Putting your festival on top of a mountain in remotest, inland Bulgaria means that it’s not the easiest of events to get to, unless you live in remote inland Bulgaria. It also means that everyone who makes the long journey to Meadows in the Mountains really, really wants to be there. The result is a wild – yet friendly – party, with more colour, costumes and chaos than anyone thought could be transported 850 metres above sea level.
On the beautiful five-hour coach journey from Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, to the Rhodope mountain range, there were various subtle reminders that we were now a long way from London. After arriving at the tiny village of Polkovnik Serafimovo and ditching our stuff at a rustic Bulgarian cottage (featuring a ‘shocked kittens’ motif tablecloth, plus a portrait of a toddler sitting amongst pumpkins), it was time to climb a non-metaphorical mountain, as that’s where this sky-high festival takes place. If that sounds off-putting, remember that this is how you’ll feel – and what you’ll see – when you get to the top.
As well as an abundance of ridiculously beautiful hippies everywhere you looked and lots of bunting, there were some truly incredible views to soak up. Remember, though, that once you’re up the mountain, you’re there for the long haul – no sloping off for a quick power nap here. But then, why sleep when there’s so much fun and weirdness to be found? With under 1,000 people attending, it was easy to roam freely around the land and discover such delights as a giant, scalable wooden horse named Delta, a stall allegedly selling ‘laser wedding dresses’ (we didn’t see any), more yoga workshops than Los Angeles, a Death Slide, delicious local craft beer for prices that would make Londoners weep, hula-hooping classes and – if you wandered far enough – the Geo-Dome. Nobody we met knew what purpose the Geo-Dome served, but this lone raver certainly enjoyed its prime position:
Hell, for purists there was even some music at the festival. Luckily, the soundtracks were superb, with live acts – including UK talents Mo Kolours and Wyles & Simpson – playing soul, funk and folk in the daytime, and various ace DJs spinning house, techno, cosmic disco and other banging offerings from a converted treehouse after dark; eclectic producer Quantic, Detroit DJ JOill and UK garage experts DNR Vinyl were highlights.
Hard-partying crowds who stomped their way through the night were rewarded with sublime sunrise DJ sets. Ah yes, sunrise from the top of the mountain – the one essential experience at the festival. There are a million gushing clichés I could roll out, but none of them would do it justice. Sure, it sounds like gap year traveller hyperbole, but the sight of the sun breaking through a blanket of mist is enough to silence even hardened cynics.
By now, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that kaleidoscopes were popular festival paraphernalia. You could try out your psychedelic toy at the kaleidoscopic viewing point and store it in your newly purchased kaleidoscope holder – because who hasn’t needed one at some point?
As for festival fashion, it was a heady mix of stoned retro bohemia, psy-trance space cadet and debauched yoga instructor, smeared in glitter and wearing a dreamcatcher and/or 17 cowbells. At the time, it worked.
After the festival, committed punters could carry on the fun at a pool party in the Orpheus Spa Hotel. Located in yet more stunningly beautiful scenery a few hours away, it was a bizarre but brilliant mix of 1950s luxury and deserted corridors scarily reminiscent of ‘The Shining’. Robes were worn, prosecco was drunk, minds and bodies were pieced back together in preparation for more mountaintop mischief in 2016.
And if you’re keen to attend Meadows next year, don’t worry about how to get there – simply make a wish to the festival’s Wishing Tree. She might hear your prayers and answer them. She probably won’t though – being a tree and all – so best buy a ticket instead.
The next Meadows in the Mountains festival is on June 10-12 2016. www.meadowsinthemountains.com