Untold Festival, Eastern Europe’s Best Kept Secret
The four-day EDM festival just broke attendance records, but retains the charm of a hidden gem.
When traveling to Romania as an American, one is faced by a humbling realization: beyond Dracula, we don’t know shit about that place.
Now, thanks to Untold Festival, I can say that I do know some shit about that place. Namely, that it hosts one of the largest gathering of international music lovers and superstar artists in the world. Last month marked the festival’s fifth anniversary at Cluj-Napoca, the country’s fourth largest city. Known for its universities (and particularly the medicinal programs), most of the year sees the city as a hub for Romanian and foreign students (Hungary is about two and a half hours away, and Hungarian transplants make up a fair share of the population).
Some of the bigger names including Fedde Le Grand, Mike Perry, Guy Gerber, ANOTR, Stormzy, Martin Garrix, Paul Kalkbrenner, Tale of US, and Armin van Buuren. Buuren performed a seven-and-a-half-hour set, made up of over 130 songs including a track he produced especially for the festival titled “Something Real.” This writer went for *one drink* and to catch the beginning of his set at midnight. This writer proceeded to go home at 7:30am after more than *one drink* and still made it to the truffle-hunting trip the next day.
While this writer also didn’t return to the hotel until 10am the morning after the next day (as in, another all-nighter), the festival was not the “party mecca” one might assume. In fact, it’s more family-oriented than most; toddlers are running around, holding their parents hands, relatively late into the night. Miraculously, the all-too-cliché scenes of teenagers with alcohol poisoning or twenty-somethings “rolling balls” were nowhere to be found.
Untold Festival also boasts a pretty good moral conscience, for a music festival, partnering with the Children’s Hospital of Cluj-Napoca and Blood Network to give blood and cash donations to those in need. This year, the fest broke its previous attendance records at 372,000 visitors and over 6 million streaming views. Of the attendees, 20% were from outside Romania.
As the capital of Transylvania, Cluj is surrounded by farmland, forestry, and mountains, some of which are adorned with medieval castles. Few gatherings are able to seamlessly provide the dichotomy of tranquil nature and sightseeing during the day with an arena of full of berserk music lovers at night.
It was, in so many ways, an incredible experience—the type that does not satiate a desire but rather exacerbates it. As in, I can’t wait to do it all again.
Untold Festival took place August 1-4 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.