The fact that I’ve chosen to name this post ‘festie besties’ is a pretty sure sign that I am not the kind of person to blend in well at a hardcore techno electronic music festival… but believe it or not, miracles happen and I’ve survived a week of partying in Pula. Want to know how? Get reading.
It all began with a normal travel-transition day: my Kanye alarm went off at 6am waking up the entirety of the hostel, we packed up our things and trudged to the station ready to endure an extraordinarily long bus to Pula – 12 endless hours. We realised that it would have been quicker to arrive there from Italy than to arrive there from Split… but hey, travelling isn’t at all like those filtered Instagram pictures we share- there’s a ton of boring parts too. I always say you have to put up with the lows if you want to experience the highs but if you’re smart and travel with good company (a.k.a Ellie) then you can make a low into a high pretty easily.
We were stocked up on food, books and good music (this statement is open to interpretation as I’m very aware of how many people have an issue with my music taste) and 12 hours was surprisingly bearable despite it being one of the longest day buses I have taken in all my years of travelling.
So I guess you’re wondering exactly why we were venturing so far off the beaten track? I’ll tell you why – because travelling with other people involves compromise. After weeks of badgering Ellie to come to Croatia with me (and weeks of her trying to convince me that Myanmar was a better choice) we found a way to please us both – I could plan the itinerary and Ellie could pick a festival add-on. The festival Ellie chose is called ‘Dimensions’ and just so happens to be located 32717892742904893 miles away from the other cities on our tour… convenient, right? I’d never heard of it before but it’s essentially a techno/drum and bass/electronic/I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-talking-about kind of music festival but, hesitantly, I agreed and we signed up to volunteer so that we could get free tickets.
We met so many people on our bus that were headed to the same event that I soon started to feel a lot more excited and a lot less like I was heading towards an alien planet. There were even people all the way from Australia (is techno music really worth £5000 flights these days?!) and we got into a conversation about how perfect it would be to find a way to travel for a living and be on the road all day, every day. A girl can dream, hey?
The festival itself is located in Stinjan, Fort Punta Christo which is about 20 minutes by bus outside the centre of Pula. Long story short, it’s in the middle of bloody nowhere but this certainly wasn’t a bad thing. I have never, in my life, seen such an amazing festival venue and I don’t really have the words to express how overwhelmingly cool I felt to be there. We had camping passes but also decided to lodge in a nearby hostel so that when we needed a decent rest, the option was there.
The festival is RIGHT on the beach front, with beach/boat parties and reggae DJ’s in the day and then, at night, the whole site comes alive with multiple stages across a huge plot of land. The coolest part is that there’s an old fort surrounded by a moat and you get to party inside them, how often do you get to do stuff like that?! So, even though I kind of hated the music (sorry, not sorry), I was absolutely in awe of my surroundings.
The festival is pretty hardcore, which is strange because the beach party in the day is super chilled and relaxed but then when it gets dark everyone goes mental. I worked on the Information Point which deals with any drama and lost and found etc. I never realised before just how many iPhones and passports were lost at events like this and just how insane drunk/high people seem when you’re stone-cold sober. The police were out in abundance meaning that people were getting busted for drugs every 10 seconds and having to pay fines up to £2000, then running to the Information Point to complain. We had girls crying because they were just so out of it and had no clue what they’d taken and their so-called boyfriends had run off and left them. We had a guy so high on ketamine that he’d tried to eat the rocks on the beach and knocked his teeth out. I was generally shocked by how strong the drug culture is there. Whenever I said I was tired or didn’t enjoy the music, I was quickly told ‘ah, just take some drugs and it’ll be way better‘ and thought how funny it was that I see drugs as the problem, but these people see drugs as the solution. Who knows which one of us is right or wrong!
On my first shift at work, the first thing my manager said to me was ‘What pills are you into?’ and she didn’t really understand my humour when I replied with ‘Paracetamol’ and then later we met some 30 year old teachers/social workers who were on holiday at the festival, ordering £100 worth of cocaine and MDMA… I couldn’t believe that these people who were passed out in a bush would be home in a week teaching children how to do their 2 times tables. Generally in Croatia we have encountered more older people than younger people (and I don’t mean OLD people, I just mean older than us) but it made me think that I would never want to be 30 years old and dealing with boy drama, drinking myself into oblivion and trying to track down a drug dealer. I mean, I’ve just turned 21 and I don’t have any of those problems (thank goodness). I may be old before my time, but when you see the effects of this stuff on people from a sober perspective it has a massive impact!
I worked 2 night shifts and had 2 nights completely free, so unless you’re absolutely desperate to see every single DJ and spend every second partying then it works out pretty well to volunteer. The night shift may seem grim but you always get the most gossip during this time and you’re constantly busy, plus you get to watch the sunrise in the morning. Worryingly, my manager and fellow volunteers said ‘Ugh, I don’t think I’ve ever been sober at sunrise, noone should be sober at sunrise’ and I couldn’t help but feel super thankful for the early morning hikes I’ve experienced, being woken up by monkeys in the Costa Rican rainforest and lizards in the Ecuadorian costal forest, staying up all night talking to guys I’ve liked, ALL the girly sleepovers, camping here there and everywhere, spending my 16th birthday with 30 other people crammed onto a bouncy castle in my back garden and watching the sun come up before we’d even made it to sleep…. these are the moments I live for. Each to their own, I guess!
Anyway, back to volunteering. You basically get the festival experience but it’s totally free! Plus, there’s lots of little quirks like food tokens, unlimited bottles of water, places to charge your phone, a kettle and tea bags… what more could one want? The only problem is that you can’t pick your shift times so me and Ellie barely saw each other due to having different timetables, but this is just a minor flaw. We always found time to hang out on the beach together in the day and it was so easy to make friends when we were apart. I met some amazing people out here in Pula and had an insane amount of fun both volunteering and at the festival… thank you Dimensions! They had even started to prepare for Outlook festival before we left, so it was cool to be a part of that too.
I feel like I need to include a little bit of culture into this post and I’m proud to tell you that despite working the night shift, we managed to spend a whole day in Pula city centre exploring the sights. There’s not an awful lot to see, just lots of old Roman ruins and an amphitheatre that, in my opinion, is better than the one in Rome (you can actually walk freely around this one and there’s approximately 10 tourists instead of 10 bazillion). There’s lots of cute, local shops too and we ended up spending far too much money on quirky things to decorate our new university rooms with… they may not be essential items but it’ll be nice to have a little piece of Croatia around us when we’re stuck inside trying to meet deadlines – a worthy purchase indeed.
We also had the yummiest seafood lunch, which included salad and VEGETABLES. Can you believe it? My body was rejoicing after a week of food-token burgers and chips… so overall, I’d say it was a very successful detour from the festival. So there you have it, my very first foreign festival experience! I cannot wait to do it again next year in a new location and hopefully with better music! 🎶
For now, 4/5 of our stops on this Croatian adventure are complete…. have we saved the best until last? Find out how Zagreb compares to the rest in my next post! Until then 😘