In Europe, summer time is of course also festival time. There is – pardon my French – a crap load of festivals, and people will travel a long way to attend them. Some of these festivals have become a cult thing to go to, some have disappeared again despite having been popular, some are tiny and only known by word of mouth, some take over whole cities.
Most of these festivals are music festivals, but there are others, too: street festivals, festivals of art, food, film, literature, sports, culture, theatre… You’d be surprised around which themes a festival can be organized! One thing they all have in common though is the festival spirit: an atmosphere of happiness and excitement about sharing experiences with like-minded people.
Just thinking about attending a festival in summer puts me into a good mood! If that is true for you, too, read on, because in this post we’re going to put Poznan in Poland on the map as a very legitimate festival city. This year, three of their different festivals overlap, so when we were there, we managed to get glimpses at two festivals within our five-day-stay.
Poznan is very much worth a visit, anyway, festival or not, but when summer time comes and the outdoors are where it’s at, the city sure makes the most of it, with its parks, the ice-cream shops all over the place, cafés in gardens, special summer dishes, and cool outdoor bars like Kontener Art at the river bank.
If on top of that you get to see concerts, listen and dance to DJs, do some yoga or tai chi, visit an alternative theatre, and pay very little or nothing at all for it, then the only question that remains is: why are we not all there?! Let’s get the word out and introduce some of Poznan’s festivals, so that you can decide if they are for you, starting with:
Whether you’ve heard about it or not, this festival has been around for a while: it is just one year short of its 25th anniversary! Also, it lasts for as long as three weeks (finally a sensible length for a festival, right?). Its origins lie in performances like street theatre around Lake Malta (an artificial lake close to the town centre), from where it evolved and grew into what it is today: a platform for visual and innovative arts, for music, for dance, for theatre.
For you that means you have a great choice of stuff to do: from 10am to sometimes as late as 12am, the festival program suggests things you can do and there are about 300 events that take place on a daily basis between the 9th and the 29th of June.
The heart of the festival is at Liberty/Wolnosci square 5 minutes away from the old town square (called the Generator Malta). All events that take place here are free! Yes, the capoeira session in the morning (or zumba, or yoga, or tai chi) is free, as are the concerts and the silent disco after the concerts.
You can get food and drinks, information on the festival, buy tickets for events that cost money and take place somewhere else in the city, or just hang out on deck chairs and hammocks.
This year’s theme is “Latin America”, which reflects in the art, the artists, and even the food, without falling back on the use of clichés. During our stay, we saw the Mexican DJ Rebolledo during the inauguration of the festival, sadly missed the concerts of upcoming bands like the Polish “Ryba and the witches” or the folky “Mighty Oaks”, a Berlin-based international trio, but went to a theatre play, which was brilliant.
It was called “Fairy tales of moss and lichen”, represented by two actors (Janek Kochanowski and Leszek Bzdyl), one of whom got naked (win!). It was quite abstract, quite physical, and also quite funny.
Malta Festival might be one of the most important European Festivals when it comes to performing art. It’s the result of a collaboration of many like-minded and talented spirits. It’s very much about trying out new things, supporting new artists, experimenting, bringing in and mixing ideas from everywhere, all whilst aiming at a high yet playful quality.
And it’s completely up to you what you make out of it. Maybe you just want to see some cool concerts, maybe you go to see a show with a world-famous choreographer because you read about it in the festival program and it sparked your interest, maybe you want to try out laughter yoga. Your call.
Malta Festival is pretty chilled and attracts a good crowd without getting too busy. The organisers have put up a really great website, where they cover everything, from each day’s program to introducing the different artists to how to get to the locations of the shows. The beauty for the tourist/traveller lies in the fact that it’s very easy to immerse yourself and participate, even if you’re visiting Poznan for other reasons.
I didn’t quite know what to expect, because Malta Festival is so diverse, and at the same time specific with its focus on alternative performance art. I thought that maybe it was not for me because I don’t know enough about these things, but I found it is as much for me as it is for someone whose passion has been contemporary choreography for the past 10 years. It’s everything but an exclusive affair – it’s the meeting point for anyone who is interested; the curious as much as the well-versed.
Ethno Port Festival
Ethno Port is a world music festival. Sure, there are also other events during the duration of the festival, such as visual arts, dance, theatre and cinema, but the main focus is on music from artists all over the world, often not definable in genre, but exercising a mix of genres and traditional styles. Ticket pricing is absolutely reasonable, and there are also quite a few free events.
We saw the opening act, Dhafer Youssef, a very versatile Tunisian musician, performing together with four other musicians. I cannot for the love of god put it down to one genre – it’s like Dhafer Youssef told us stories out of his life, using the elements that would help express himself best, whether they were jazzy, rocky or ethereal, but it was a very impressive performance.
The concert took place at the Zamek Cultural Centre which is located in Poznan’s Imperial Castle, and afterwards we went around the corner to the castle courtyard to look at a free concert and traditional dancing which the audience was encouraged to participate in until the whole crowd was dancing.
Although this year’s Ethno Port Festival is already over by the time of writing (12.-15.06.2014), it is maybe something that you would consider to attend next year. I’m pretty sure you will be hearing music you have not heard like this before – I did!
For your information: The official Ethno Port Website.
Enter Music Festival
The Enter Music Festival is a little open air jazz festival which has also already happened for this year (17.-18.06.2014), but maybe you’re starting to see now that it would be a good idea to take next year’s June off completely and just spend it in Poznan…
The Animator Festival is an International Animated Film Festival; the most important one in Poland. A feature that lets the Animator Festival stand out is its focus on music. Many screenings will be accompanied by life music, whether it’s by a band or a DJ or an orchestra. There are of course also competitions, exhibitions, concerts, meeting the artists and other events. From the 11-19/07/2014 in different venues.
Transatlantyk Festival Poznan
The Transatlantyk International Film and MusicFestival focuses on film and (film) music, and is again an affair that showcases works and artists from the whole world, be they young and new, or already known and established. It was founded by Oscar-winning Polish composer Jan Kaczmarek, who calls Poznan his home. Although it is relatively new (first edition 2011), it already attracts the big names. This year’s festival dates are: 08-14/08/2014.
The Good Taste Festival
From the 14th to the 17th of August you will find more than 100 stalls on the Old Market Square, offering the best of Polish cuisine, but also foreign specialties. There is of course also a stage, mainly for culinary shows and demonstrations by Poland’s finest chefs, and in the evening, for concerts.
You can participate in work-shops and up your cooking skills or learn about regional dishes, or, if you are already past that, participate in a cooking competition. Oh dear, now I’m hungry…
The name might have given it away: Dancing Poznan is a festival is dedicated to dancing! Well, dedicated to get YOU to dance, really. This year marks the 21st time of the International Modern Dance Workshops, and from the 16th to the 23rd of August you can participate in learning (or improving) one of the 39 dance techniques on offer, taught by teachers from all over the world.
One class consists of seven units that each last 1.5 hours, and the whole shebang sets you back 370 Zloty (around 90 Euros). There go all your excuses! So what’s it gonna be? Ballet, Salsa, Hip hop?
It’s a can of worms when starting to talk about festivals in Poznan – I am coming to the conclusion that I’d have more success trying to find out when there are no festivals happening. The festival-free times probably add up to, uhm, maybe a week per year? Well, I basically mean to say that there are more festivals throughout the year in Poznan, and this is just a summery choice of some.
For me all these festivals fit very well my overall impression of Poznan: it is a very hospitable and open city, it is not afraid to try new things, it loves quality and style, it is proud and has traditions without letting them become dogmatic – it just has a really good attitude!
Logistics & Co
Within Europe Poznan is quite accessible. Direct flights are plentiful and mostly operated by budget airlines. You could also come by train: for instance, it’s a three hour train ride from either Berlin or Warsaw.
We stayed at the NH Hotel like we did the last time, provided to us by the City of Poznan, but booked another hotel when we decided that we wanted to stay longer – not because the NH isn’t fabulous, but because our budget is not quite as fabulous.
Like always, we went through Booking.com and found loads of very reasonably priced options, ranging from hostel rooms, to apartments and hotel rooms. In the end we stayed at Kamienica Bankowa Residence which was quirky and nice and new, and, like most places, included a good breakfast.
The currency in Poland is the Polish Zloty (PLN). Prices are quite competitive compared to other European cities, which is a great bonus. Polish people (who for me are the people of Poznan, because I have not been anywhere else in Poland yet), are open, friendly and very helpful.
Do learn a few words of Polish like “Hello”, “Thank you” and whatever you find useful, but whenever you get stuck, people will either immediately switch to English or someone else will help you out. At least this is what we found.
We very much thank the City of Poznan for having us, and especially Karolina, Wojtek and Jacek, who showed us around and were there for us the whole time! We also thank Mikolaj Bylka from the Malta Foundation for meeting with us and telling us more about Malta Festival, as well as providing us with tickets (and a very nice volunteer, Anna) for our alternative theatre experience!