You are standing in the crowd in front of the Main Stage, and after the gig is over, you walk behind the stage to get some sleep at dawn. You wake up in the morning, there’s hot water, you don’t have to stand in line if you want to brush your teeth or fight like Katniss Everdeen for a bit of shade. There’s a place in Zamárdi that has got rid of every ancient element of the camping experience, and added cool community spaces, all the modern conveniences of the 21st century and magical forest vibes instead. It’s only a garden, but it’s at exactly the right location.
We shot a video with the founders of Kertem back in the year of We Love Balaton's launch, so let’s do a quick recap:
We have recently paid them another visit to see how building that community space was going. They knew exactly from the start that their target audience was Budapest’s hip and young downtown crowd, so they created a garden where guests can feel like sitting on the terrace of a trendy bar in district VI – and all they have to do is climb out of their tents to get there.
Because this is still a place for camping with campsites, communal showers and toilets, and a fire pit that you can sit around, just like you would do with your friends in the gutted Trabant at Szimpla.
This experience of community is what they wanted to recreate in Zamárdi – that’s why there’s not a single corner without some kind of table that can accommodate groups of friends with 10+ people if need be. “It works really well. Once a Belgian and a Dutch group arrived at the same time, and we were a bit afraid the Flemish-Walloon conflict would be a problem. By the evening all of them were sitting around the same table, and eventually we couldn’t even tell anymore who came from the Netherlands and who hailed from Belgium” – András és Máté, the two hosts tell us, going on to explain what the past two years have taught them.
“We’ve learnt a lot: how families and festivalgoers need different spaces, how the girls’ and the boys’ bathrooms need to be built in different ways, and how footprints can crop up in the most unusual places. Thankfully, our guests give us feedback all the time and tell us what we should change, so for example, from this year on Wi-Fi will be available within the campgrounds. We’ve also found out that the upper limit for the number of people that can stay with us comfortably during a festival is 80-100.”
Since they think that artificial lighting is both one of the best inventions and gauges of the civilized world, they’ve made sure to hang lots of lampions on the trees and put lamps on the ground, so that when you return to your tent at night, you won’t be tripped up by anyone else’s temporary home. We totally loved these subtle lights because they were visually stunning as well as useful. “It was hard to find the right setting where the lights were strong enough for you to find your way, but dimmed enough for sleeping.”
They say they’ve worked a lot on the plants too because their aim was to create a pleasant natural environment. “Art Nouveau has this theory of getting close to nature, and we think camping is very much in line with that.” It’s true, however, that thanks to their devotedness and efforts the plants have gone a bit out of control, so the guys had to spend a lot of time cutting them back. The current balance is perfect: you don’t feel like you’re in an arboretum gone wild, but there are plenty of trees for you to find proper shade under, which is especially handy if you don’t want to weak up in your tent at 9am and find that the sauna function has been turned on.
They are planning to have new grass and new paths within the campgrounds by next summer, but for now there are no major revamps scheduled. “We’ve come to the point where we have to maintain the current infrastructure, and we think that the garden in its present state already represents the kind of world we wanted to create.” Since starting out, they haven’t raised their prices yet: staying here for a night still costs 2,500 HUF/person.
Along with shaping our idea of new wave camping, they also have a long-term goal that could benefit the entire region. They’ve figured out that the reason they don’t get as many guests in the weeks outside festival season (comprising Balaton Sound, Strand and B.my.Lake) is because people don’t know what else to do around here beside going to the beach and eating lángos. “We’ve already teamed up with Gutman Wine Cellar, and we’d be open to launching similar partnerships with other catering establishments too. That way we could offer various packages to those coming to stay with us.”