Wacken Open Air is the world's top annual event for the controversial heavy metal subculture. If you thought it's only about being dark, grim and rebellious, be ready to have that image shattered. See how the "bad ones" create and enjoy a heaven of their own – with green grass, sunshine, pure friendliness, time travel and loads, loads of other goodies! There is nothing beyond this "metalheads' Mecca", the connaisseurs say. Check the darkside – they do have cookies!
The Fields of Freedom
In the first week of August, the lovely village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany, gets crowded with 75.000 fans of heavy music and other thousands of staff people, artists, and press representatives. It all started 23 years ago, and has climbed to the absolute top position in the extreme music world. The name of Wacken is simply venerated by the metalheads and rockers all over the world. Shortly known as W:O:A, its 3 days of concerts are not enough – enthusiasts arrive several days earlier to enjoy the serene camping life in a sea of tents. It's the taste of freedom and genuine fun. People park their sometimes expensive cars (yes, metalheads can be successful businessmen) and bring couches, armchairs, fridges, plastic pools, and anything for a comfortable life in the open field. The quantities of beer are ridiculously large, to say the least. The fun begins: barbequeing, enjoying ad-hoc friendly fights between brave "warriors", creating slowmotion zones (even the police patrol religiously obeys and slows down here!), sliding on cabbage, and whatnot. Although the concerts are simply the best one can get, many ticket owners never bother to leave the campgrounds!
There's No Village Like This One!
Surely Wacken has earned its fame as the world's metal village. Its mostly old inhabitants are used to the extreme noise and crowds, and to their peculiar appearance. Beyond the infernal festival grounds, there's a small universe of perfect tolerance. Sadly, the legendary most-loved man of the village "Grandpa Willi", who used to sell home-made marmelade and play the trombone year by year in the main street, passed away recently at the age of 91, after W:O:A set a new record in being sold out. His friends from all over the earth will contribute with photos for a memorial wall.
Skulls, horns and black flags decorate the homes. Old grannies smile and display the universal metalheads' greeting sign. They're happy not just because the festival pumps in some good money, but also because the guests offer to help them cross the street. Locals set up terrace bars and breakfast points in their yards. Children become entrepreneurs and, by using certain special vehicles and charging a decent price, help festival goers carry their beer loads from the supermarket to the campground.
Sheer enthusiasm is everyone's companion; there's heavy music blasting from everywhere – Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Death, Manowar and all the classics. It's the pure celebration of Metal. The cars that pass by let you hear 'Waackeeeeen!' loud shouts, which always get a similar reply from pedestrians. You don't say 'Good day' here, 'Goodbye' or 'Thank you', you just shout 'Waackeeeen!' heroically, from the heart.