As the fug lifts, the alcohol-to-blood ratio in your veins resumes normal service, and that rash resolution to go to the gym three times a week kicks in, you may find your first impressions of 2010 are fairly bleak. Especially if you made a prat of yourself at the office Christmas party…
What we all need at this time of year is something to look forward to. Something to assure us, as we stand on a freezing cold platform waiting for a near-mythical train to take us home, that the jig of life is well worth, erm, jigging. That’s why the Urban Travel Bloggers have pooled their brainpower to compile a hitlist of the hottest events, coolest capers and funkiest festivals worth checking out in 2010… from Croatian carnivals to bathtub boating in Belgium, from food fights to film fests, and with plenty of parties, pyrotechnics – and even a few giant penises – thrown in, this is one events guide worth a rigorous read. (For the exceptionally lazy, head to the bottom of the page for a quick reference list with dates!)
Hot Events & Hip Festivals for 2010
January: Already done the Rio Carnival? Well how about the Rijeka Carnival? The girl from Ipanema won’t be there, but there will be lots of scary guys wearing animal masks frightening the evil spirits of winter away (by ringing bells), as well as grand Venetian-style balls, Bacchanalian parades and a general air of reckless abandon before the the abstemy of Lent.
February: Electronic music freaks are certainly in for prosperous 2010 as this year seems particularly rich in digital raves worth rocking up to. Berlin and New York kick things off, with the techno capital hosting the 11th edition of Club Transmediale ‘Festival for Adventurous Music and Accompanying Visual Arts’; whilst the Big Apple holds its inaugural edition of the innovative and ambitious Unsound Festival… imported fresh from Poland, via Belarus.
On a ‘cultural’ tip, if you can’t wait for this year’s La Tomatina tomato battle in Bunol Spain, then why not make your way to Italy for some fruit pelting antics at the Ivrea Orange Fights instead. Somewhat more painful, but at least it doesn’t smell so rank…
March: Whilst the majority of March festival goers will either pack their skis or their suncream, to head off to the Big Snow Festival in Andorra or Winter Music Conference in Miami respectively, we’ll probably sneak off to little old Wroclaw for some piwo, pierogi and Pat Methany at the Jazz on the Odra festival. Grrrreat.
April: Fellas with an inferiority complex might want to avoid Kawasaki in Greater Tokyo on the first Sunday of April: the Festival of the Steel Phallus invites cock-worshippers from around the world to pay homage to erections so enormous they would make Graham Norton blush. If these divine dicks prove too much to handle you can always suck on a shaft-shaped lolly instead, or a rudely-carved root vegetable.
May: Sick of Lederhosen and bratwursts? And American students who have watched Beerfest one too many times? Then why not swap Oktoberfest for the Czech beer festival in Prague… for one thing it’s in May which means you have considerably less long to wait to get your hands on a mug of malty magic.
If, after a couple of days, the liver starts complaining you can swap pints for pics, by hopping on an overnight train to Krakow and catching some of the superb Photomonth Festival. Participating museums, galleries, cafes, bars and even the odd disused brewery turn the city into a giant exhibition space for arresting images from around the world throughout May.
June: Air and LCD Soundsystem are amongst the headliners at this year’s Sonar Festival which takes place in urban venues in Barcelona, and also boasts a lively day time programme if you’re really keen to get on it. Cheapskates needn’t be put off by the ticket price – an unofficial Sonar Off programme of parties in every club and on every beach make Barcelona the place to be in mid-June.
Whereas almost every city and country in Europe will be celebrating midsummer night in style, for our money the best place to be on 23rd June in 2010 is in Porto in Portugal for the Sao Joao Festival. As the street party unfolds simply buy yourself a plastic hammer and bish anyone over the head who you like the look of. It’s the start of many a beautiful relationship… and the odd unwanted pregnancy.
July: As festival season reaches its peak there are some tough decisions to be made! Here are some hot happenings that are worth checking out before the hoi polloi get there, starting with Calvi on the Rocks, a glamorous dance festival in a medieval Corsican town that sits upon a 5 mile stretch of beach. Arrive by yacht if you can. Also kicking the island vibe (somehow it’s ok to misbehave if there’s a stretch of water between you and civilisation) is Trena Festival… held on the remote isle of the same name off the coast of Norway, somewhere near the Artic. Stages include a mountainside cave, and ents include morning yoga classes.
For a more urban summertime experience then fly to Berlin and ask for directions to Ferropolis, or ‘Steel City’: a former mine, current open air museum of industrial machines and part-time festival venue. The festival in question is Melt! and its reputation as the friendliest and funkiest electro/rock music event around spreads further every year… don’t be the last to go!
August: Exit may have brought Serbia to the attention of festival goers, but if you’re a bit old for Carl Cox and glowsticks you might want to ditch Novi Sad for Guca instead – a tiny town of 2,000 that hosts a huge trumpet festival of 600,000 people each year. A cacophonous delight and a great way to experience the legendary Balkan hospitality and party spirit. As it’s the festival’s 50th birthday Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev have been invited to come down and sink a slivovitz together!
For a more chilled out affair, join UTB as we head back to Croatia… this time to Petrcane near Zadar where the magical Garden Club plays host to Electric Elephant. A hip, more sophisticated alternative to the larger dance events, punters can treat their hangovers with a dip in the Med.
Finally for something a little different, how about a bit of boating in Belgium… in bathtubs. The Bathtub Regatta in Dinant sees competitors take to the Meuse river on elaborate craft fashioned from ‘baignoires’. Throw in a fancy dress element and it certainly beats a day out at Henley with the hoorah Henrys.
September: More famous for sausages than sausage dogs, nonetheless Poland hosts what we believe is the only Dachshund Parade in Europe (there is another in Washington, however). The little weiners are dressed up in waistcoats and paraded around Krakow, usually on the first or second Sunday in September, starting at the Barbican in the Old Town.
Back in the UK the camping music festival season closes with the aptly named End of the Road festival in Dorset. Folk music aplenty, a fair few ciders, and headliners who sound suspiciously like episodes of the Mighty Boosh. The Wilderness of Manitoba anyone?
October: With the weather turning nasty it’s time to switch our attention back to beats and beeps, so we suggest heading back to the Balkans – this time to Belgrade for the acclaimed Dis-Patch Festival. The focus of events take place over three autumnal weekends, stretching into November.
November: Sod Halloween, and another night of half-arsed costumes and capers. Make your way to Oaxaca City in Mexico where Dia de los Muertos or ‘Day of the Dead’ is celebrated in authentic style at the beginning of November. Mexicans welcome the spirits of their deceased with delicious smells of home cooking, skull-shaped sweets, lighted candles and creepy mannequins. Gravestones are decorated, masks are donned and macabre dances performed – a colourful celebration of life and death.
If that’s a little too scary for you then why not snuggle up with your partner in the back of a cinema in the beautiful Estonian capital of Tallinn… the Black Nights Film Festival is a great chance to catch the city free of rampaging tourists and mix sightseeing with the silver screen.
December: The Mods live on… in Leon. A bizarre place to keep the spirit of 1960s soul, pop and garage rock alive, but that’s exactly what happens in December at the Purple Weekend festival, which features mod and Brit-pop bands and includes surreal scooter runs courtesy of the Leon Scooter Division. One for Quadrophenia fans…
Right that just about wraps up our alternative festival guide for 2010 2010! Anything we’ve forgotten… other than the small matter of a UEFA World Cup in South Africa? (Check out out guide to Cape Town if you’re going!). Below is an easy reference list to synchronise your travel diaries with:
Festival Hitlist – Dates & Details
Rijeka Carnival – Rijeka – 17th January to 16th February 2010
Club Transmediale Festival – Berlin – 28th January to 7th February 2010
Unsound – New York – 4th to 14th February 2010
Ivrea Orange Fight – Ivrea – 13th to 16th February 2010
Jazz on the Odra – Wroclaw – 28th February to 7th March 2010
The Festival of the Steel Penis – Kawasaki – 4th April 2010
Krakow Photomonth – Krakow – May 2010
Czech Beer Festival – Prague – 14th to 30th May 2010
Sonar Festival – Barcelona – 17th to 19th June 2010
Sao Joao Festival – Porto – 23rd June 2010
Calvi on the Rocks – Calvi – 2nd to 5th July 2010
Trena Festival – Trena Island – 8th to 10th July 2010
Melt! Festival – nr. Berlin – 16th to 18th July 2010
Guca Trumpet Festival – Guca – 13th to 23rd August 2010
Electric Elephant – Petrcane – 27th to 29th August 2010
The Bathtub Regatta – Dinant – August 2010 (TBC)
Dachshund Parade – Krakow – September 2010 (TBC)
End of the Road – Dorset – 10th to 12th September 2010
Dis-Patch – Belgrade – 23rd October to 8th November 2010
Dia de los Muertos – Oaxaca/Mexico – 1st and 2nd November 2010
Black Nights Film Festival – Tallinn – 11th November to 5th December 2010.
Purple Weekend – Leon – December 2010 (TBC)