbathing next to tiny pond situated in the original location of the party , about a kilometer away from the field, and tried out the installation we were taking to Boom.
The installation of MimoTV worked fine, however I managed to stumble over a tripod, set up to record the videocube, and as it fell down, the camera on top spilt a can of beer into the keyboard of Embryo’s notebook. He was the one who set his beer next to his computer however, so I wasn’t the only one to blame for the fact that the notebook didn’t boot up afterwards. I knocked down the beer by kicking over a camera on tripod. We were both lucky, as we found out later in the first computer shop we’ve met further on the way, since when the notebook’s keyboard was taken off, and an external keyboard plugged in, the notebook worked perfectly. Just to make sure no similar accident could endanger the precious data, we made a copy of Embryo’s VJing materials onto an external hard drive and continued our two-cars, eight-people journey.
We succesfully got into France, spent the warm day by a very nice, bright blue lake (I guess it was , there was a camp with a beach), later in the evening we went around Lyon and while driving along the river in Vienne , we encountered a feeling of dejá-vu, since the place – a place in France named similarly to Austrian capital – looked exactly like Prague in Podolí. A short while later one of our cars, a Citroën, broke down in the middle of a field.
The engine simply stopped running every few hundred meters. It was before sunset, and we stopped in a village of just a few houses . We sent out the ladies in our other car to check pubs in nearby villages for some advice or help. We thought they might get more sympathetic reactions. They found a repair shop which was still open in a nearby village.
The girls were told however that the car needs to be taken to an official Citroën repair shop, which was just over the street, but which was unfortunately already closed. We slept in a field by a road by which our broken car was left standing after we towed it for a while (normally we would sleep at some quiet place in a forest), and went to the Citroën dealership in the morning. They were able to provide a tow car to tow us there, but since they had a full schedule, they told us we would have to wait until the 3rd of August for them to have free capacity and examine the car. They were however able to call surrounding places after we’ve asked them to, and a guy from other nearby Citroën service agreed to come with a tow-truck, pull us in and have our car examined.
At first it seemed it would take another day, but it turned out that we only have to wait until about 4pm. We spent the day enjoying the cafes and parks in the small town of Roussillion, and after paying €400 for the replaced car part, we drove on towards Spain and things yet to come. We were wery lucky that one of the girls spoke French, because otherwise the situation would be much harder to solve. The French have (from the point of view of Czech of course) a strange contempt for the English language. Even if they understand you don’t speak French and even if they do understand some English, they are not willing to speak it at all, and will continue to communicate in French in most case.
Days were full of sun and the only unpleasant thing was the discomfort from taking a long journey in a small, tightly packed car, so we spent some time on the beach . Later that day, we crossed the border on a small road along the Mediterranean.
We came to Valencia on the next day and spent an afternoon in the city. We visited both the wonders of modern architecture and old city center and although we weren’t willing to pay entrance fee to the cathedral, which looked thrown together from various leftover pieces of different cathedrals, we liked Valencia a lot. In the evening we moved on along the coast, direction Granada.
I visited Alhambra and Granada with my parents when I was younger, and rather then paying the entry to a place I’ve already been in, we separated. While one group (the architects) went to Alhambra, we went for a stroll in the city, ended up on the opposite side of the valley near a church and enjoyed the view from outside. We were glad we did it like that, it was very nice, although I would definitely recommend seeing Alhambra – it has beautiful ornamental Arabian architecture. We took a stroll through city center too, and after dinner went outside the city to sleep on the shore of a lake .
Next day we had to arrive at Boom before dark, so we split. Our car went to Boom, and the other car with all the architects went to see Sevilla. We left them parking by the highway, their driver needed more rest, and instead of going around Sevilla, we accidentaly entered the city center. It felt like a sightseeing tour, since somehow we got into the very historical center and could see basically all there was to see anyway .
Further on, there was some very beautiful landscape with lots of large round boulders near the border with Portugal (it can be seen nicely at ), and we were also surprised by a sudden valley with a dam and an old Roman bridge by Alcantara
In the early evening we arrived at Boom, met with the organizer responsible for chillout and built our tents in the production area . It was quite a way to walk there all the time (stage , chillout ), but that’s the way it is on Boom, and I guess people on the furthest parking place had it much tougher. At least we had shadow from a large tree, relatively flat ground and a more or less private branch of the lake. We took a swim in the lake and enjoyed the feeling that we’re finally arrived, that we don’t have to get up in the morning and drive all day, and that everything will be fine from now on – until we received a phone call from the other group.
Their car was broken into in Sevilla, where they were parking on a street while they went sightseeing. Most of their personal things including clothing was stolen, and they also lost hardware worth some €5-7k, including a notebook with finished materials which had no backup. Even though it was quite a shock, we managed to secure a replacement for all the stolen equipment (except for the materials, of course), the video cube installation was saved. The second group arrived after spending two days in Sevilla trying to find a place where they would have two car windows (because the repair shops they encountered all had only a single piece), for the already once repaired car.
We spent five days in the location of the Boom Festival before the gates were open. All kinds of preparations were underway all around. We’ve enjoyed the time immensely, since everything was much calmer and more private. Once we had the 3m cube built and filled with the first installation, which got nicknamed “neuron udder”, there wasn’t much else to do, so all we really did was lying in the sun and bathing, eating in the restaurant which was cooking food for all the people associated with the preparations, and drawing or, in my case, learning to juggle. Guys were preparing some more visuals to project in place of the ones lost with the stolen notebook.
The festival itself was also very nice. It is of course impossible to somehow exactly describe the feeling of it, but Boom definitely has the potential of becoming an image of paradise. There are always so many beautiful and meaningful things to be amused by, there is always so much to look at, so many people to talk to… It’s one of those festivals that are not just about music and partying. It really was a happening, a gathering, a gigantic circus show and an intergalactic meeting point. And when you’re lying there, on the soft carpets of chillout, listening to a soothing, sparkling texture of sound, watching people moving with the flow and knowing there should be nothing of the ordinary life that could bother you here, at least for a few days, you can truly let go. There is nothing more to desire – what more could one want? You’re surrounded by a magically beautiful spot on the face of the Earth and your every need is taken care of – the weather is great (if you don’t mind warm weather, that is), if you’re hungry, you have plenty of possibilities of what to eat, if you’re thirsty, you just need to walk a few meters to the nearest bar or water fountain, or if you’re not shy, asking some neighbors for a drink is often a good conversation starter. There are friendly faces everywhere you look, and they often belong to gorgeous girls. And then, just as you’re starting to feel too warm, a sprinkler above your head begins to release a refreshing cloud of tiny water drops. Sparklers are also all over the mainstage, so if you want to give up your self to the rhytm, you can be sure you’ll be kept cool all day – not to forget the help of all those people walking around, spraying fog, and occassional car of the Bombeiros, local firefighters – we were joking that the last time we got sprayed like that was on last year’s Czechtek, when the police were pushing people out of the field with water and tear grenades.
Boom from the inside
Despite the fact that Boom seems to be very professionally organized, it manages to keep a lot of spontaneity for an event of such extent. Actually, it reminded me of Cirque du Soleil somehow. A friend told us that the funny thing with Boom is that if you email the organizers that it would be fine to build a bridge over the lake between two of the most visited spots, they’ll tell you: come and do it. And you can come and do it, you’ll probably get not only food tickets for two full meals and two snacks per day in the Boom kitchen, but also some money for your journey and possibly even for your work. And from the number of installations and features at Boom, quite a lot of people agreed to come and participate. I haven’t been to Burning Man, but even from the pictures and reports I’m able to see some similar features, and I’ve heard this comparison several times. Boom is probably not as rich, since it is still organized primarily as a psychedelic trance event, but it seems to be enough for it to have similar spirit.
I’ve heard 30k tickets went out in the presale, and the actual number of people was around 37k – significantly more then two years ago (I heard about 20k). Boom is trying to be the first sustainable festival of this magnitude, and it was mentioned all the time. The most noticeable things were probably the organic toilets, gathering excrements in big containers for the farmers to use later on, and the showers, which I think weren’t that much of a success later on – on the first day however, people managed to use only 8 liters of water per minute, instead of about 160 liters two years ago. The number got much higher further on, I guess people simply weren’t taking shower on the first day, but anyway, good try. However, there still were many things which seemed to be the exact opposite of ecological, like the amount of plastic bottles – I didn’t understand why people were paying for 0.5l bottled water. Water from the fountains was much better then on last Boom. All the time I would just put teabags into a bottle, and you could have good sun tea. I guess they’ll get better with the sustainabilty next time, as they already managed to improve a lot of things since the last Boom.
my friends, who came to Boom after travelling (without a car and without too much money) for a month, recommended signing up for a healing in the Solar Healing Tent on Boom. I did that and visited the (very nice, very lively and very present) girl they were recommending. And although my energy was better then (smirk) what she usually gets in place like this, I should be thinking less, which translates to casting my attention on the flow of reality, not on the products of my own mind.
There were also people from MAPS, who came to provide help for those experiencing a difficult trip, and I would definitely be interested in some kind of report, some information about what (if any) patterns they’ve observed etc.
However, for me, psytrance no longer was the main point of Boom. I’ve spent only about three or four hours total at the main stage, I’ve enjoyed True to Nature and Yotopia, and that was basically it. Some of those I expected to play were good were just boring me at that time, and others I didn’t even try to catch. Also, at least at night, there were so many moving lights and so many rather disgusting However, for me, psytrance no longer was the main point of Boom. I’ve spent only about three or four hours total at the main stage, I’ve enjoyed True to Nature andfaces that it was almost impossible for me to enjoy a trance experience. I’ll probably write more about psytrance and related topics in the future, because it is quite a rich vein. But overall it didn’t matter, there was so much else to do. There was enough good music in the chillout and during night at the Gardens of Hairy Armpits, err, I mean the Sacred Fire.
was much faster. From the border of Spain, we went nonstop back to Prague. But before that we visited the Prado gallery in Madrid, mostly to see the Hieronymus Bosch original, and we’ve spent the next day in Barcelona, seeing Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral , taking a walk through center and by the sea . Both days we ate in a all-you-can-eat restaurants (Madrid and Barcelona ), and we’ve wondered enormously why are there basically no such places in Prague. A few days ago I’ve heard of one, but I’ll have check it out first.
I immensely enjoyed the mood this kind of travelling puts you in. I mean travelling, not tourism. Not having some reserved accomodation waiting for you somewhere, not having a fixed list of places you have to visit (although the architects’ car had a list and we were just their tail on the way through Spain)… All this immensely helps to experience the reality of wherever you are directly, to be in the flow. As I see it, “tourists” often try to take with them the comfort of their homes, trying not to expose themselves to anything resembling ordinary life, because that is what they’re trying not to think about. But all that does is building a wall, a feeling of disconnectedness. And while we certainly could have been much less tourist-like, this already was a much more fulfilling experience. It was real. Not a dream bought in some tourist agency. Because that is what this journey was about, what everything seems to be about lately – being directly in the flow, not lost somewhere in fantasies and expectations. We enjoyed spectacular landscapes and for me, the overall feelings, the atmosphere from all those different places was fascinating. As to my description of Boom, I’m focusing on the bright side of things, because that wass what I wanted to experience there, and I did. I had no problems with hot weather, dirty water or whatever. Of course, when going to Boom, you have to expect that it’s no five star hotel, and that there are drawbacks like increased drug use – and I wouldn’t mind, were it only the “good”, psychedelic kind of drugs. And finally, a playlist of videos from my mobile phone
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