In my last blog post, Wacken 2011: Every Band I Saw at Wacken, reviewed, I talked about one side of this incredible festival – the shit ton of incredible bands you get to see. Today I’m giving you a run-down of a different sort – the tale of our Wacken 2011 adventures from our arrival in Hamburg to our meercat merriment to our near disastrous trip to the festival to campground antics, toilet quiz shows, dolphins in the mosh pit, being recognized from the internet, reisendogs, and new friends and old.
Our arrival in Hamburg was frought with frustration. We’d left the Harz mountains – where we’d gone to ride the Harz steam railway – with plenty of time to make the two hour journey – or so we thought. The autobahn fell victim to a mysterious traffic jam that cost us two hours, not including the circular detour we were forced to take with our confused GPS running on a sliver of battery. We lost another hour waiting to enter the Elbe tunnel and cross to the Hamburg airport.
All frustration fell away when we saw the beaming faces of our friend Carsten and his partner Brina, who’d been waiting in typical German prompt fashion since noon – the time we said we would arrive.
We met Carsten on our last trip to Germany. He lived in the same building as Gunnar, another metalhead, and they’d decided to go to Wacken together. We parked our campervan behind them, they invited us over for drinks, and … here we were again. All us kiwis would be staying with Carsten for a couple of days, and CDH and I stayed on with him for the week following the festival.
We returned our car and drove back to Carsten’s for an amazing late lunch of goulash, and hours of catching up. Tired from our five hour trip, we decided to stay in that night, watching movies and talking till the wee hours.
The next day – the Monday of Wacken week – was full-on. In the morning, we had to pick up our camper, then CDH and I went to pick up our friends Andy and Aaron, who’d been holidaying in England, France and Amsterdam before taking the train to Hamburg. While we did this, Carsten and Brina drove out to the airport to pick up Johnowar, fresh from his 30 hour flight from NZ, and then take off to Cruxhaven, where they would pick up Carsten’s brother and their van.
Carsten drove us to the depot and we handed over an enormous sum of money and took possession of our van for the week. This van was luxury on wheels! CDH and I had a huge bed in the back. John’s bed pulled down from the ceiling, and the table and chairs packed down to form Liz’s bed. The kitchen was enormous, the refridgerator adaquete for all our beer, and the bathroom was actually large enough to swing a cat in (we checked). If you want to find out more, I wrote a whole post about renting a campervan for Wacken Open Air.
We got the van back to Carsten’s without driving on the correct side of the road, and left to pick up Andy and Aaron. After chasing each other around the busy Hauptbahnhof for half an hour, we finally found A&A and took the U-bahn back to the spot where we catch the bus to Carsten’s. Unfortunately, we exited the station just as the bus pulled away from the curb. Facing a twenty minute wait, we wondered what to do.
“Let’s just walk,” said CDH. “Carsten’s house is only 15 mins away and I know how to get there.”
Ninety minutes later, we’re still wandering around Hamburg, hopelessly lost, carrying A&A’s heavy suitcases. We decide to take a taxi, to discover we were barely 3 minutes away from Carsten’s flat.
We arrive to find a very tired Johnowar and a hagged Carsten. Shortly afterward, our friend Liz (aka the Hobbit) arrived in a taxi from the airport. She’d flown in fron London. Carsten and Brina left for Cruxhaven while we decided to walk down the road in search of food.
Lunch was at Schweini’s, some kind of German Denny’s with enormous platters of pork and potatoes and chips and amazingness. We ordered food and beer and entertained ourselves for several hours. Everyone pretended to be mere-cats and gold fish and I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe.
After Carsten returned that evening we decided to visit the Hamburg Dome – a fun fair set up in the centre of the city every year in the summer.
While there our large and obviously metal group converged with another large and obviously metal group – a mixture of Canadians, Americans and Egyptians on their way to their first Wacken. We got the two groups together for a hilarious metalheads only bumper cars game. Needless to say, carnage ensued!
Next, we all piled on to a monstrous ride. I don’t know how this thing could possibly be legal, it was so insane and vomit-inducing. Brina screamed and screamed and screamed – her screaming made the rest of us crack up. Since the fair was closing up they gave us an extra ride for free, and we emerged triumphant but with very sore tummies. We toyed with the idea of going to the Reeperbahn, but everyone was pretty toasted, so we just went home to bed.
Wacken day! I was the first to wake up (I can’t sleep if I’m excited) and one by one the house came to life. John and Liz emerged from the campervan, and Carsten and Brina arrived (they’d stayed at Brina’s flat) bearing breakfast rolls! We feasted, talked, and made arrangements for the day.
Carsten took Andy and Aaron to pick up their home for the next five days – a postal van they turned into a sleeping pod with a mattress. Aaron’s harrowing drive back through Hamburg taught him that everyone in Europe is mental. We packed the vans (this was a much bigger mission than I make it sound), waited for Johnowar’s Canadian friend Danielle to arrive (he met her on 70 000 tons of metal, the lucky bastard), and we were off.
But not to Wacken. Oh no, we needed supplies.
Picture this: 12 metalheads – one enormous supermarket, a shopping list, and . Chaos inevitably ensues.
But eventually supplies were procured, fridges stacked, and we could once again hit the road. Our convoy continued up toward Wacken, CDH following Aaron, who had a GPS, and Carsten in front, since he had to turn off to go to Flensburg to pick up his bus.
Even though we were meant to follow Aaron, who turned off when his GPS told him too, CDH got another brainwave of his German directional intuition and decided Aaron was obviously going the wrong way. So we continued up the Autobahn until Carsten rang us. “Why are you guys still following us? You were meant to turn off with Aaron!”
Cue my delightful husband having to execute a very interesting turning detour in an enormous campervan. We found our convoy at a gas station and finally, FINALLY we were almost in the Holy Land.
We are directed to campground Y, the campground of epic campervans. We race up to a spot, grab our tape and rope off a huge area for our group. Now we can relax and get down to the serious business of decorating our campsite and standing around talking shit.
But finally we mustered up the energy to trek in to the festival grounds to get our wristbands.
So what do you DO at Wacken apart from watch awesome metal bands play?
You visit the medieval market, spend way too much money on handmade trinkets, medieval games and Viking horns that sound like farting elephants.
At the Metal Market, you buy four seasons’ worth of metal clothing to keep you looking grymm throughout the year.
You stand around looking sauve while you wait for certain people to make up their minds.
You sneak off and secretly buy your friends / lovers presents
You shout “Gronk!” (don’t ask)
You see Gunnar, your favorite German, and give him a special NZ present:
You eat, and eat, and eat. At Wacken, the medieval market is the best place to go for food. Spit roasted meat-on-a-stick, fresh made breads stuffed with shredded pork and sauerkraut, warm garlic bread slathered in yoghurt and salsa, deep fried apple slices, fresh orange juice, mead in all the varieties of the apocalypse …
But, of course, the festival grounds aren’t without their culinary charms. Reisendogs with crunchy roasted onions, gerkin and remoulade, reisendogs covered with hilli con carne (with actual slabs of chilli), kebabs, steak sandwiches, alcoholic fruit punch tent, and crepes with nutella.
And, back at your campground, you eat some more.
You drink and talk shit with old friends and new: Carsten and Gunnar, the best German metal buddies us kiwi’s could ask for, Gunnar’s brother Sebastian, with the filthiest sense of humor I’ve ever heard (and that’s saying something), Brina, crazy German metal sister, Courtney and Penny, fellow kiwis who spent four months driving around Europe on a motorbike, Daniel – lovely Swedish bloke with flawless English and a great smile, Lex – corpsepainted world-builder who lives with her very own corpsepaint kitty, Kay – of Enter the Goatlady fame, who now lives in Poland and spends her time jetsetting between metal festivals, Danielle – awesome Canadian chick And all the other Germans – Tarja, Tom and the wacky Canadians – who made our trip so memorable.
You get accosted by drunk Germans for all sorts of crazy games. Once I went down to the portaloos to discover once I’d locked the door I’d been roped into the “Bathroom Quiz Show” whereupon I was forced to answer metal trivia questions in order to receive my prize. And what would my prize be? Of course it was a beer.
You get pulled out of the crowd by people who recognize you from the internet.
Dolphins crowd surf over your head.
You have a fucking incredible time in a magical place and you SWEAR, even if it costs you your life savings, you’re going to be back again.
That was my Wacken – how about yours?