After just a few hours flying from Lofoten to Hamburg, I had boots on the ground in Germany! The music festival started a few days after my arrival in Germany, and the plan was for me to spend those days with my friend Kaja and her aunt in Hamburg, then go to the festival together. I probably should have texted her earlier, but after I landed and gathered my bags I let her know I made it and asked where I should go. She's not always the fastest at responding, so it was no surprise to me that I didn't get a response right away. I took a gander at Google Maps and saw that Hamburg proper lay a few kilometers south of the airport, so, for lack of anything better to do, I picked up my bags and got walking!
I made my way into the city and eventually found myself at a park. The blackberries had worn off and I was feeling pretty snacky by then, so I checked out Too Good To Go, the app I mentioned in my Lofoten post, and there were SO many options! I grabbed something from a bakery and settled in at the park. It was central enough that I felt I could get to wherever my friends aunt lived easily enough, and the park was a really relaxing, chill vibe. While I was hanging out watching the people on the river, a runner came up to me to ask about my climbing rope that was strapped over the top of my bag. Apparently he does some adventuring as well and was wondering what the hell I was doing there, since there weren't any mountains for miles around. We chatted for a bit and I told him about what I had been doing earlier in the summer and he told me about some of the stuff he got up to and why he was living in a place like Hamburg if he liked adventuring (families, what the heck man), then he ran off again! I got my first taste of how important it would be to know the phrase "Ich spreche kein Deutsch" ("I don't speak German."), as he jogged up to me and just started speaking German to my bemused face.
After a few hours of hanging out, I got a text from Kaja. Turns out she was still at her home in Poland and would be meeting me at the festival, so I would have to figure something out for myself! Being loathe to spend more money, I set about finding a place where I could camp for free... which turned out to be a lot harder than I'd anticipated. I identified a park nearby that seemed to have lots of forest that would probably work for stealth camping in, but when I got there it turned out a lot of the running trails weren't included in Google Maps. There was also a large pond/small lake in the middle, and there wasn't much elevation change so a good portion of the park was a bit swampy. I wandered about inside the park for a while before I found a section of forest that seemed to be fairly thick, and only a little swampy. I figured worst-case I would be sleeping in my hammocok above the swamp. I waited until there were no runners or commuters (I surmised a lot of people walked or biked home from work through the park), and dove off the trail into the forest. I weaved and stepped my way through several patches of briars among the trees until I broke through to a small, grassy meadow overshadowed by a large tree! Better yet, the nearest trail was hardly visible through the trees, and the wide briar patch lay between me and the trail, which would deter would-be visitors. Sick.
I made camp as quietly as I could, then set off to fill up my water bottles to be ready for the night.
I had all of the next day to while away while waiting for the festival to start. I wandered the city, near the park, mostly keeping to the park with the river I had hung out at the day before. Two more Too Good To Go orders kept me fueled up through the day. I basked in the sun, read the Ratburger book I got on my way to the airport in Norway, and even swam across the river after spying some other people do the same! I was super impressed with the edible plants all over the place as well. I found so many blackberries, but also a few apple trees and a peach tree! I can't speak to the rest of Germany, but Hamburg was a wonderful cross of orderly and grungy. Many times rowing teams would glide past me on the river, which seems like a distinctly bourgeois activity, but there was graffiti everywhere. The perfect middle ground, I must say.
The next morning, though, it was time to pack up and head out for the festival! It came at the perfect time too, I think after one full, wonderfully relaxing day, any more would cause their relaxing quality to cease being so. Anyway, I got up early, packed up, and got to walking the 7 kilometers (~4.5 miles) to the train station! I somewhat underestimated the toll that distance would take on me with my bags, so by the time I made it to the station I was drenched in sweat. Luckily, I had left with plenty of time to get there, and I was treated to lots of great sights along the way!
I finally made it to the train station and eventually hopped on my train headed for the festival! I would actually be a day early for when it actually started, but I wanted to be prepared. After a few hours riding the train, I was eventually dumped out in Ribnitz, not terribly far from the site of the festival! Another 6 kilometer (~4 miles) walk later, and I was near the entrance to the festival. On my way there, someone driving past me shouted "Pangea?" and I returned a "Yeah!". I guess the massive backpack on my back and the duffel strapped to my chest gave me away.
After I as close as I could to the festival, I learned I wasn't the only one with that idea! There was a giant vanhome parked in a pullover with a guy taking a nap on a mat in its shade. I poked around nearby for a nice spot to make camp a distance from the road for the quiet, but after running afoul of some stinging nettles, I decided to go for the low hanging fruit and strung up my hammock between two huge trees in a mosquito infested clearing a stones throw from the road. Thank god for the bugnet on my hammock!
The next day it was finally time! I spent the morning and afternoon making my way into the festival and finding my camp spot for the next three nights. Kaja informed me that she had a tent, so I went looking for a good spot for her to pitch her tend and somewhere I could put up my hammock. I was among the early birds, and eventually I found Yanek, a friendly bikepacker who was capping a trip around Germany with the festival! He had his things thrown about a corner of a field under some trees to reseve it for his friends, but he was gracious enough to let me and Kaja join them! I put up my hammock in the shade then stood vigil with Yanek and chatted until people started arriving and we helped them put up their tents and pavilions. Kaja arrived, we got set up in a nice corner, and she saved my sanity by allowing me to stay in her tent. My hammock seemed to shrink around me with every extra night I spent in there! I also met two of Kajas childhood friends, Anna and Boris, who are abslolute cards.
The next few days of the festival went by in a blur, so I'll just touch on some of the highlights! I also got very few pictures because I left my phone in the tent for the most part, but I'm glad I did that because it helped me to fully immerse myself in the activites of the festival!
It was really like adult summer camp. Starting at about 1 or 2pm every day, there were a host of workshops and activities you could do, including SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) yoga, normal yoga, parkour, bouldering, longboard dancing, a sauna, deep water solo climbing, basketball, volleyball, thift shopping, tattoos, and like a million other things! Then at around 6pm the music started from at least six different stages scattered through the grounds (that were all forested, it was sick), and went until about 4am! They had EDM, house, deep house, rap, indie, pop, metal, and probably other genres I forgot or don't know!
I took a longboard dance workshop that got me seriously yearning to own a longboard again. It was taught in German initially, so I was hanging on by keenly observing and doing my best until the instructor asked or told me something in German and I had to say I didn't speak German, then he asked everyone if it was okay if we went on in English, which was a huge help! I learned to do this cross-step thing, how to switch from facing one direction to the other, and a move called Peter Pan that's a ton of fun! I'm excited to work on those more when I get a longboard again.
It turns out I had never been in a sauna before, because I DEFINITELY would have remembered what it's like after trying the sauna at the festival. It turned out to be a super authentic German sauna in that it was no clothes allowed. It was floating on a platform in the water a short distance away from the small beach they had next to the deep water solo wall, which would explain the naked guy I saw climbing on it at one point. Kaja and I egged each other on to go in, which became all the more intriguing after we approached the sauna and heard screaming and cheering from inside. We stripped and dove in, and man, was it an experience. We sat on these wood benches that were teired to the wall in this sauna that was pretty full (I think Kaja and I reached it's capacity). There was this huge German guy standing next to the wood heater and every so often he would dip a cup in a bucket of water and cast it onto the heater, then get a wet towel and whip it around the sauna to fan the steam over the screaming and cheering occupants. It was so awesome. The whole time they were speaking German, so I had no idea what was going on, but I was thoroughly enjoying the experience. Eventually we got a little toasty, so we hopped out and dove right into the cold seawater, which doesn't sound that nice but it was SO good! Highly recommend.
I took another workshop, but this one has some fun events leading up to it that I should touch on first. They had the finals for a bouldering competition at the festival (I missed them, sadly), and after the finals took place anybody could go up and try climbing the boulders! I went over there with my shoes and chalk to give them a shot, and I was working one problem with a few other people. I got to chatting with one of my fellow climbers who, funnily enough, looked just like me: tall, tan, skinny, long dark curly hair, stoner-lookin' type. Eventually we got kicked out to make room for a bouldering workshop, and my new friend invited me to come hang out with his pals. We chatted aimlessly for a while, talking about what artists and workshops we were all interested in. We noticed there was a twerking workshop for later that afternoon. It must be done. We were all getting a little snacky by then, so we decided to go our separate ways to fuel up then meet at the twerking workshop. My god, what an experience it was. It took place at one of the stages; I got there early and watched as it slowly filled to the point it was hard to have room around you. Eventually my new friends arrived and we found a spot towards the back where we could all stand next to each other and have room to throw it back. The instructor showed up with a mic ON TOP OF A SHIPPING CONTAINER. So she shows us some moves and everyone goes nuts, then she starts showing us how to do some moves and explaining how to do them. It's all in German, so one of my new friends translates the important bits into English for me. It was such a surreal experience to be part of a group of ~400 people synchronized twerking to a single leader on a shipping container pedestal. Now I'm an expert at twerking - I even felt something shake back there once or twice! After the workshop concluded, my new group went to swim and play in the water as the sun set across the sea. When it started getting chilly, we decided to go get ready for the music that night, and we described our plans in the hopes of meeting up later... but I was never to see them again :'(
I also moshed for the first time! (a lot of firsts on this trip, wowee.) I had lost Kaja so I was wandering about on my own, and ended up at the main stage. A metal band called Team Scheisse was getting ready to play, so I figured I'd hang out there for a while. I wasn't that huge a fan of the music itself, but the energy of the crowd was so awesome! A mosh pit emerged near me and I was a bit timid at first. It cleared out into the empty circle, then when the music was right everyone rushed into the middle of the circle and just started jumping around and shoving each other. I wasn't quite sure how to feel about it, but I decided to join in and had an absolute BLAST. I couldn't get enough of it for the rest of Team Scheisse's set. One of my favorite parts is the anticipation when you're at the very edge of the primed mosh pit, just waiting for the beat to drop to rush in. Everyone else on the edge is so high energy and just waiting to let it rip, then the music hits and you and everyone else can sprint into the middle to ultimately crash into someone and then crash about like a high energy atom. At one point there were so many people participating that all I could do was keep my arms bent at my chest and hop to keep from falling over. It was awesome.
I only got a few pictures during the festival, but I think they sum up the atmosphere pretty well!
There were a lot of other fun stories and moments, but I can't tell them all here! Maybe I could tell you over a campfire sometime. The festival did, eventually, come to an end. Kaja was making for London with her friends, so they gave me a ride to the train station to head back to Hamburg before they started driving to London. The train experience was made interesting by the sheer volume of festival-goers trying to get on the same train. I was worried there wouldn't be enough room for me and my bags, but I was able to squeeze myself in right near the door, and even fit two other people in there too! I had to stand for a few hours, but I made a friend (who had been moshing with me, coincidentally!) and we chatted for most of it. Eventually he got off the train to get on a connection and I was left alone, and fairly tired. I set my bags up onto a bike that was leaning against the window and leaned on it to take up as little space as possible after a couple families hopped on the train as well. After a while I got tired of standing so I sat on the seat of one of the bikes. I got tired of that after a bit, so I reclined from the seat onto one of my bags perched on the bike. Somehow, I fell asleep while laying on top of this bike leaning against the wall of the train. I awoke as the train was pulling into the Hamburg train station, so I hurriedly gathered my bags and beat it into the city!
While at the festival I banged my left baby toe against a structure while walking up some steps. In hindsight, I think I bruised the bone or something, because it hurt pretty bad for a long time. At the festival, though, I just switched out my sandals for my hiking boots and kept on truckin'. When I arrived in Hamburg, it started to catch up to me and I was nowhere near as limber as I had been days past. I sat outside the train station and decided I wasn't up for stealth camping for this current stint in Hamburg, so I'd find a cheap hotel or hostel. I went on a bit of a wild goose chase through the city, visiting hotel after hotel that were all either closed or full. After a few hours of wandering with my heavy bags and painful toe, I ended up in a hostel across the street from the train station, somewhat miffed that I hadn't found it earlier, but thankful that I had found a place at all.
The day after I arrived in Hamburg I had a tattoo appointment for something on my left forearm! I wasn't sure what the artist would come up with, but I pitched something in their style (abstract black and grey brushstroke and inkblot tattoos) and that I like frogs and snakes. I gotta say, the artist, Ellie, totally knocked it out of the park!
I mostly stuck to the hostel to stay off my foot, and one of the cooks was kind enough to get me a (massive) bag of ice to help it out. It was a little boring, but I think my body was very appreciative of the rest after the festival and all the adventures we'd been on in the weeks prior. Also, classes started the day I arrived in Hamburg, none of which were online, so I had to do a bit of legwork to make sure I was as caught up as possible for when I got back to North Carolina to dive back into classes and real life! Finally, the day came for me to take the train to the airport and jet off for home.
It was truly a trip for the books, and, as much as I love North Carolina, it's hard to let my heels cool here when I know how much adventure is waiting for me out there! For now, though, I'll hvae to make do with the adventures North Carolina has, which aren't to be sneezed at, while I look forward to and plan for future adventures out there in the great yonder.
I stealth camp in Hamburg, go to my first music festival, and get another tattoo, again!