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Dharma Bum

EXIT, At the Heart of Europe’s Cultural Capital

In Music, Dharma Bum 18 July, 2022

Aleix de Vargas-Machuca

Aleix de Vargas-Machuca

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For those who haven’t yet had the chance to visit Serbia, attending the EXIT festival is definitely a great way to sign up, as this year’s festival had one of the most impressive editions in its history!

Of all the top festivals in Europe, EXIT is definitely a must-visit. Serbia is not currently part of the EU, although for those who do come from a member country no special visa is required and once there, apart from the currency exchange, you will feel very welcome. In our case, coming from Spain, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of locals who spoke Spanish or showed great interest in our culture and language. Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city which hosts the annual EXIT summer festival and its more than 200,000 visitors, can be reached by transfer from different airports, although we chose the shortest way from Belgrade airport – a 1-hour direct taxi transfer costs around €50 (provided you have booked in advance).

Transfers desde aeropuertos. EXIT festival.

Exit festival airport transfer options.

Taking place during one of the busiest weekends of the year, there is no longer any doubt that choosing EXIT is an excellent decision. The weather was mild for the dates and a bit cooler than expected, but also keep in mind that this is a night festival, which opens its doors at 6:00 p.m. and stays open until 8:00-9:00 a.m. But beware! Because at 3:00 in the morning they close the entrance gates so that anyone who leaves cannot re-enter, although you should also pay attention to the types of passes, as some are limited to one entry per day.

EXIT Festival. El Hype.

Map of the Petrovaradin Fortress.

The location of the festival is absolutely exceptional, stretching along the Petrovaradin Fortress, the largest fortification in Europe in the 17th century, in the town of Novi Sad. Not only are we talking about beautiful views of the Danube and the opportunity to experience the fortress, but there is an additional advantage that few festivals can boast of, namely the unique acoustics of the monument. The festival incorporates 40 different zones inside the fortress, including 16 completely independent stages, focusing on very specific sub-genres of music such as Drum & Bass (X-Bass Pit), Psy-Trance (Gaia Trance Xperiment), Reggae (Wenti Wadada Positive Vibrations), Metal and Punk (Explosive), Latin music (Aqua Viva Latino) or traditional Balkan music (Pachamama) among others.

And how do so many stages manage to coexist so close to each other? The answer lies in the architecture of the fortress, where the different corridors and nooks and crannies at different heights allow each stadium to be enclosed by walls that isolate part of the sound from the rest of the venue, but also amplify the sound of the particular stage. If, on the other hand, your thing is to be connected, but to each his own, you can’t miss the stage dedicated to the Silent Party. And if that’s not enough, there’s also the option to sign up for an after-party at 7am. This year’s line-up includes US Techno DJ Maceo Plex and Drum & Bass DJ Harriet Jaxxon.

EXIT Festival. El Hype.

mts Dance Arena at the EXIT Festival.

It should be noted that due to the limited space at the festival, camping is not allowed, which in turn allows for a better insight into the city and Serbian culture. There are a variety of accommodation options, from hostels run by the EXIT organisers to hotels and flats throughout the city. We recommend the Hotel Centar, where we stayed among other festival-goers, given its privileged location opposite the old town and a 10-minute walk from the fortress. Novi Sad, which has already been named European Youth Capital in 2019, was also named European Capital of Culture this year. In addition to the Petrovaradin Fortress, the city on the Danube wows its visitors with the Vojvodina Museum, the Church of the Name of Mary and the National Theatre of Serbia and an architectural mix of old and new, buildings that have not yet recovered from the years, and high-design bus stops.

The locals are very familiar and won’t hesitate to recommend venues or give you practical advice, communication permitting. For typical Serbian food, don’t miss the Sokace restaurant, where we recommend the Karađorđeva šnicla, a veal roll stuffed with creamy kajmak, and the meat pies, but don’t hesitate to ask! Of course, allow a couple of hours of your time beforehand and make a reservation if possible, the service takes time and for them, the average stay per diner is…. 3 hours! Another excellent restaurant and our personal favourite is Fish & Zeleniš, focusing on Mediterranean food.

EXIT Festival. El Hype.

Novi Sad. Photo by © el Hype.

It should be noted that due to the limited space at the festival, camping is not allowed, which in turn allows for a better insight into the city and Serbian culture. There are a variety of accommodation options, from hostels run by the EXIT organisers to hotels and flats throughout the city. We recommend the Hotel Cendar, where we stayed among other festival-goers, given its privileged location opposite the old town and a 10-minute walk from the fortress. Novi Sad, which has already been named European Youth Capital in 2019, was also named European Capital of Culture this year. In addition to the Petrovaradin Fortress, the city on the Danube wows its visitors with the Vojvodina Museum, the Church of the Name of Mary and the National Theatre of Serbia and an architectural mix of old and new, buildings that have not yet recovered from the years, and high-design bus stops.

The locals are very familiar and won’t hesitate to recommend venues or give you practical advice, communication permitting. For typical Serbian food, don’t miss the Sokace restaurant, where we recommend the Karađorđeva šnicla, a veal roll stuffed with creamy kajmak, and the meat pies, but don’t hesitate to ask! Of course, allow a couple of hours of your time beforehand and make a reservation if possible, the service takes time and for them the average stay per diner is…. 3 hours! Another excellent restaurant and our personal favourite is Fish & Zeleniš, focusing on Mediterranean food.

Within the festival, numerous food stalls offering local varieties of grilled meat, as well as other types of food such as pizza or popcorn, were scattered throughout the vast fortress. Vegetarian options were also available, although a recycling system was lacking at the festival and more care for the environment, a concern that is generated just across the bridge across the Danube, would have been appreciated.

This edition of the EXIT festival featured headliners such as Iggy Azalea, Calvin Harris, Ofenbach, Jax Jones and Afrojack among others, but the big surprise was the opportunity to hear Konstrakta, the Serbian representative for Eurovision 2022, in person, whose repertoire included the song In corpore sano.

The festival brought messages of peace and togetherness throughout the event, while there was a noticeable absence of the ever-present LGBTQ+ support, which is understandable in the context of the country’s rather conservative political norms.

Be sure to bring your own dust mask, or buy a scarf with the EXIT logo on it when crossing the Varadin Bridge connecting the city to the fortress, as the festival can get as dusty as you can imagine, but I can assure you it’s worth it!

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