Portaloos, Petrovaradin and Palečinke: Ten ways to survive EXIT
Serbia’s annual EXIT music festival is a notorious four-day bender, a yum cha of music, culture and debauchery, set against the backdrop of the 18th-century Petrovaradin fortress in Novi Sad. We tell you how to carpe the diem and get the most out of your lost weekend at EXIT.
1. Pack appropriately. This one’s for the ladies: Serbian women dress like Britney Spears did in the late ’90s, when she was Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman. If those were your golden days and your preferred habiliments are lurid and a bit porny, you’ll fit right in.
2. Stock up. When you stagger in the door of your hostel at 8am after twelve hours of boozy, ecstatic Elaine Benes-style jerking, you don’t want a handful of dried apricots and a plastic cup of warm vodka. We speak from experience. Buy proper food so you don’t kill yourself in a munchies-induced paroxysm of despair.
3. Abandon usual standards a propos of food product. You might find yourself deep-throating a hot dog at three a.m. It’s okay. We know you’re a lot classier than that boiled pig frankfurter. Nobody’s going to tell. Besides, it might be all you get. Novi Sad is a little town and its McDonalds eventually closes. BE GRATEFUL FOR THAT HOT DOG SOME PEOPLE ARE STARVING, et cetera, et cetera.
4. Abandon usual standards a propos of cleanliness. Firstly, the ground is dusty and within three minutes of arrival, your shins and feet will be blackened with grime and sticky with beer. Secondly, the QUIT campaigns don’t seem to have hit Serbia: the country has a giant durrie hanging out of its collective mouth. And look, we don’t want to sound sanctimonious – here at Vulture, we love a friendly rollie down at the pub as much as anyone.
But wait until you blow black snot out of your nose. Sorry. It had to be said.
5. Suss out the venue. Petrovaradin fortress is a beautiful, confusing maze of stairs and stages. Things are pretty well signposted, but even on the last night, you’ll be “exploring” staircases that end up leading (as so many things did) to the reggae stage. Weird art galleries nestle in towers. Apparently there are Portaloos that remain sparkling and unsullied simply because nobody can locate them. If you, too, have the directional awareness of a doughnut, spend an hour on the first night getting to grips with the layout of Petrovaradin. There’s a flying fox that sends shickered festival-goers whizzing through the air, for fuck’s sake, and a “rest area” composed entirely of plastic blow-up palm trees and lilos. You don’t want to drop acid before you see that for the first time.
6. Take advantage of the exchange rate. Not yet part of the (formerly) handy-holdy circle of love that is the European Union, Serbia has its own currency. This means that you can get a glass of wine for the equivalent of about ninety cents, a G&T for about $1.50 and a stack of palačinke (the local crepe-style pancakes, typically smothered in chocolate and hazlenuts) approximately as tall as a toddler for $3.00. All of these things are good.
7. Get a room. If you’re a puritan festival-goer who feels an integral part of the experience involves being smothered by a collapsed canvas tent, contracting water-borne diseases and generally living in your own filth for five days, EXIT will cater for you – there’s an enormous, well-equipped campsite where you will get to pitch your tent next to some sixteen-year-old British girls who think they’re the second coming of Abbey Lee and will emerge, every morning, in a heady haze of feathers and Chloe eau de toilette. If, however, you enjoy being able to bathe daily, there are options available! Novi Sad is filled with hostels and hotels. Some of the local residential colleges even hand over their rooms, empty for the summer, to the throng of festival-goers. Word to the wise: head straight for the hotels (see tip no. 6). You could stay in a hostel with no fan, airconditioning or bed linen, and with a communal shower whose drain gags with hair. Or for about $AU5 a night extra, you could stay in a three-star hotel where you can get room service, the holy grail of budget travellers. Take advantage of the cheap accommodation, and bask in the glow of hedonism for four days. Because you’re worth it.
8. Buddy up. During the actual music bits of festivals, we’re all for ridin’ solo if that’s what you have to do. It’s great to be able to split up from your friends when you want to see Pulp and they don’t. (Although frankly, anyone who wouldn’t want to see Jarvis Cocker would probably be less of a ‘friend’ and more of an ‘acquaintance’.) The EXIT crowds are friendly and easygoing. That said, in between sets it’s good to have a familiar face. Because friends don’t let friends disappear into clocktowers with shirtless Scottish lads!
9. Show your colours. Say you’re inexorably in love with Nick Cave. Say you’re preparing for an attack of the vapours when Grinderman play on the final night of EXIT. Say you decide it would be endearingly vulgar to make a fangirl (or fanboy) t-shirt and have NICK: GRINDERMAN OF MY CAVE scrawled across your chest in thick black texta letters. DO IT. It’ll be a superlative conversation starter! Following the show, as you push your way out of the crowd, sweaty and euphoric, people will bow to you. They might offer to do particularly lewd things to you or your shirt. They may even buy you a drink.
10. Praise be. When you’re sitting atop a hill overlooking the glittering Danube river with your best friend, debriefing after Arcade Fire and drinking lukewarm cider; when you’re watching a 4.30am sunrise soundtracked by truly atrocious reggae; when you’re swaddled in that gentle camaraderie of 40,000 audiophiles off their tits, make the most of everything and enjoy every second – EXIT finishes as quickly as it begins, in a blaze of fireworks and beer-soaked glory.
EXIT festival will take place between July 12 and 15 this year. See here for details.