Contributed by Alina Pak. Check out more of their posts from this summer here.
It’s been a while since I wrote my first (and last) post, and a lot has happened in over a month: people switched organizations, our group went on a tour to Novi Sad, I translated six months worth of articles for my NGO’s website. Nevertheless, the most notable event was probably our trip to EXIT – one of the largest European music festivals and simultaneously one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been to.
Before I start talking about the artists, the music, the over-priced food and the precarious location at a medieval fortress, I’d like to mention how immensely proud I am that twelve of us managed to spend this wild weekend in Novi Sad and not fall off the wall, suffer irreversible physical damage, lose a member of the group, etc. Good job, guys! Moving on, EXIT will certainly surprise you if your perception of Serbia is that of a backward, outdated country – the festival is huge, moderately well run, and a ton of fun! Be it John Newman’s signature Love Me Again or Hardwell’s breathtaking performance accompanied by fireworks (best enjoyed from the top of the dance arena – the lower level has the atmosphere of Dante’s Inferno), there is music to be enjoyed for lovers of various genres and styles. And in case you suddenly feel exhausted in the middle of that mayhem – which I did – there is chill-out zone with puffy balloon clouds and beanbags to nap on.
For me, the cons of EXIT could not eclipse its pros (even though the sight of a cockroach crawling over my bed seriously soured my mood). However, the organizers’ determination to make money out of everything possible starts to get on your nerves sooner or later. It is all the more amusing if you consider that EXIT is sponsored by the current Serbian government and was never supposed to be a commercial project – in fact, it started fifteen years ago as an anti-government political protest. Manifold local and Serbian bands dominated the scene of what was then an obscure event with the goal of promoting and expanding the regional culture. They’re now competing with Snoop Dogg and David Guetta.
EXIT is one of the main tourist attractions in Serbia, yet in a way it failed to fulfil its goals. Every year Novi Sad is flooded with music-lovers and adventure-seekers from the UK (absolute majority), Germany, Russia, and other countries. Do those people visit to appreciate Serbia’s rich cultural heritage, or because EXIT, despite its commercialism, is one of the best holiday deals to be found across the pricey Europe? Do they know anything about the country whose resources they exploit? Do they even care?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, just as I would not want to assume anything about the intentions of hundreds of thousands of people I have never met. But here’s what I know for sure. First, Novi Sad and Novi Sad during EXIT are two different cities. Second, I have – multiple times – heard Serbians describe EXIT as too expensive for nationals. Third, I personally did not listen to any Serbian music during my stay.