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From Untold to (re)Told - Untold Festival 2017

The lineup looked as familiar as ever, but it was no less than expected when we signed up for tickets to the third edition of Romania's premier summer festival and Cluj-Napoca's major event of the year.

I could write about the artists, the massive crowds, surprises at the peripheral stages, Argatu's captivating performance, the unexpectedly heavy security presence, the street food, the #buckets, or the impressive logistics, but instead I'd rather highlight how a single event has become, for Cluj, a sort of beacon of the local culture. It's as though most Clujans -and every corporate entity in Cluj - becomes a part of Untold. On the street, at the mall, at work, Cluj is split between two types of wrists: those adorned with a festival bracelet and the rest.
In a sense, even those who escape town for the duration of the festival take part by way of their intentional non-participation.

I've written about the typical Romanian apathy when it comes to uniting for a common cause, and how this kind of defeatist attitude will never help us get anywhere, but part of the issue was - and mostly still is- that the positive voices typically get drowned out.

This time, one these voices managed to surface above the rest.

A local cab driver, Stelian  Freundean, wrote about his experiences at the festival; his work, the customers, the vibe. His experiences resonated with tens of thousands of readers because they are a reflection of the manner in which the citizens of Cluj perceive Cluj - or at least, the way we'd like to perceive it - but also about the cultural phenomenon Untold has become.

I hope my translation captures the essence of the original...

Day 1

I came out early in the morning, to get a feel for the vibe in town. The groups started coming in last night. So many groups and so many faces; happy, smiling, younger, older, some here for the first time - you could see the excitement in their eyes. 
I stopped for breakfast at Cora, the spirit of the party is all around, especially since the Untold camping area is just across the road. I eat two donuts and drink a carton of milk chocolate, then go home and rest. I have to get ready for the four-day marathon. 

It's 4 pm, I get out of the house and head to my car. I look up to the sky, it's bright and clear, even the sun loves this festival, which is why it seems to stop here every year to attend the event. 

I say a quick 'God bless' and get underway. Orders are pouring in on the radio and coming in fast through the app. From here on in all roads lead to Untold. I look at the riders' faces and realize that overnight I've become one of the 2,400 taxis who deliver happiness. The good thing about this festival is that it transforms the city into an island of joy and harmony between people. Every part of the world is represented, there are people wrapped in their nation's flag as if it's the Olympics of music. 

For four days I get to live a human ideal, with such a diverse range of people all united by music, smiling at each other, hugging, taking pictures, and dancing in a sea of harmony. The rides flow quickly, same direction, different stories, a common destination. 

Inevitably we get into conversations (a professional weakness). At Grand Hotel Italia I pick up two middle-aged couples, somewhere between 50 and 55, visiting from Br─âila, and I ask how come they're attending Untold. The gentleman next to me says, "We like rock music and don't really listen to this type of music. But we came to the first edition with our kids - because we didn't want them coming alone - and it was incredible, we found a lot to love about club music. Then for the second year the kids didn't want to return, but we did. And here we are again for the third time." I smile and think, music is ageless.

More rides. Four guys from Israel got in the car yelling, "I love Untold, I love Cluj!" Two young French girls struggle to greet me in Romanian and to tell me how happy they are to be here. We eventually switch to English. I drive behind the stadium and fireworks go off,  they ask me to stop the car and we all look up at the brightly illuminated sky - the festival is officially underway. I stop the meter, they pay the fare, we hug and wish each other a wonderful night. Then I take two Spaniards, back for the third time. I think people from every continent rode with me, but they all had something in common; they love music, good times, and they love life. 

People are streaming in from every part of the city. If you were to capture it all in a freeze-frame shot you'd see thousands of smiles, only smiles. But orders are still pouring in, non-stop. At some point we form a long column of taxis heading in the same direction, and I smile too. It's as if we're a train of happiness. 

At 1 am the fatigue starts to kick in. I'm hungry. I stop at a fast-food place for a bite. There are about ten other colleagues there. We eat slowly and exchange opinions. In the background, we can hear the soft strains of music coming from the park. We finish eating, have a smoke, shake hands, and get back in traffic. This is where it begins to get tough, when the mass of festival goers start heading back home. I pick up people who flag me down, take them home and rush back to the stadium for another ride. It's like a race against time, we're forever trying to keep up with the orders. But cabbies in Cluj are renowned for their professionalism and we're doing our best to be worthy of the town, the event, and our reputation. The determined, steadfast gaze of other colleagues serves as encouragement as we rush to and fro for more and more customers. 

In the cab, the passengers are all lauding the festival. I'm proud of the city and of my profession. We're complimented on the professionalism with which we carry out our duties. 

The waking dawn catches me by surprise. There are people all over the road now, hands waving. I'd gladly take you all, I think, I'd be happy to take you home, shake your hands, and thank you for coming to our city. But my car only has four seats. I notice the gentlemanly manner in which the men, no matter their age, cede their seat to women. It is nice to see that it's also a festival of good manners. 

At 6 am my eyelids are getting heavy and I'm blinking more frequently. I won't fight the fatigue and decide it's time to go home and avoid a potential tragedy. But I want to feel I did my part right through to the end, so I pick up a couple going in my direction. I don't want any money for the ride, I'm going home anyway. 

I park the car, stop the engine, and savour the morning quiet. I get out and look up to the sky. It is still clear and bright. I'm going to sleep.  Same time, same place tomorrow: Untold, the house of joy. 

Stelian Feurdean, a transporter of people, destinies, and stories. A cabbie. 

Source: Facebook


  1. Love your blog. My first experience with "Untold" was with the August 2017 opening of a restaurant on Bayview Avenue in Toronto. The couple running the restaurant had just arrived from Cluj, and the formula was soup and salad, just like their successful restaurant in Cluj. Well, maybe in Cluj, but the 'salad' was cold cuts and canned vegetables on iceberg lettuce, and there was only an remarkable goulash. There was never anyone in the restaurant, with a plain decor, and it closed by Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving (early October)! To survive in our restaurant biz it's tough and you have to experiment with your menu and decor. And of course it might have helped if they had explained why that named their restaurant 'Untold'....

    1. That is just weird. Untold indeed. I wonder what restaurant they were running in Cluj..?


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