I can easily trace back the origins of my food and drink festival obsession. It was May 2003 when a group of friends and I visited the town of Etyek, approximately 30 kilometers from Budapest, to attend a new food and wine festival in the area. Now, I’m a city gal, but from time to time I can quickly get sucked into the atmosphere of a small town thanks to the weather, the hospitality of the place, the scenery, the food I ate there, etc. Little did I know that over ten years later and even after moving to another country I would still come back year after year as a hardcore regular to be spoiled by amazing food and wines from the region, great artisan products and a lovely laid-back vibe.
Many will agree that the festivals that started in 2002 by a well-known Hungarian radio jockey called Pal Rokusfalvy put Etyek on the map of must-see food and drinks festival. It was a time before food festivals started popping up across the country and in a sense it was one of its kind, due to the fact that the event was spread across (almost) the whole town of approximately 54 square kilometers. This also meant that everyone in Etyek was involved: young and old, whether you had a business or not – they were all making the festival happen.
There used to be two festivals per year, one in May and the other in August, with different names but very similar themes. This setup continued for ten years until Rokusfalvy and crew decided that it was time for a change and some re-branding. They set up the so called ‘Etyek Picnic‘, a food and wine festival in each of the seasons: January, April, June and September. Although the territory on which the picnics are held is now smaller, it lost nothing of the original enthusiasm, professionalism and most importantly FUN! It’s a festival where you still see most of the town involved. Local and regional wine producers demonstrate and sell their products; you can try and buy cheese, ham, syrup, jam (you name it, they got it!) from the local producers and small businesses. There is a plethora of hearty Hungarian food to soak up the wine and ‘palinka‘ (a ‘How to drink’ article is in the making) is consumed throughout the day. There are folk, jazz and blues concerts on stages set up in backyards and between the vine-stocks. There are plenty of programmes for kids to keep them occupied while parents attend the cellar relay, cooking contests, guided cellar tours with wine tastings or the ‘Wine Campus’, a wine training lead by experts.
The thing that I most love about the festival is the relaxed, easy-going vibe: the fact that you can end up sitting in someone`s garden or vineyard, enjoying the company, the breathtaking scenery, the music in the background while drinking amazing wines from the region. Needless to say, most of my friends that I dragged along in the beginning are also regulars now, including the ones I met in the Netherlands. They all know where to find me on the first weekend of September…