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Music, arts and culture - a festival summer in Germany


There is hardly a region in Germany without its own music festival. Festivals have a long tradition in Germany. Some of the oldest date back to the 1920s. Most of them take place in the summer and are open-air events. The months of June, July and August are the peak season for festivals. Here is a glimpse of this year’s festival summer with a festival in Münster, one near Hanover, and one at an old airport in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

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Every festival in Germany has its very own concept. This makes for a great variety of musical styles and cultural programmes. The genres range from baroque and classical to jazz, folk, blues, all the way to pop, rock and electronic music. In addition to concerts, many festivals also offer arts and cultural programmes and a wonderful diversity of culinary delights. There are, for instance, theatre performances, exhibits, cinema, arts and crafts, jewellery and food trucks.
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Since 1997, the Fusion Festival takes place on the former Russian military airfield Lärz, near Müritz Lake, about 100 km north of Berlin. Every year, the airfield turns into a small world far from everyday life. The Fusion is a non-commercial festival. Tolerance and the environment are the main theme. For instance, only vegetarian and vegan foods are offered, and there is no advertising on the festival grounds. The crowd as well as the artists are international. For this one weekend, around 70,000 people come together and turn this old airport into a unique “Kulturkosmos”, that’s the name of the association that organises the festival.

The Fusion Festival is an open-air event, but there are also covered stages. The old airport hangars are used, and circus tents are erected, so that concerts can take place even if the weather turns bad. The roughly 24 stages/decks offer a huge variety of electronic music, in addition to hip-hop, jazz, reggae, goa, ska and rock, punk, metal, dancehall and trance. Apart from the music, there is a diverse cultural programme with cinema, readings and discussion rounds, cabaret and audio drama, as well as theatre and performance art. Since the Fusion attracts visitors from all over the world, many events are held in English.
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A tram museum near Hanover hosts the SNNTG Festival. To get from one part of the grounds to the other, you take a historic tram. The organisers are very concerned with promoting culture and local cooperation, for example with the higher education institution’s student services or with initiatives like Viva con Agua and Amnesty International. You can paint your own cloth bag, play volleyball or enjoy a coffee in the tram café. Like at Fusion, visitors can stay on the camping grounds, because the festivals last all weekend.

The SNNTG Festival offers three stages, and with around 3,000 visitors per day is a comparatively small event. The stages are all outside and spread around the museum grounds. There are old trams and buses everywhere that are decoratively integrated into the overall festival. The highlight is the tram ride from one stage to another, and with a little luck you can catch a concert right there inside the tram. There is a hall with exhibits, installations and a place to sit. This year’s bands came from Poland, France and England, among other places. The music is diverse. One stage is reserved for hip-hop, funk and soul, one for indie, rock and pop, and the third features electronic music.
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In Germany, you will find many small day festivals all summer long – like the one in Münster, North-Rhine Westphalia. The “Nah am Wasser” (Near the Water) Festival took place there for the first time this year. Its special feature is the beach atmosphere right in the middle of the city. Sand, palm trees, beach chairs and even a pool make the grounds feel like a little oasis where you can enjoy cocktails, long drinks, and home-made burgers. The festival grounds are located right on the canal next to Münster’s city harbour, and the event is held outdoors. There is music by many artists all day long, ranging from hip-hop, indie rock and pop all the way to singer-songwriter. This summer, 2,500 visitors attended the day festival.
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Many of these music festivals are organised with incredible attention to detail. Every one of them has its own individual character. Since the sun goes down relatively late on German summer evenings, it is particularly pleasant to spend the whole day outside, listening to music and dancing. When it does get dark, the mood changes. Now there are light installations, often coordinated with the music. At many festivals you will see visitors who have created their own light installation, for example with light garlands and an umbrella. There is no limit to creativity.
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Visiting a festival is a great idea, particularly during the summer’s non-lecture period. The concerts are a popular diversion from everyday life at a higher education institution. Some universities and higher education institutions also organise their own festivals, a good opportunity to get involved at your own higher education institution and meet people, and ultimately take home an unforgettable memory.
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