The following is a continuation of Roskilde: Party of a Lifetime. If you haven’t already, please read that post first.
For those of you who’ve attended the Burning Man festival in Nevada, you’ve no doubt already noticed its similarities to Roskilde. And while I myself have never been to The Playa, I have looked into it pretty extensively – and think that it may indeed be the most Roskilde-like festival on Earth.
The nitty-gritty camping environment, the artsy displays and contraptions, the friendship and camaraderie, the scope and extent of it all. But still, even with all these similarities I do think that Roskilde remains quite unique.
Perhaps the most obvious difference is music: despite all their similarities, Roskilde is at its core a concert…or rather, a week-long collection of scores of different concerts. The largest act this year, Prince, drew a crowd of over 75,000 people. As far as I know, there’s nothing like that at Burning Man.
(Funny side note: the purple hat I bought in Ukraine turned out to be a smashing success, and I even had a few people try to get me to sell it. I didn’t even know Prince’s “official” color was purple! :))
Another big difference is that participation in Roskilde does not require complete self-reliance; whereas Burning Man’s participants supply all their own facilities – even bring their own water – Roskilde is very well connected. There’s an Internet cafe, cellphone charging stations, showers, eateries, and it’s just a few kilometers from town.
This makes it easy to head to the market and stock up on drinks, pop into a restaurant for an upper-class meal, or refill your prepaid Danish SIM card. Attending Roskilde is far less challenging than Burning Man, celebrated miles from the nearest civilization where even cellphones cease to function.
(I should probably mention that although the festival grounds *are* quite near town, with everything that goes on it’s surprisingly hard to find even an hour for the trip. There’s literally no part of the day when you wouldn’t be missing out on some fantastic event. So it’s best to stock up as much as you possibly can.)
Still, despite Roskilde’s relative comforts, do not be mistaken: it’s very nitty-gritty. It’s primal. Showers are taken under hoses in huge steel shipping containers, if at all. Dirt and grime and sweat are everywhere. There are port-o-potties, but nevertheless I’d make sure to steer clear of the fences. Anything within 20 yards will get peed on, guaranteed. And I’m not just talking about the men – people aren’t shy at Roskilde, and squatting is not unusual.
Basically, just try to imagine a campground with the typical outdoors amenities…Then cross-breed it with a frat party and add round-the-clock concerts, 100,000 attendees, and a free-for-all attitude.
Roskilde is savage living at its best and its worst. It’s total and utter freedom. Do what you want, where you want, when you want. As long as you respect those around you, and as long as you’re having fun.
Despite being one of Europe’s largest festivals, I was surprised to find that Roskilde is overwhelmingly Danish – and almost exclusively Scandinavian.
This served to provide me a little bit of celebrity that I’ve rarely experienced outside of Asia; Time and time again when people asked where I was from my reply would be met with a look of shock and awe. “Ca…California? What are you doing here?? How did you even know about this??”
Out of more than 100,000 attendees I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I were the only American. Or at most one of ten.
Yet the fabulous thing about Scandinavia is that everyone – and I do mean everyone – speaks absolutely flawless English. In most cases it isn’t even accented. And as any experienced traveler knows, lifting the language barrier is like opening the floodgates for new friends and experiences.
Why more countries don’t come to Roskilde I’ll never understand…but if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I will be back.