Meadows in the Mountains
Written by Leren Connor...
It was on Wednesday 6th June that I embarked on my solo journey to Bulgaria, to attend and trade with my brand Bambi's Den at a beautiful and remote festival called Meadows in the Mountains, I've been fortunate enough to travel to a number of countries in my time, both with my daughter and my friends, but I'd never gone on an adventure like this on my own before. Having traded and raved across festivals in the UK I really wanted to explore some outside of England. After returning from Hideout Festival in Croatia the previous year, I searched and searched for one that really stood out to me. Before I knew it I stumbled across Meadows. I didn't know anything about it or even where it was, but the name captured me and I knew it was the festival I'd been after. I soon realised I was going to Bulgaria and whilst sat on my break at work I remember thinking " this is going to be magic".
A lot of people thought I was absolutely bonkers for going on my own; some even worried, but I knew I'd be fine and I also knew this was something I had to do and boy, am I glad I did! I travelled by coach from Derby to Leicester, from Leicester to Stansted, from where I then flew to Sofia. After landing in Sofia I caught the shuttle bus to the festival, which was four hours long. But those four hours were the beginning of something incredible. It was on the coach that I met Tess, Ed, Dimitri, Sophie, Alex, Rupert and Lottie. Conversations were flowing, laughter bellowing and friendships were made, and before I had even reached Meadows I had already met some great people, all of whom contributed to my amazing festival experience. We reached the little village at the bottom of the mountain where we stopped off for a rest, enjoyed a nice chilled beer (which turned into three) and absorbed the scenery that surrounded us.
As I said before, the name of the festival was what caught my attention, and it definitely suited the place! We walked and walked with our rucksacks, bags and tents, and not having done this much before I can honestly say it was pretty challenging, but there was a serious sense of achievement when I reached the top of the mountain. It was beautifully rewarding: dusk had set and mist filtered through the trees, setting the tone for what was about to become some of the most adventurous days of my life...in many ways. After setting up camp Ed and I explored the grounds, bumping into friends along the way and making new ones, one of which has had a great impact on me, but we'll get to that! I called it a reasonably early night as I wanted to feel fresh for the morning to start trading and was very tired from the long journey.
Despite sleeping on a slight slope it was a good rest and well needed too. Fortunately for me I've always had that ability to just sleep anywhere, it's my party trick. I was so eager to get up and get going: it was 6am but whenever I go anywhere new I have this little ritual where I just get up and walk and see where places take me. The feeling you got when walking around the mountain - even exploring parts that weren't part of the festival - is very hard to describe, but there was an aura, and it was euphoric. It was time to head back though, as I had to go set up my little fly pitch. I love trading at festivals, it's so rewarding and special. You get to have this constant flow of new experiences and new characters: it's work and play at it's finest.
I found the perfect spot, on this little platform made from wood, built around trees. This was great for a redhead because as much as I love the sun, at times the sun doesn't love me, and I have to take caution when out in it for to long. It never stops me though and I always take the punishment that comes with it...life is for living after all. I shared my little platform with two great girls, Gia and Kat. They were trading with their own brand Rose and Bel, a collaboration between the two who make their own bags, books and jewellery, with prints they created themselves. A lot of them are hand drawn and they were bright, quaint and truly beautiful. I honestly couldn't of asked for better neighbours. It's difficult trading at festivals on any scale without people to man the stand with you. You want to enjoy the festival like everyone else and although it's great in its own way, you can't enjoy it like everyone else until the night, unless there are people who can take it in turns on shift. Gia and Kat both helped me out here massively. Apart from all the support (taking it turns to man each others pitch so we could all enjoy the festival), there were lots of laughs and lots of henna. You can check them out on Instagram Rose and Bel.
Having a small fly pitch meant I was limited to what I could take, but I made it work with a variety of small stuff I do with the Den. It went down well, selling a mix of bracelets, sunglasses, glitter and jewellery. Thursday was day one of trading, but it was also the day we had a four hour rainstorm so four hours of trading was lost. I'm not complaining about this though, I love thunder storms. I believe they carry meaning, a way to wash away bad vibes, to revel in the sound of natural drums with the lightning as a perfect back drop...moving art. I've never experienced a storm like it and felt truly blessed to have encountered it. It was strange: all these people rocked up to the top of a mountain and the universe presented us with a storm to rid us all of any unwanted bad energy. In doing so, it set the tone for four glorious days where we all floated around with nothing but good energy and experienced magical things with each other, things I'm sure we'll carry for life. I took shelter under the workshop stage where many other people had congregated, and it was here I met Adam and Lauren, a beautiful couple who hitchhike around Europe living the best lives. I found them so inspiring and although I had only just met them, they really touched my heart. Adam and Lauren sell their handmade jewellery on the road and online, you can check them out on Instagram under The Crafty Knots. We jammed, laughed, had deep conversations, sang and just spread love with each other. It was day one of the festival but I felt like I had known everyone on that stage a lifetime or at least that they were going to have lasting impression on me, which they have.
The magic of the festival increased as the days went on, and as I continued to meet new friends and connected with ones I had already met. What really caught my attention however was the actual site. Everything was so eco-friendly, and everything was made from straight wood, from a big beehive, treehouses, traders stalls, the loos (best festival loos EVER), the showers (also the best EVER), to a fire breathing dragon, right down to the stages, it was insane! There was a no plastic cup policy and we even had little Meadows ashtrays for our fag nubs. Despite losing mine I made a conscious effort to make sure I wasn't putting them on the floor. Everyone else was equally respectful of the land as well as each other.
Given the current state of affairs (pollution, climate change, extinction, industrial exploitation, deforestation etc.), this care is so important, and it was refreshing to be in a place where everyone loved each other and appreciated our surroundings. The whole time I spent time at the festival, I was in love with the sense of community. I partied Thursday away, ending the night on a complete high ready for day two. I'm not going to give you all a full low down on every single day as each one had so many layers, memories and connections. I spent time with my friend Ed each day, bumping into each other repeatedly. We'd hang out a bit and then go our separate ways, because there were things we just wanted to do on our own but I'm so thankful to have met him and I know I've made a life long friend in him. Ed also has his own website where he documents his travels, inspirations and photography, head over and check it out - Faith in the Road
Remember earlier when I said I met a friend who had a massive effect on me? Well, we're here. On Wednesday night I met Laura, a bold, carefree, kind and all round beautiful human from Wales. She mirrored me in many ways and we hit it off straight away. I spent most nights with this darling, dancing to a six-hour cypher from some of the best UK hip hop artists I've ever listened to (Bone Dry Records)...if you know then you know because that set was absolute FIRE. We also hung out in the beehive and ate pea sandwiches at her tent followed by a sleepover. Her spirit captivated me and just like Ed, I know I've made a friend for life who I'm seriously looking forward to seeing again. Through Laura I also met Sophie and Alex, a lovely couple also from Wales who actually live in Bulgaria. The story they have is inspiring and although I don't know them well I can honestly say I'm so proud of them. I've walked away from this festival with memories of them all where I just catch myself smiling. They've touched me more than they will ever know.
The music the festival had to offer ranged from hip hop, drum and bass, soul, jazz, indie, acoustic sets and so much more. I danced and listened to so many incredible sounds and came home with so many new artists to listen to. The hip hop cypher was next levels, the take over was a collective made up of Bone Dry Records, The Midnight Zu, The Beat Box and more. At this point I had taken my camera back to my tent as I was ready to just enjoy now, but I was slightly annoyed at myself for not having it with me for this set, I would have loved to have captured it but at the same time it was one for the naked eye. Every time I had the urge to run back and get it I couldn't justify leaving, even for ten minutes, because I couldn't bare to miss any of it. I've put some links at the bottom of the blog where you can listen to some of the acts from the set.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love food, not even just food but cooking, it's really important to me. I ate like a champion at Meadows, the food was sooooo good and very reasonably priced for festival food. As a veggie the options were impeccable but there was something for everyone. I had one of the best vegan burgers (actually I had two), stone baked pizzas, fresh fruit, curry, cake...you name it, I ate it (bar the meat). Ed thought I was hilarious, every time we bumped into each other I had food or was on my way to get food, I just couldn't stop! I loved the no plastic cup policy and think festivals all over should take note. If you didn't have your own Meadows cup or bottle or your own receptacle you weren't getting a drink without your own supply (which I also did). I still made the effort to make sure I used my cup and any cans went straight in the bin.
Waking up in nature is one of life's many blessings, it's great for your mind, body and soul. I woke up to two horses on my campsite every day, one of which I actually got to ride a little. I was sat just taking in the surroundings with both horses walking up and down and around me when the man who looked after them asked me if I wanted to get on. He didn't need to ask me twice. All my camping neighbours were lovely and I was lucky enough to camp under a cherry tree. Before I went to Bulgaria I never actually liked cherries...I do now, cherries are life!
Whilst at the festival I also participated in a Global Gemz Takeover, If you don't know who they are, allow me to introduce them to you. Global Gemz is a travel brand that inspires worldwide travel by connecting fellow wanderers like you and me together through incredible locations and mind blowing experiences. Their aim is to inspire travel for others and be inspired to travel by a constant tribe, forever growing community, and gem seeking individuals. I'm lucky enough to know the guys who founded and run Global Gemz, Alex and Viv through being best friends with their sister, we all went to Switzerland a couple of years back for NY and since then have travelled to Croatia together for a week of madness at Hideout Festival. Hideout saw one of the 1st festival takeovers for the group and when coming back I expressed an interest in doing more festival takeovers to the Guys. Global Gemz is about connecting each other and what better way to do that than at festivals where people love connecting with each other. It was a great takeover, a lot of fun was had with it and I'm really excited to be on board to do more with the team. Global Gemz have been a huge support to me and my brand and it's safe to say we've got some pretty epic collaborations coming up. If you love to travel or you're new and just starting to dip your toes in I highly recommend you follow the team on Instagram under Global Gemz...explore the highlights and check out my takeover under Bulgaria. You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. My next Global takeover will be at Boomtown Festival, you know it's going to be a madness so stay tuned.
To my dismay the last day of the festival went so quickly but I made the most of it. I traded until around 6pm, packed up and went to enjoy my last evening here. I couldn't get enough of the views, they were never ending with the feeling of new sights everyday. Meadows in the Mountains is a festival that has my heart, I fell in love completely with the vibes, the people, the surroundings and the country but more importantly myself. It's changed me in a way I can't quite put into words right now, I've come home with a clear and refreshed mind and I needed to be there without even realising it. As soon as my toes reached the mountain I felt I had come home, or at least a part of home. I spent my last night having a dance but ended it around the fire with a lovely person who made sure I stayed awake to watch the last sunrise. It was the perfect way to end the festival, watching the sunrise through the mountain huddled under a blanket until it was time for me to depart. I didn't take any pictures of the sunrise, my camera was packed, my phone had little life but I'm glad I didn't, again it was naked eye experience and I had everything I wanted right there and then. This is not the end, I'm going back next year and will probably be there the year after as well. It's the best festival I've ever been to and I've been to a lot. I would like to say thank you to Bulgaria, the mountain, the festival but more importantly the people I met there. You are all magic and you all have a place in my heart. I would recommend this festival to everyone, I can't wait to be back next year to reunite with friends, to see the sun, to dance under the stars and to eat all the food! Until next year Meadows...until next year.
Please check out all links within the post and check out the links below for good sounds.
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The Beat Fox
Bone Dry Records - CW Jones
The Midnight Zu
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