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The Burning Man of Europe is a Trip : Nowhere

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This is camp Cwtch, which is (OBVIOUSLY) pronounced something like "Cutch" (YOU DITHERING MORON). It sounds like Cooch which is funny enough, but it's also the Welsh word for cuddle, which makes it even better.

This is camp Cwtch, which is (OBVIOUSLY) pronounced something like “Cutch” (YOU DITHERING MORON). It sounds like Cooch which is funny enough, but it’s also the Welsh word for cuddle, which makes it even better.

If you live in San Francisco, chances are that you’ve heard of the Burning Man festival. If you haven’t been, chances are that, come August, you take a sabbatical from social media and stop talking to half the city to avoid hearing the word “dust” too many times. If you have been, you are probably currently freaking out either from excitement or from stress at the prospect of that one week in August.

First off, let me clarify – this is not about Burning Man. But it’s close.

If by some snafu you haven’t heard about Burning Man, here’s a quick explanation. Burning Man, as featured on Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons, is a week-long festival in the Nevada desert, centered on art and survivalist camping. It’s hippie-like, but not only hippies go there. It has music, but no-one goes there to hear big names. Yes, it has drugs and sex, but it would be ridiculous to take that much time off and to spend that much money only to get laid and turnt.

The best way that I can explain it is to invite you to imagine an ephemeral city built out of post-apocalyptic tents, structures, domes, and enormous sculptures in the unforgiving hot desert dust, which at night lights up like a hallucinogenic, futuristic, neon and fire interactive Las Vegas theme park. Think of the best, weirdest adventure you’ve ever had, and repeat it for seven nights. Everything is given and nothing is sold, so there’s no economic stress, and it’s built around acceptance and lack of shame. Beyond the unfortunate prerequisite of having to have dolla dolla bills to buy your ticket, all kinds of people attend. You can like guns, hate the government and be searching for anarchy; conversely, you can like patchouli, hate technology, and be searching for spirituality; you, and everyone in between is welcome.

This article, however, is not about Burning Man (…and a collective sigh of relief washes over the Bay Area). It’s about a place called Nowhere.

Amazing inflatable art that lit up at night and was probably the stuff of nightmares for some.

Amazing inflatable art that lit up at night and was probably the stuff of nightmares for some.

It stands to reason that many regional and national “Burns” would pop up all over the world, either in an effort to recreate the original, or as a collective search for whatever-the-hell Burning Man is.

Nowhere takes place in the Castejon de Monegros desert, in the North of Spain. It was started by UK burners, who originally started it all by hosting a large decompression party in 2002. By 2004, it had more or less evolved into the festival it is now. Like Burning Man, camps are often themed (except they’re called Barrios); for example, the central camp is called Middle of Nowhere, which hosts workshops and activities. Nowhere is, for all intents and purposes, the “European Burning Man.” However, unlike Burning Man, the festival is more or less in its unadulterated form. That is to say, no money disputes, no bitterness between old partners, no spots on TV shows, no jaded participants, no P Diddies (and no Puff Daddies either – or, in Spanish, Poof Padre).

Anyways, both me and this dude-with-an-incredibly-cool-name Haroon Chowdry went, and we want to show you what it was like. If you take one thing away from all of this, let it be just one thing: get your ass to Nowhere; we’ll be waiting for you with some Nutella crêpes, a cold Belgian beer, and some good European dancin’ tunes.

In case you get lost and/or in case you urgently need to wear an orange traffic cone as a hat.

Signs showing most of the barrio names, in case you get lost and/or in case you urgently need to wear an orange traffic cone as a hat.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-piano

One of the coolest things about these festivals are the ridiculous things you don’t see. I actually failed to notice this installation the whole time…so, well, I have no idea either.

The super accurate weather forecast. You could more or less count on this all the time - it was literally so hot that the barometer exploded.

The super accurate weather forecast. You could more or less count on this all the time – it was literally so hot that the barometer exploded.

Sentimos, meaning "we feel," and leading to the appropriate question "...what?" We feel hungry? Hot? Apathetic? So excited we can't hide it???

Sentimos, meaning “we feel,” and leading to the appropriate question “…what?” We feel hungry? Hot? Apathetic? So excited we can’t hide it???

A shot of Nowhere in all its tiny glory. Here, you could wander away from someone and run into them again a couple more times that day.

A shot of Nowhere in all its tiny glory. Here, you could wander away from someone and run into them again a couple more times that day.

The hug and the snug, a camp dedicated to...well, you get the idea!

The hug and the snug, a camp dedicated to…well, you get the idea!

NoInfo, where one got all the information about everything, including the migration patterns of coconuts. Also, you could volunteer to make things happen like a boss.

NoInfo, where one got all the information about everything, including the migration patterns of coconuts. Also, you could volunteer to make things happen like a boss.

The 10 Principles of Nowhere

The 10 Principles of Nowhere, and the friendly reminder that we are not a cult!

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-signs

More signs to teach you about things! And a ladder because you should always reach for the stars, kid.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-party-dancing-people-birds-eye

Party party boom boom! (hey, it’s had to write captions sometimes).

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-middle-of-nowhere

Behold, the Middle of Nowhere, a place to fucking sleep becausZzZZZzzzzzzzzz

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-beware-the-hippies

Seriously. They were everywhere.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-stars

A brief moment to talk about the stars. At Burning Man, there’s so much insane LED, EL, on fire lunacy happening that it’s difficult to look anywhere else. Nowhere, being itty bitty, makes it easy to wander off into the desert. There, you can look up and enjoy feeling utterly, completely, and totally insignificant.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-night-time-LED-light-up

That being said, you can always find the festival because of the post-radioactive-party glow that surrounds it.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-tiger-pancakes

I vaguely remember people serving pancakes out of this.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-ubertown

Ubertown! Both a soviet looking wasteland and a good fuckin’party.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-dust-storms

Those of you who have been to Burning Man (or, well, to a desert) know about dust storms. At Burning Man, they can get American-dust-bowl intense. Here, however, they wee mild enough to actually be in without much protection (which I didn’t know, so I simply embraced being over-prepared for a harmless poof of dust, feeling like the kid who couldn’t put his arms down in A Christmas Story .

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-butt-eat-your-art-out

One of the many Barrios, Eat Your Art Out, as well as a perky and anonymous butt.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-danger-quicksand

I did not heed the signs, but I also didn’t see the bike, which is why I faceplanted about a couple inches away.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-daylight-nowhere

What daytime looked like at Nowhere.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-el-chameleon-otto

You’ll notice that the sign right under the sign for the Barrio itself says “Green Beans Forever.” El Chameleon Otto took colors fucking seriously. Each day was a different one, and this included themed costumes, cocktails, decor, music, you name it.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-ubertown-fire-department-party

One of the biggest differences between Burning Man and Nowhere is that Burning Man is built on fire (or rather, destroyed by it). This is possible due to the remote and barren properties of the Black Rock Desert. The Castejon de Monegros desert in Spain, however, is host to many critters and plants, so fire there happens slightly less. HOWEVER, because the dust itself is different, one is able to dispose of liquids more easily.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-garden-of-joy

The Garden of Joy, one of the many Barrios

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-pool-pee-puns-hippies

If you’ve ever been hot (and I know I am, HEEEEY) and you’ve ever been in a pool, you know the two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Poolhaus has a large swimmin’ hole for everyone who needs it (seriously – not a kiddie pool, like a real structure). They also like puns and dislike peeing hippies.

nowhere-festival-spain-zaragoza-burning-man-temple-of-reflection

There is absolutely no way to post this picture and to caption it without sounding like a goddamn hippie, so I’m just going to go for it. Behold, the Temple of Reflection. While smaller and less awe-inspiring than some, you don’t need anything huge to feel at peace.

 

 

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