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Music in the mountains

At the very end of my time in Hungary, I was asked by a friend if I would be interested in writing an article about a micro-music festival which was going to take place in the Transylvanian mountains later that month. I agreed, and by the end of the interview I was enthralled. "Do you have press tickets?" I asked. 

Wonderest is a zero-waste, environmentally-minded, wilderness-first event that completely rewrites the music festival agenda. Abandoned tents, crumpled beer cans in the mud, and other irreverent momentoes of libidinous festival behaviour are forgotten in the tranquility of open fields, wooded trails, and the strumming of guitar chords. Can this be the start of sustainability in festival-tourism?

Click on any photo to learn more.

Read the full article


The photos from this collection are accompanied by a full article written by myself on the experience at the music festival, which can be read for free at

Torrential rain, blazing sun

Summer storms in the mountains are quick, fierce, and without regard for human plans. The first one came on the second day, distant rumblings the prelude of dark clouds raising over the pine trees as we particpated in a planned foraging walk with local guides. We turned back in an unhurried manner, and slipped into the one communal structure just as the first, fat raindrops splashed against the grass. 

What followed was a deluge, a wall of water, rain flying at the ground with such speed that the spray leapt upwards to claim exposed skin still warm from sunlight only moments earlier. The ground, unprepared, turned into a river, washing through the pavilion so that those seated inside contorted like a game of Twister to find a log, stone, or cinderblock above the waterline. The temperature plummeted, hail ensued, and thunderclaps followed in deafening succession.

And then, just as suddenly, the storm relinquished us, and the sun re-emerged with invigorating brilliance upon the dripping leaves and soaked landscape. After ensuring that our tents had survived as well as we, the festival continued with scheduled programming, and we would repeat this small drama again for each day of the festival. This was mountain weather.

A vision for sustainability

There aren't any garbage cans at Wonderest. In fact, there's nothing you can purchase at Wonderest that would even need to be thrown away. In an effort to truly do no harm to the surrounding environment, participants at Wonderest are asked to pack out everything they bring in, echoing the rules any backpacker of the National Parks will have linternalized: "leave no trace.

Food is also served at the festival through a pre-purchased meal-pass, all of it vegan and entirely sourced from local farms, to reduce the event's footprint. Festivalgoers are even instructed to bring their own plates, bowls, and cutlery, so that the daily prepared food can be served directly into these reusable vessels. 

Collaboration and spontaneity

One of the most endearing aspects is also a reflection of its past incarnation, when the festival creator, Hanna, was running a series of secret concerts around Budapest. "The artists were always invited to collaborate," she explained to me, and that persists in Wonderest. 

Pop-up concerts are a hallmark of the festival, as musicians spread the word to head to the forest at dusk, or find their way to the log circle in an hour, for a surprise set. One of the most magical of these moments was a nighttime concert next to the gurgling of a woodland stream, some fairy lights illuminating the guitarist and all else plunged into the black of night. 

These kinds of unexpected concerts keeps the music continuous throughout Wonderest, and the wonder never far off.

A final note

With only 300 tickets for sale, Wonderest aims to stay small, sustainable, and consistently harmonious. Large enough to meet new people every day, but tiny enough to recognize the same faces, it's easy to feel the community form around you at an event like Wonderest. And if this tiny music festival in the mountains of Transylvania can create a beloved atmosphere without the environmental hemmorhaging, can we find inspiration for the larger cause?