Ultimate Adventures: GUCA For Dummies
1. Take an Interrail train. On board, share a cabin with an old German man. Talk to him. He’ll tell you about an insane festival in the Serbian countryside. It features trumpeters from around the Balkans, who compete against each other for title of best trumpeter. They’re surrounded by hundreds of thousands of festival-goers. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and wish him good luck.
2. Get to Belgrade. Settle in, explore, but keep the thought of a crazy escapade to a random festival in the back of your mind. Decide to Wikipedia it out of curiousity. Find out that it is ranked as a “better party than Glastonbury or Burning Man.” Laugh and think, “why not?”
3. “Pack” for the festival. By which I mean grab a toothbrush, a redbull, and a camera. Sleep is for the weak (and those who travel with sleeping bags and camping gear).
4. Meet four unsuspecting French guys on the way out of the Zetska 5 hostel.
Convince them that driving hundreds of kilometres and several hours out of their way to check out a massive festival no one has ever heard of is a good idea. Dismiss their excuses of just getting in from Sziget, a festival in Budapest, and of not having seen Belgrade. Give them an impromptu tour of the city (clearly qualified after being there 24 hours longer than they) and head out onto the open road.
5. Drive for hours with no indication that there are a million people heading to the same place as you are. No traffic, no arrows, no vans jam-packed with camping gear and eager revelers. None of the usual signs that a festival is nigh. Listen to some more Dylan, point out haystacks in the Serbian countryside, smile weakly, and hope desperately that four people did not just drive out to the middle of nowhere because of you for nothing.
6. Arrive (arguably the single most important step to attending a festival). See a few trumpets, a lot of cars, and a toothless man who shouts incoherent parking instructions at you.
7. Wander around in a daze. Stick out a mile. Feel as if you are the only tourists in a sea of already-drunk Serbians. Fight your way through miles of food (meat) and stalls selling useless crap. Marvel at the army gear that is for sale everywhere, next to semi-automatic rifles, next to children’s toys. Joke about whether the vials that girls are hawking are full of alcohol or urine (same colour). Marvel at the hundreds of animals that are roasting, see a full grown bull turning on a spit, and realize that your hair and clothes reek of meat. Consider vegetarianism.
8. Settle into a central grassy area to commence catching up to the Serbs. Indulge in the plentiful and cheap alcohol widely available. Try home-made Rakia (the national drink) from someone’s waterbottle. Laugh incredulously with the French at the ridiculousness of it all. Find out that security guards do not appreciate you attempting to use the toilet of the mayor’s office (or some such important building).
9. Actually find the main stage with all of the music. Dance, dance, and dance some more. There are trumpets doing jazz, Madonna, Coldplay, national songs, French folk, and everything and anything inbetween. Amuse Serbs by attempting to join into their dance circles. Have a complete inability to follow even the easiest steps. Settle for watching the fireworks and the displays of Serbian nationalism instead.
10. Decide you’ve had enough of trumpets. Walk back to the car and realize that the river carries the trumpet sound straight to the spot where you’re spending the night. Joke about how it is going to be a long night. It is a long night. Toss, turn, hate the person who came up with the idea of coming here, and then realize it was you. Sleep fitfully, plagued by trumpets when awake and haunted by them in your dreams when asleep. Wake up to the sound of trumpets. They are louder than ever; there are fresh trumpeters mixed with the die-hards that are still going from the night before.
11. Get out of there as fast as curving mountain roads will allow. Vow never to listen to a trumpet again.
12. Decide that Guca was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (with the emphasis on the once). Sadly bid adieu from the Frenchies and put as many miles between you and trumpets as you can. End up on a train to Bulgaria, where you write a blog so that others may one day do the same. 🙂
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