Monday, August 8, 2011

Arriving at Wacken

First things first. If you have ever considered going to Wacken Open Air, do it. It is not ‘too’ expensive or ‘too’ far away, there aren’t too many people and it’s not too dirty. And it’s worth sleeping in a tent no matter how much you hate tents. Wacken is everything you’ve ever dreamed it might be, but on steroids. It’s everything you ever imagined it would be, multiplied by the amount you love music, squared by the amount you love your Mum.

Back to where we left off. After Anne Frank Huis we still had a full day left in Amsterdam but we lazed it away with Courtney making a run to the Laundromat and the Supermarket and me half-packing, sewing one of Courtney’s must-needed metal shirts back up and posting blogs. We ate a Billy-cooked feast of chicken, mashed potatos and gravy, so much that we didn’t have room for the strawberries and canned whipped cream and had to eat them for breakfast instead. They couldn’t go on the bike, we had no choice!

People in Wacken seemed impressed that we drove all the way from Amsterdam but for us it was a regular ride day. We set off late, around 9.30 or 10am and only made one wrong turn – that we know of. Courtney says he noticed the landscape change between the Netherlands and Germany just as we noticed it change between France and Spain but if it did, I was oblivious. It was, however, very exciting to see the mark of the border and to finally be in the home of Wacken.

I’ve wanted to go to Wacken ever since I saw a guy in front of me in a moshpit wearing a Wacken t-shirt and realized something like it existed. Germany really holds little interest for me other than Wacken, where as Courtney would have been happy visiting Germany and only Germany, just for the music. This is really Courtney’s leg of the trip in many ways, but the bike had a little extra power running through it from the buzz we had the second we saw the first car with ‘WOA’ in masking tape on the back windshield.

As we neared Hamburg, the closest city to Wacken, and then passed it and got closer and closer to the small village of Wacken itself, more and more of these WOA cars drove past, at times as many as 4 or 5 in a row displaying their pride at attending metal mecca. It made me feel like I was really part of something big, and it felt even more awesome knowing it was a love of music powering half the cars on the autobahn (which, as an aside is the slowest and least daunting of the highways we’ve driven so far despite many warnings from people at home). As excitement grew, it felt like we were all 7 year olds racing towards Christmas morning together, the first sighting of the turn off to Wacken like seeing reindeer in the sky.

The benefits of a bike became extremely apparent almost the second we entered the outskirts of the village of Wacken. We zipped up the middle of the street, ducking in to the massive queue of cars whenever a car came the other way. Even then it took us a long time to get into the festival grounds and an even longer time to find Campground Y, which is where our friends had said they were set up. One of the only negatives I can push myself to think of for Wacken is that the many many campgrounds aren’t labeled very clearly, but this is only an issue if you’re looking for someone. Then again, if you’re looking for someone in the city that is the Wacken campground, good luck. Hundreds of flags fly high above the sea of campervans and tents, and those flags are the only way we found our friends.

The people of FiberFIB have obviously never been here. We pitched our tent in the huge section our friends had staked their claim on. There were no mind games, no rushing, no fighting – just a massive space that no one had protested the reservation of. With 20-plus people all joining our group at some point or another, we all fit in, including our vehicles and with room to spare. As we pulled up, the group of people next door (complete strangers to us and our friends) ran over with a plank of wood for the bike stand and then offered us dinner, which we politely declined as we set up our tent.

Setting up was so easy and calm, other than the race between finding our friends and running out of petrol. You can park your car or bike or whatever you have, anywhere you want. As you drive into the campground a person tears off one of the two stubs on your ticket and hands it back to you. You drive anywhere you want, take as much space as you want, and when you’re ready you head into the festival grounds to exchange the second ticket stub for a wristband that will allow you access anywhere in the complex. Compared to FiberFIB, where no employees knew where the carpark was and we had to get wristbands before we were allowed anywhere near the overcrowded campground, it’s like going to a tropical resort.

When we had set up we had a couple of drinks with our friends and met the rest of the people they were camping with. After awhile though, the itch to see what we had just entered into took over and we made our way towards the action. Throughout the massive camping grounds there were mini supermarkets and breakfast bars scattered around, and we spotted areas of pay-to-use toilets and showers if you wanted to upgrade from the portaloos. So you have to pay to shower – Amsterdam got us used to that, maybe it’s a northern thing – but the facilities here are awesome.

Once we hit the edge of the tent city, we entered the first section of the festival grounds – the medieval market. A living, breathing source of sensory overload. You can buy drinking horns, hand crafted metal jewellery and leather wristbands, never mind the swords, helmets and chainmail. Everyone is dressed up and as we later found, there’s an area where people who regularly live like this demonstrate parts of medieval life. It was a little weird to walk past some poor kid being strung up on a real working torture rack!

Throughout the day there are Bruchenball tournaments, Viking battles, and knight combat with swords and all kinds of insane weapons. You can just see the area where they stage these things from your position next to the Viking boat. Not just any Viking boat – this one is full of medieval folk that serve you honey or cherry mead. The awesome thing about drinking at Wacken is that they give you Wacken branded cups when you buy alcohol. There is a deposit for the cup – 5 Euros for the clay mug the mead came in, 1 Euro for a small plastic beer glass or 3 Euro for a massive plastic beer stein – and if you return the cup, you get it back. If you don’t return the cup no one cares, and you have an awesome and cheap Wacken souvenir.

Of course if you’re drinking you’re probably wanting to eat too. You can get Chinese, Dutch or Middle Eastern food amongst the burgers and pizzas but the food in the Medieval Market makes me seriously wonder why this food isn’t more common in every day life. Massive skewers piercing huge chunks of turkey which then has some sort of savoury donut-like dough wrapped around it before the whole thing is fried. Battered apple slices deep fried and then skewered together and covered in cinnamon sugar. Hot bread rolls fresh from the oven, covered in sour cream and chives and filled with more cheese and ham than the casing can handle. There’s a reason they give you several napkins.

Eventually we convinced ourselves to leave the Medieval Market and we did get our wrist bands, from a booth in the second section of the festival grounds. We had to wait an hour in the queue, but the sweeten the deal by giving you a goodie bag with your wristband. We now have Wacken branded ponchos, earplugs, condoms, bumbags, lanyard tags, posters and rubix cubes. We really didn’t look beyond the booth, instead heading back through the Medieval Market towards camp.

We spent a good while socializing with the group that had gathered at camp but after awhile I went to bed. It had been a long day and to be honest it was quite overwhelming chatting to new people again. I used to be very shy when I was younger and I pushed myself out of that shell when I was a teenager. At home I have my amazing friends and I’m happy being outgoing and chatty when I’m in a situation I’m happy and comfortable in, which is most situations. In Europe I’ve met and chatted with plenty of people but if Courtney isn’t the one that starts the conversation, he usually naturally takes it over with his gift of the gab. I didn’t realize until Wacken, but I’ve become accustomed to letting Courts do the talking while I sit back, so after pushing myself to actively converse for an hour or so, our tent was calling.

All this and it’s only arrival day!

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