Festival review: Nachtdigital 17

I had the opportunity to attend the exclusive Nachtdigital festival in Olganitz, Saxony, from August 1 to 3.


one-of-a-kind graphic design

It’s all electronic, held in the German countryside in the summer and I say “exclusive” because only 3000 tickets are ever released and the event is consistently sold out straight away.

Olganitz is a village not far from Leipzig and it made for a very lovely drive south from Berlin.


Most people camp but there are bungalows available too, in the “Bunga Bungalowdorf”.


My party was camping. We brought enough food and beer for a small army and divided our time between our little tent town and the main stage areas, which, owing to the petite size of the whole operation, was only a three-minute walk away.


The stages (one main stage, one inside a big tent and a smaller one by the water) are set by the lake, and the weather was hot and perfect for swimming and splashing around. It was a really beautiful place to have a music festival.


The music was minimal in general – the heavier stuff in the small hours of night and the more ambient at sunrise and during the daylight. Being Europe, music starts in the evening and goes right through until 11am, although a thunderstorm did make everyone stop for an hour or so on the second night.



I think this is Siriusmo




Around the grounds there were little hideaway places to party, like this miniature mirror booth.


And at night the place was lit up by flashes of colour.


I had no expectations for Nachtdigital but I had heard many positive things which all turned out to be true. The overall pace and buzz was warm and relaxed – everybody was in a good mood. There was something really exciting about beats echoing out through the fields at night, before it was time to see the early European sunrise.


And no reason to stop dancing, except to soak up the rays.



Music: The festival’s specialty is exposing lesser-known and underground DJs from around Europe. My highlights were Siriusmo, Robag Wruhme & Roman Flügel, Heatsick (who I have now seen on three different continents), the Doumen Records showcase and the very unique ROD, who unleashed his terrifying bass right after the thunderstorm.

Crowd: Smiley and relaxed. I didn’t see any “antisocial” behaviour at all. The majority of people were young and beautiful and seemed to mostly come from Germany and The Netherlands.

Food and drink: Guests can bring their own booze into the campsite but not the main stage area. The food for sale was actually pretty tasty, with lots of vegetarian options. Drinks were also not through the roof. But if you plan well, you can survive the whole three days without spending any cash at all.

Grounds: A lovely and unique location, in the fields near a small lake surrounded by woods. Toilets were nothing special (portaloos) and the “shower” was just a cold hose with some curtains around it. Luckily, the weather was really warm!

Nachtdigital has quite a following, and I can see why. I’m still listening to this kind of thing, reminiscing.



Majestic wind turbines of Germany


Germany has a plan to meet 80% of its energy needs with renewables like wind power by 2050. Incentives for producers are now being scaled back but in the first six months of 2014, wind power increased by more than 60% (according to this article from TheLocal.de).

It’s a forward-thinking country and it was wonderful to see plenty of handsome wind turbines on our road trip from Berlin to Olganitz for the Nachtdigital festival. Joe Hockey thinks they’re a “blight on the landscape” but I think they’re pretty great.







wind turbine lying down on the job!

Going back to Berlin

Two days before returning to Berlin I watched the aching and beautiful film Auf Der Anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven). What I love about Fatih Akin’s films – besides their emotional depth and lingering sadness – is their keen eye for the “ordinariness” of life in Germany (and Turkey). Streetscapes, kitchens, university cafeterias – it’s as real as can be. It was the perfect way to practise my German.

I spent a year in Berlin as university student. I was young and free and my days and nights were, well, extensively documented on social media – why not? But some things don’t show up in Facebook photos: the smell of baking bread in the U-bahn stations; hands make sticky from drinking Club Mate; the first glimpse of early sunrise in the summer, when your night is still in full swing; the heavenly taste of Kristallweizen with a slice of lemon.

It was all like I remembered, but I’m (maybe) a real grown-up now. More inclined to enjoy organic ice cream than 50c tequila shots (grassy, sweet Zubrowka is another matter); more excited about eating Turkish food at normal dinnertime than at 4am. This time around, I was able to tick off the two activities that I somehow never found the time for in 2011 – cycling in Tempelhof, the vast empty space in the city that used to be an airport; and visiting the über smart modern art museum, Hamburgerbahnhof.



Clärchens Ballhaus – a dancehall unchanged since decades





I used to live on this street



Club Mate is a soft drink made from mate tea. A acquired taste that every new resident has to get used to.


Reunion with my dear Australian friend Kate


Neukölln at night




“You pay 1 euro with your first drink for the DJ”



The Tempelhof terminal is one of the only remaining examples of Third Reich architecture

IMG_1460IMG_1461IMG_1464 IMG_1469 IMG_1478

Some examples of food worth going crazy for:


Bio-Eis (organic icecream, now everywhere in Berlin)


Döner macht schöner


Leberkäse im Brötchen


I travelled around the world to find this Turkish dessert – it’s called Künefe and is made of shredded pastry, soft cheese and honey

I don’t think I could ever get sick of Berlin. It has a wonderful creative spirit and wears its history on its sleeve. Its citizens are interesting and interested in preserving its unique place in Europe and the world. It’s a crossroads for young people from everywhere, and in the summer, when gardens are growing out of control everywhere, it’s a real fairytale.


Darkness and sunshine – that’s Berlin!



classy LR (photo by Kate O’Dwyer)

“We need costumes, of course we need them,” they all said. Dressing like a normal group of young women wouldn’t cut it – for Oktoberfest we needed to be squeezed into tight-bodiced Dirndls with bright gingham aprons and frilly white blouses that skimped on coverage around the bosoms. My lady friends turned out to be right about the necessity of dressing up, Bavarian-style, to match all the strapping young men in their Lederhosen – the theatre of Oktoberfest, which takes over so much of Munich for a buzzing, otherworldly few days, is as intoxicating as the litres-upon-litres of beer.

My Dirndl was on the traditional side (dark brown, skirt down to my knees) but I still managed to burst out of the top of it.

Still, I think that the original one I had ordered from a confusing German online store would have been more eye-popping. I’ll never know – upon my return to my little apartment in south-east Berlin I had a knock at the door and was delivered the unforunate dress, wrapped up neatly but many days too late. It wasn’t the store’s fault, apparently – the website displayed a warning that at peak times, Dirndl deliveries might be delayed, and this was the most important time of year for lovers of German paraphernalia. Not to worry – the store offered full refunds, 48 Euros that could be put to good use by this particular foreign student. All that was necessary was to return the Dirndl by post.

Torstraße was far from my home, but a place I used to visit a lot – a wide street split by tram lines, and full of small rooms that would come alive at night, packed with interesting people drinking interesting things that they didn’t pay much for, all with the special spark in their eyes because they were in Berlin, the greatest city on Earth, with the extra good fortune to be young at this most excellent time in history. I think on this day I must have been drinking mint tea at St Oberholz, a café where a certain type of young person (with black-rimmed glasses) came to set up their laptop and procrastinate with their magnum opus. I took a detour to a yellow Deutsche Post, my unwanted Dirndl wrapped up in the bag that it was delivered in, with a makeshift label stuck on one side.


this package did it right

Time ticked on infuriatingly while I stood in the line. There were many things about the German postal system that I did not understand. Every post office was also a bank, for example, and parcel notices were sent out in advance, so it was actually possible to arrive too early for your packages. But at least they were open on Saturdays. I was finally called up by a grey-haired matronly Frau at the far end. She took one look at my bundle and said “Das geht nicht. It doesn’t work like that. “Oh, so how does it work?” I asked. Apparently I needed an official box to send things in. “Danke,” I said and smiled. The woman did not smile.

I found a stack of bright yellow boxes that evidently needed to be assembled. I picked up one which in its squashed state was very long and wide. It appeared to come with drawn instructions but these were worse than useless. There I was, wrestling with a huge flat yellow piece of cardboard almost as big as myself, my face growing redder by the second. I looked around. Nobody was surprised to see this happening – nobody was even looking. It didn’t alleviate my embarrassment. I hid into the most secluded corner I could find and eventually managed to force it into a useful shape, get my squashed-up package inside and stick my label on the top. I lined up again.

I waited for another short eternity. I looked out the windows at the grey, windy street and thought of all the grey, windy streets beyond it, stretching across the sprawling city and into the grey, windy countryside, and eventually to the cold sea. There wasn’t much warmth left in the air and every day brought us all closer to a winter that I was getting afraid of.

I was called up again, to the same woman. She frowned anew but there was a little smirk somewhere on her face. At my expense, of course. My package still wasn’t acceptable – home-made labels were nicht erlaubt. There was some official form among all the other official forms in the place that I needed to fill out. I felt a bit forlorn, with my package still in hand. My eyes suddenly stung. Why was it all so hard? Is this what delayed culture shock felt like? How ridiculous that I needed to bring a friend to the damned post office for moral support! That dreaded thought was showing its face: “This wouldn’t have happened back home!”

I had now spent more than half an hour at the post office, and it had gotten me nowhere. Some kind of resentment at the pointlessness of leaving home that day was surfacing, but I frowned hard to keep that feeling down. In the same way that I always tried to reassure myself that (almost) nobody ever died from the cold in Berlin (surely a lie), I told myself that plenty of ordinary Germans use the post office every day, and none of them have gone insane.

With the correct label finally stuck on the box, I approached my new nemesis again. I kept my eyes on her and tried to look like a person with serious intentions, not some clueless traveller who at this moment, was afflicted by acute homesickness and a malaise brought on by seeing too many stern faces in one room (especially when any resident of Berlin should have been used to the latter by now). She had another question. Where were the pieces of sticky tape that came with the box? I drew a breath, but didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, she could see that I might cry, and relented. Her smirk returned: “Ok, we’d better get your package on its way, hadn’t we?”

I imagined the post office woman sniggering to her colleagues over black coffee and stupidly sweet cakes later that day. I did my best to slam the post office door behind me, zipped my jacket up to my chin and marched down Torstraße for my mint tea.