Having originally had the idea of going to this year’s Exit Festival brought up in January this year, the day of reckoning finally arrives – Thursday, 9th July 2009. We had already decided to fly out on the first day of the festival rather than arriving the day before or doing some travelling around the region beforehand, as the rest of our Exit Festival crowd are doing.
Now, Serbia isn’t all that far from London. It’s a two-hour flight, approximately at least. Direct flights to Belgrade had proved to be too expensive (only British Airways and Air Serbia fly there [Note: this was 2009]) so we’ve had to make do with flying to a nearby airport (I don’t nearby in terms of the next closest airport; I mean nearby in terms of a “nearby” country…so you can imagine it’s not all that close) and getting a bus transfer down to Novi Sad. We decide to fly WizzAir to Budapest and get the 5-hour EUFest transfer bus, direct from Budapest Ferihegy Airport.
All seems fairly straightforward, yes? Of course it does, if everything had worked out as it should. But it never does – and we end up taking 17 hours to travel from central London to Novi Sad. The idea that it would have been quicker to travel to California or Argentina, or that we could have been three-quarters of the way to Australia – i.e. halfway around the world! – does not escape us. So thanks Luton Airport for your entire computer system failing, affecting pretty much everything: 3 hour delay; and to the Serbian border for processing all vehicles at a snail’s pace for no discernible reason: 2 hour delay; which means that arriving after the festival has already started is priceless. Or something.
At least the other transfer bus that we took instead (we’d missed our EUFest bus by this point!) kept us well stocked (I’ve never been so grateful to see pretzel sticks and a weird Serbian chocolate foamy bar thing – who cares what it was, I was hungry!) and amused, playing a variety of Exit artists for the seven hour journey. Not to mention a free little pack which included a guide to Novi Sad and another on the Exit Festival, both of which I read cover to cover at least five times. I’m pretty sure I knew the festival line-up off by heart after that.
Once we had finally crossed the Serbian border, we stopped off at a petrol station; I’d never seen a coach load of people empty the contents of a petrol station beer cabinet before, but it’s a sight that will stay with me for some time.
At around 10.30pm we roll into Novi Sad … finally. Some helpful ExitFest people greet us and call us a taxi – pretty lucky for us, as we happen to be staying in a flat on the most unpronounceable street in the entire city. Even a semi-Slavic speaker such as myself has trouble with it; over the course of the next four days, all of us battle to get our tongues around “Mise Dimitrijevica”. Luckily, we find most taxi drivers know where we want to go as we stutter to say “Mise Dim..er..tri…yeah…vicka?”
We unite with our friends who had spent the previous week visiting Poland and Hungary in the flat we’ve rented for the duration of the Festival. Some Novi Sadians rent out their own apartments to festival-goers to make some extra money; our small but cosy flat fits the five of us just right. There’s something extra charming and special about staying in a local’s flat (we seem to have a room belonging to a teenage girl, with her text books and novels such as “Seks i grad” (“Sex and the City”) by Kendas Busnel and “Da Vincijev kod” (“The Da Vinci Code”) by Den Braun. (Take a closer look at those authors’ names – classic!).
Time’s a wasting, so we rapidly head off for our first day at the Festival! After negotiating the dual battles of picking up our Festival pass (quite useful, if you want to gain entry) and purchasing drinks tokens (also useful, if you want the full festival experience), we head for the Main Stage.
Deciding to take it easy on the first night (I refer you back to the 17 hour trip, as described previously) we watch your favourite hipsters and mine, the Arctic Monkeys. After a pretty good set from them, we meander around the Petrovaradin Fortress (where the Exit Festival is held) to get a feel for the rest of the site, but its size proves a little too much for us on this first night, so we call it a night. I’m almost tempted to prolong the day just so I can say I’ve been awake for 24 hours, but I fall short at about the 21-hour mark.
Exit Festival Day 1 – I bid you goodnight.
Next: Exit Festival Day 2