City guide

Get a taste of Hungarian culture at the Sziget Festival

Photo : Sziget Festival

Táncház. Tánc-what? Roaming the Island of Freedom, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually in a foreign country you might not have been to before – until you see a sign in that weird alien language that’s actually Hungarian. If you’re up for taking a little time to immerse yourself in local culture, even if you don’t leave the Sziget Festival at all to explore Budapest, the Hungaricum Village is a great place to visit – and Dance Houses (Táncház) take place daily.

Away from the electronica pulsating across the festival, there is a place where folk music fills a whole tent and people practise traditional Hungarian dancing. The Hungaricum Village is where traditions come alive through various dance forms and music shows, spreading age-old Hungarian customs across and beyond the festival site, and celebrating the country’s rich heritage with whirls and twirls throughout the day and into the late-night hours.

 

Photo: Sziget Festival

This year, you can learn more about Hungary’s colourful culture with folk artists from Küküllő, Gypsy artists from the Upper Tisza, traditions from Kalotaszeg and the customs of the Palóc people. In the tent showcasing the activities of the Hungarian Skanzen open-air museum in Szentendre, you might want to try your hand at arts and crafts, attempt a special folk game like wobbly stilt-walking, and in the afternoons, learn the steps involved in Hungarian folk dancing.

 

Photo: Sziget Festival

Workshops also demonstrate the finer arts of gingerbread-making and hair-braiding. And it’s not all hard work – you can sit with a beer on oversized seats at an oversized table, or outside a traditional Hungarian homestead.

 

Photo: Sziget Festival

The Hungaricum Village really comes to life after the sun sets and the professional performances end. Instructors teach festivalgoers a few easy steps of Hungarian folk dance, and a traditional Dance House takes place, where everybody can move to the beat of boots stomping on the floor, loud whistles and music played on violins, flutes and old-school hurdy-gurdies. People usually dance around in a circle or in pairs, and instructors are happy to help each partner take a swift trip back to the past.

 

Photo: Sziget Festival
Photo: Sziget Festival

Here’s the schedule for the Hungaricum Village:

 

  • 1pm-2.30pm: Dance class with live music displaying the rich rhythms and dance culture of the Carpathian Basin
  • 2pm-7pm: Skanzen showcases and workshops
  • 5pm-7pm: Parade of dance companies with spectacular dresses from different regions
  • 10pm-2am: Dance House closing with dance lessons

 

And if you literally want to taste Hungary, make sure to devour a lángos, a deep-fried disc-shaped dough traditionally topped with sour cream, garlic and grated cheese, or nowadays with other goodies like bacon and sausage. To wash it all down, try a shot or two of pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy, but beware, it really burns! As for other drinks, if you add some fizzy water to your wine it turns into a fröccs, great on a summer’s day, while Unicum is Hungary’s answer to Jägermeister.

 

For more details, check out the official Sziget Festival website.