Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wacken Survival Guide

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Living in South Africa through the eighties and nineties, we never really got to experience the whole music festival thing, especially not alternative music. And then life happens, and we missed some of the bigger alternative bands coming to SA. So, in 2010, when we discovered that Apocalyptica was playing at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany in 2011, we looked at our budget and decided to put on our brave shoes, and travel all the way to Europe for the first time in our lives to go camp rock out with 90-odd thousand other Metalheads. With less than a 100 90 days to go to the biggest Metal music festival, I thought I would share some of the things I learnt last time round.

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Like I said, this was our first European music festival experience, and this guide would probably be a little ‘doh’ for those of you up North who are born going to festivals. Forgive me, but I promise I will get better at this festival thing.

Tickets

If you don’t have a ticket yet, I am really, really sorry, because it means you will not get to go this year. Tickets go on sale not long after the end of the last festival, and they sell super quickly. Be sure to have your Euros ready late in August and grab your tickets.

Camping

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The most popular option is to camp. The cost of your campsite is included in your ticket, and it can be a great deal of fun to camp. We met some very cool people in the camp sites, and there is always something going on.

The festival and camp grounds do get quite muddy, as it frequently rains during the festival, so if you are going to camp, make sure that your tent is watertight, and also big enough to accommodate you and all your things. And a SA flag may also help you identify your camp site at night stumbling back from the festival grounds.

If you are going to camp, invest in a WC (bathroom) pass – you will especially appreciate the shower this grants towards the end of the festival.

Other Options

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While camping may be fun, there are also other options for accommodation. Metal Travel offers some hotel packages ranging from hostels to 4 star hotels. We booked one of these rooms for this year’s festival – if it all works out I will write about it.

Things you’ll need

Like I have mentioned, it rains a fair amount during the festival, and the festival and camp grounds can be very muddy. For this reason, I would suggest leaving the heels at home and maybe wearing wellingtons instead. A raincoat will also be handy.

While there are a couple of pay-and-charge points where you can get your phone and other devices charged, life may be a little easier if you take some extra batteries with.

Note: a solar charger may sound like a good idea, but there is just not enough sun for a full charge.

You want to take a camera with to capture not only the bands, but some other precious moments.

If you are planning on camping, you want to take some earplugs with you – especially if you plan on sleeping at night. The camp grounds are constantly busy.

And if you are camping, be sure to pack some collapsible water containers that you can fill on the first day and keep in your camp ground. This will be handy not only for drinking, but also for washing – especially if you haven’t invested in a WC card. Just make sure the containers are PET and not glass.

And remember the sunblock.

Do

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Well, obviously you are there for the music, right? See as many bands as you can, and make sure you check out some bands you don’t know yet.

Visit the Wackinger Village, and check out the craft market. And if you’re vegetarian, the Wackinger Village also has some vegetarian-friendly food stalls.

Check out some of the side-line performances.

Drink beer, and share beer, and laugh.

Visit the Wacken village itself. The supermarkets sell a wide variety of items that will help improve your experience, and you can even buy some postcards to send home.

Leave with your memories. Leave only your footprints behind.

And lastly…

Many people assume that Metalheads are all evil and stuff, you know, but they are actually just a bunch of people, just like you and me, who like to drink beer and listen to a bit of heavy music. If you want to enjoy the festival, you will want to avoid negative energies, bad vibes and generally bad attitudes. While there may be some unfriendly elements, for the most part the metal community is a friendly, fun-loving bunch.

Take enough money with, not just for beer and food, but also for music and other merchandise. The food and beer can be pricey, so work on a budget of at least €50 a day to be on the safe side, especially if you also want to try out the cherry and mead beers.

And if you are going this year… see you there Open-mouthed smile

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