Shypit: hippie festival in the Karpaty

Shypit hippie festival in the Karpaty

It is not necessary to be an 80-level Buddhist and live in the Tibetan mountains in order to acquire calm, feel freedom and peacefulness. If you want to do this, you should take a tent, a mess-tin and go away from civilization, stress and worry, even for a short time.

That’s exactly what hippies do. They have been gathering at the festival in the Carpathian mountains in the foothills of the Borzhavsky ridge for more than 25 years in a row. It is a beautiful area near the Shypit waterfall in order to connect with nature and move away from the usual hustle and bustle of the city.

The name of the festival came from a self-named waterfall – the largest (15 m high) and full-flowing in Ukraine. Crowds of tourists constantly come to it, and it seems that more people will not fit here, but the beginning of July comes, and traditionally a huge number of positive people gather in a large meadow above the waterfall to have fun, relax, chat and celebrate Ivana-Kupala holiday. 

Every year like-minded people come to the festival from many countries – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Austria, USA, Belarus, Russia and Moldova. There was even a tent of participants from Jamaica on the grassy clearing. The festival gathers about 3 thousand people. Here you can meet hippies, punks, goths, rastamans, nudists, various hipsters and just tourists.

Those who arrived earlier were able to secure the best spots for their tent on the grassy clearing. Every year the “long-standing inhabitants” of the festival take the same place in the so-called “lower camp”, where the main sessions happen.

Shypit festival Ivana-Kupala

Shypit festival is a continuation of the hippie tent camp tradition in the USSR. According to the “primary sources” who still live, the first meeting took place at the Gauja River in Latvia in 1970. Meetings were held in Latvia for the next 20 years, but the festival slowly migrated to Ukraine after the introduction of a visa regime between countries. The first such festival took place in 1993 thanks to the wedded couple of hippies from Uzhgorod – Charlie and Shara and their close friends. Then hippies from all over the Soviet Union came to the tent party in the Carpathians.

Shypit fest Charlie
Shypit festival photo

Meetings on Shypit were focused exclusively on closed hippie parties at the beginning of its existence, but every year the fame and popularity of the festival grew, and there were more and more people who wanted to take part in it. Those who were once conceived as a result of free love at the first festival in 1993 have already grown up. The second generation of freedom-loving people is gradually changing the format of the festival, but, nevertheless, its feeling of freedom remains the same.

Festival of hippies informals
Shypit hippie festival

Nowadays, this open-air event brings together all people who consider themselves involved in hipsters’ culture.

In order to be well-connected here, you don’t have to be a member of any youth group, be a punk or a hippie, the main thing is to be a free and independent person. Despite the difference in subcultures, everyone peacefully coexists next to each other. This festival is held under the following slogan: “love, peace & wine”.

There is a very cozy and relaxed atmosphere here – all people greet and hug each other, smile, visit or invite others to their place, offer their help. All people here are like brothers and sisters. Many festival participants come here with their children. Children feel great in such close contact with nature.

Some people compare this festival to the Woodstock festival, the only difference is that the music here is completely based on amateur performances. The year after the first Woodstock festival, 200,000 babies were born. I’m not sure that there will be a baby boom after this holiday.

This is probably one of the few festivals that is not paid by anyone. Freedom-loving people of different generations gather in a large grassy clearing and celebrate the ancient pagan Ivana-Kupala holiday. There is no program by itself, as well as eminent musical performers. Participants independently organize music and entertainment – here you can hear the sounds of unique musical instruments, as well as recordings of old rock from the 60s. Acoustic open-air concerts around the campfire are held here for ten days in a row.

Shypit festival rastaman punks
Informals hippie festival

Shypit festival has no organizers and sponsors, no approved program and mandatory events, no hierarchy in relations. The festival has become self-curated. Freedom and complete gender equality reign here.

Everyone does his thing, someone cooks food on a fire, someone plays the guitar, someone draws, smokes weed and drinks wine – everyone does what he likes. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you dress. Every year more and more young people attend the festival. Old-timers say that the festival is not the same anymore. It has lost its exclusive hippie direction, but the overall atmosphere is as relaxed and free as ever.

Shypit hippie festival is one of the best self-curated and the oldest festivals in Ukraine.

The culmination of the festival is the celebration of Kupala Night from 6 to 7 July. According to the legend, some rituals related to water and fire should be performed on this night. Since ancient times, this holiday carries a light erotic flair and many Old Ritualists claim that only on this night you can meet your true love.

Before dark, the men unite and build a huge fire – the so-called vatra. They gather dry trees, firewood, branches and arrange them in a special way. This activity is for knowledgeable and experienced participants. The invariable rule of the festival participants is that it is forbidden to cut living trees – only dry ones are used. It is forbidden to make a fire near trees for safety reasons. When the structure is ready, its height reaches 10 m, and the height of the flame is several times higher.

Meanwhile the girls make wreaths of wildflowers and ferns, sing and laugh. Some people cook dinner on the fire. You can hear singing, the sound of drums, guitars, accordions from everywhere. Someone sleeps on the grass, hiding his head from the sun under the canopy of the tent. Girls in intricate and eccentric outfits attract the eyes of others. Any creative initiative is welcome at such festivals.

Beside every tent guys and girls paint their skin with ornaments and inscriptions, braid colored braids and drink wine. You can come and join almost any tent, start a casual and fun conversation without saying your name or where you are from. The guys pass each other a mug of peace, take turns sipping wine and talking about whatever they want. Wine is everywhere here, everyone shares it and pours it into iron mugs.

The festival is an ideal time for commerce: locals sell home-made wine, home-distilled vodka, delicious milk, and prices directly depend on the distance from the location. At first, the locals were not happy with the festival, but then they got used to it and adapted, they even came to see the Kupala fire.

The natural surroundings in this place are really beautiful. The purest air of the forest makes you drunk, you want to close your eyes, lie down on the grass and listen to the sounds of drums, saturating yourself with positive energy and drifting away in your thoughts somewhere far away.

Toward evening, people begin to come from their tents, settling on a dais so that they can better see the high fire. There is a feeling of general excitement. As soon as the shades of night fall, the men kindle a huge vatra. People are clapping and shouting joyfully. The fire quickly flares up and rushes upwards with flames, and sparks break out and carry very high. This action is accompanied by loud songs and rhythms of drums, sounds of tom-toms, goblet drums and djembe.

Hippie dancing by the fire Shypit
Hippie nudists rastaman punks Shypit
Photo of hippie Shypit Ivana-Kupala
Shypit Ivana-Kupala
Shypit Pylypets hippie

It is impossible to get closer to the fire than 10 meters due to the intense heat. People begin to dance in a long round dance, someone simply surrenders to the will of the rhythm and dances as he feels. The bravest ones throw off their clothes and dance around the fire to the shamanic sounds of musical instruments, feeling complete freedom and unity with nature. This continues until the morning.

Photo report by Oleg Grigoryev

Looking at the blazing bright fire and listening to rhythmic sounds, you seem to fall into a trance and feel the mysticism of the night. This is an unforgettable experience that makes you come back here again and again. When the fire is already burning down, the most daring participants of the festival try to jump over it.

Nudists Shypit photo
Love peace wine

A local custom is skinny dipping at the Shypit waterfall. Mountain water is insanely cold, so a few seconds under the waterfall instantly bring you to your senses after an active night. Consciousness returns and you get a second breath.

Shypit festival is a place where there are no prohibitions and you are allowed to do whatever you want on conditions that you do not use violence, do not destroy nature and do not litter. The people present here have a high level of environmental consciousness – all garbage is collected and taken down. By the way, aggression is not a typical phenomenon for festival participants, the festival is a model of tolerance and respect for others.

The old hippie Sasha Feshchuk from Zdolbuniv once said: ‘Only a truly free person can live according to the laws of love‘. Here people regain their connection with nature, which modern civilization has taken away from them – they become free here.

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