Burning Bär 2016 = 300 Burner, one winter weekend, one castle … yep, sounds like a lot of fun! Think of “Eyes Wide Shut” meets “Budapest Hotel”. A story of our protagonists Janina and Jimmy* (*all names of occurring characters were changed by the editors).
Janina: “Rainbow tutu? Check! Princess crown? Check! Unicorn hat and scarf? Double-check! Alright, time to go, everything important is stowed. This is going to be my first contact with a Burning Man inspired event (so-called Burning Man Regional), and full of excited drive and curiosity I already went there by myself on Wednesday. This also had the background that I belonged to the build crew, therefore having the opportunity to already contribute to this great event as a ‘virgin’, according to No. 9 of the Burning Man principles – Participation.
Got out in Bitterfeld, where a buddy picked me up and kindly drove me the last metres to the castle by car. Could not resist the Piccolo on the way. Piccolo Rotkäppchen dry of course. Yes, I am a Berliner.
With slight heart palpitations I arrived at the castle and was warmly greeted with a tight hug. 10 crew members were already present, who lovingly received me upon arrival. I stored my belongings in the hall on the 1st floor and got to work. This subdued the excitement and you immediately felt welcome and like you belong.”
Janina: “Sleep was excellent and our room was really nice – we even had a private bathroom in our castle room … as is fitting for a princess!
Throughout the day I put my carpentry skills to work and, very anti-princess-like, helped to construct the wooden bear statue together with the Effigy Team. If you work 9-to-5 in front of a screen, it is a great experience working and creating just with your own hands. I like wood, it’s an organic and ‘warm’ material, not as cold and dead as metal. Seeing your work at the end of the day, created in the face of sweat, provides a deep satisfaction. Maybe I’ll quit my job and become a full-time princess in my self-built wooden castle. Yes, we girls are emancipated nowadays. But nevertheless I keep an eye out for my prince on the white horse … ”
Jimmy: “We were lucky, the car rental company had just one last car matching our requirements: a white Audi A4 Avant. White is not quite my color, for me it’s black, but whatever, the cart was fast and offered us plenty of space for our equipment … so we speeded down the highway towards Beesenstedt, Castle Beesenstedt. We wanted to get the last ferry which would have brought us from Wettin across the river Saale – that would have saved us a considerable amount of time. But we geared down because that would only be possible at a mad pace. A fortunate choice for us, because shortly after a near-accident occurred. We did not want to imagine what might have happened if we had driven faster. So we were on the right track, and we arrived at the castle, relaxed and happy, late at night. And a little excited. I knew it from the past, but secretly I wondered what it would look like after the transformation.
My expectations were met, the Deco team had done a great job. Especially the Liebe-Bar was decorated with many details, so that suddenly I got into flirt mode und felt like unbuttoning my shirt. But first things first, let’s greet the entire team … man, we were all in a fucking epic mood. As the saying goes: anticipation is the greatest joy. And that was practically overflowing in us; the immaculate castle was facing three days of madness, that began exactly NOW 🙂
But let’s settle in first. Got a cozy quad room which I shared with my friends. In fact these three lucky ducks made the decision super last minute, and actually all had found someone who would sell their ticket. These had been sold out for some time. Incredible. I thanked the universe for this grand gesture. What could be better than to be with your/one’s friends in such a wicked place?”
Jimmy: “The sun woke me up this Friday morning, it was a wonderful start to the weekend and to our event … I got up excited and realized that I had slept like a stone. It was very quiet here, almost spooky. Only when I opened the window did the frantic and euphoric voices from the ballroom swell up to me from below.
That was a glorious moment. Like a king I gazed loftily out from my castle into the distance of my kingdom. The sun seemed to meet me benevolent, the invigorating spring air caressed my scantily clad body and the people’s pleasurable laughter from the ballroom down below hinted that the virgin party is ready, willingly and eagerly laying in front of us and should not remain in this unsatisfied state for long – so let the fun begin, time to present yourself as a man of the people. 😉 But first, onto the breakfast banquet.
Breakfast was generous and not to beat regarding diversity, quite my style. Life is good at this castle, I’d move in here straightaway. But after this cozy idleness it was time to shift up two gears, at 16:00 the gates should be opened officially.”
In the afternoon everything got hectic. The official admission was at 16:00, the excitement grew, and then the whole thing started. The first guests were promptly welcomed, of course not without ritual: embracing, dancing, changing or undressing – everything was allowed. And everybody was welcomed (No. 1 Radical Inclusion). If you had a ticket of course. The main thing was to make sure to each other that we jointly break into the unknown, start a common journey, so to enter the unusual and to leave the mundane behind. Together.
Volunteers made sure that the people were led to their rooms, so that no one got lost in this huge building. Previously, all participants had been asked with whom they want to spend the days and nights together the most. We could not have imagined the course of the next two days being any more harmonious. A great praise at this point goes to Lukas who has mastered this task and particular job extremely well. Burners are another kind of people, there was a joyful excitement and energy as in a sixth form school trip: the prospect of sharing the attic with 20 people in a community space was just wonderful instead of feeling stressful.
Next stop for all who did not bring costumes, or have not been able to find something suitable, was the Costume Camp. This offer would enable everyone to implement the 3rd, 4th and 5th principle – Decommodification, Radical self-reliance and Radical Self-expression. Roseanna, the benevolent soul of the camp, not only handed out her collected treasures, but advised all the guests in a fashion-like manner. Due to the high number of virgins her opinion was in great demand. Afterwards you got the right makeup done by more enthusiastic Burners that assisted Roseanna. Then even the last visitor was fully attuned to the event.
In the PHOTO BOOTH, which also was part of the Costume Camp, you could finally be photographed to keep the result as a beautiful memory of this weekend.
The dinner was scheduled at 20:00. For the first time you could admire the collection of all these illustrious guests, nicely lined up in a buffet line: Wow. So many beautiful and creatively designed people and costumes. Simply impressive.
Photos: Manolo Ty
Jimmy: “At the buffet we then discovered our secret star, Maria. Djane for 20 years, a firm institution in the world of techno and surrounded by a fascinating aura more than ever. Unbelievable to have her here, normally she is jetting all over the world … so we welcomed her warmly and thanked her in advance for the generosity of her upcoming contribution. She laughed about that in an amused manner. Of course she is a Leo. Mighty and generous plus a good portion of humor. So it was not difficult to get into conversation with her, a real Burner without big airs … super curious what kind of set she is dropping tomorrow!”
The buffet was similarly varied and as diverse as the breakfast. You just had to grab a bite of everything, one dish looked more exciting than the other. Luckily after, there was a dinner show, as no one was able to get up within the next 30 minutes. Roseanna played a classical music duet with Steffi. Some of the visitors were very happy about it because it was a felicitous and matching contrast to the music that was played otherwise. The closing of the show should be the voting of the Miss Burning Bear. The selection was a colorful mix of Burners, women and men. And as in any other decent beauty contest, dirty tricks were part of this one. 😉
Jimmy: “Dan from San Francisco took the title. When asked how he would change the world, he replied: “Everyone who is coming to Burning Man this year, can crash in advance at my place!”- The hall burst into a thunderous applause and transformed within seconds into a wild mob! The other candidates were simply swept out of the hall by the sea of enthusiastic calls. Oh dear Americans, if there’s one thing you’ve got down, it’s show business 🙂 I love it!
After that it was celebrated boisterous. Especially the Liebe-Bar marched unexpectedly into the center of attention. I left my DJ mixer there, which animated our guests to become active … all of a sudden we had a completely organized lineup of DJs who wanted to play spontaneously here the first night. Simply amazing! Yes, Participation! Since the Liebe-Bar was right next to the sauna, people came over from there and suddenly the dance floor was full of naked people dancing, a small peak and good start into the weekend. We could also feel the enthusiasm of the guests in the ballroom during the cabaret, people were fire and flame to perform spontaneously also here.
And in the ballroom, the party went on. The party drew me in like a black hole, from here my memories got more and more dark and misty. Wow, the girl with the rainbow tutu is insanely cute … and all these colors! … Did I already talked to her or not? And didn’t she wear something else before? Damn memory, it’s not the time for failures now …”
Janina: “Friday night I got more and more excited because I thought: “actually I don’t feel like having so many people around here. With the 20 confidants it was just beautiful. But a short time later I felt okay with the crowd and I enjoyed mingling.
Over the day I had my dress embellished with el-wire and was able to wear my neat black overknees … but after dancing wildly in the Liebe-Bar it got very, very hot and I hopped into my beautiful rainbow tutu. And then I discovered this sweet guy. Oh là là, now he has also discovered me. My rainbow tutu and me did not fail to have the desired effect, we flirted across the whole dance floor. And then he came up to me.
Mmm, a pleasure to meet you, but I fancy a moscow mule first … and I do not want to make this too easy for you darling. The game is ON! So I gave him another intense look, so he would not forget me and then disappeared quickly to the bar. Self-service. Perfect. The mixture would taste terrific. Cucumbers as well, gorgeous. So back to the dance floor. But where’s the guy?”
Jimmy: “While yesterday I woke up appropriate like a king in a castle and had been gently kissed awake by the sun, today life gave me a hefty smack for breakfast. PAAATZ! Painfully I recalled last night’s revels, although, no, that is not true, only some scraps of memory were drifting aimlessly in my head … some parts of the association table of my memory where just lacking to grab certain remembrance blocks. I had no ambitions to continue researching here, even thinking caused pain. Wait, there was something … a girl, a mission, a colorful dress, a, a … ouch, my head!
Whatever. At least the sun was shining like yesterday, the only bright spot this morning.
Eventually I managed to open my second eye, and after some resuscitation I could even move my paralyzed legs (which were barely perfused through an adventurous sleeping position). First mission of the day: onto the bathroom! Luckily our room was opposite the shared bathroom.
The shared bathroom was literally the wet dream of an interior designer, it’s positively swanky with its lavish size. The most striking feature were the two tubes, T-shaped in the center, with enough space between them. Huge mirrors adorned the walls, there was a shared shower, half a football team could simultaneously take a shower (but only 2 sprinklers). The whole was complemented by a beautiful ‘70s look. I found it even more appealing than the bathroom with a jacuzzi on the top floor of the castle, which somehow with its orange and white color scheme reminded me of “The Shining” by Stephen King.
So I sleepily opened the door and stepped in. Already one step too much. I stepped directly into a huge puddle, and the cold water immediately reactivated all my senses and woke me up completely. I realized that the entire bath was flooded … water was everywhere, water splashes on the walls, on the windows, on the mirrors, even on the ceiling. What the hell had happened here?
The question was answered by a red bra, which remained alone hanging from a towel hook. With its pattern it had the same ‘70s flair as the luxurious and now sunlit bathroom. While I stared dumbfounded at him, mentally falling into the comfortable armchair of my obscene head-cinema with a large bag of popcorn, it seemed as if the bra would talk to me. “Yes, was pretty cool here. I think my panties still ride around the castle as headgear of some weirdo – hope they come back to me … but anyway, where were you?
Unbelievable. UN-BE-LIEVABLE! Our room is directly opposite, how the hell could I miss that? I stopped abruptly the reel of my mental cinema, I didn’t want to imagine in too much detail what exactly I could have missed … but then I relaxed. I said to myself: “It was just the first night, there is still a shitload of excitement waiting for you. And do a few of these great workshops that are offered.”
So first then back down into the ballroom for breakfast.
Also here, the sun let the ballroom shine in its entire splendor.
The breakfast was very delicious and extensive as it was the day before. Since you develop a superhuman hunger after a boozy session, I stuffed myself full with all the delights. The catering team were real professionals, gratefully I discovered the pickled herring – simply the best medicine in my situation and for all the other zombies that found themselves down here coming back to life again. The hall was filled, it was a pleasant and sociable together as in a Viennese coffee house. The excited laughter suggested the crazy things of yesterday; I would liked to know on which table the bathroom group sat and caught myself that I actually was looking after something red.
While looking out of the window into the courtyard of the castle, you could see that the Effigy troop was in full swing to make the Burning Bear ready, which will burn tonight. Then a food coma overcame me, and luckily I made it back to my room to backfill my lack of sleep from the night before.”
Janina: “I didn’t even have to bring my Tutu, there was a workshop on Saturday at 13:00 – “craft your own tutu”. Unbelievable how much tulle you need for this. More than two hours we sat together and it was a very relaxed atmosphere. Because you tinker for so long you could briskly exchange with the other participants. The Polyamoric Speed dating afterwards I did as well … unfortunately no prince here 😉 Also not the guy from yesterday … he’s probably hiding in the cellar” I thought. “Then I have tried the Juggling Workshop (easier than you think) and also the dance workshop by Steffi. Finally, I made the bodypainting with UV color … why did I not come up with that idea first?! It was very pleasant that you were able to talk to everyone about all these exciting workshops. For me, it was a truly fulfilling afternoon!”
Jimmy: “When I woke up again, it was a good time to check out the wellness program of the castle. To get started, I participated in ‘the human car wash’. That is also known from Burning Man or Afrikaburn. First you give, then you get. Participation, again! All round clean and washed, I then finally enjoyed the sauna of the castle, and sweated out all the toxins of the previous night. Mmmmmh, THAT feels better. And right after I ran into the group of four who were gifting these nice Burning Bär shot glasses with Sambuca (No. 2 Gifting). For the sake of detox I drank water with them.
In the basement I found my friends again. There was a discussion and contact space where we talked with the other Burners … it’s always nice to meet like-minded people and synchronize the philosophies of life – we shared many unanimously. But I wanted to switch off a little bit more and watched Kathrin’s great and quiet artwork down below, which also was a bit hidden. Quasi a walkable installation of a similar design to the principle of a Zen garden. The seclusion and tranquility let me meditate for 20 minutes without any disturbance. I rested again complete in myself. My condition from the morning seemed light years away in the past.”
At 20:00 everyone gathered again for dinner, which exceeded the one from the previous day, if this was possible. But not all had come in this delight, because at 8 o’clock also the ’ORGY FOR BEGINNERS’ began. That should go on for 4 hours and you could not join later in order to preserve and retain certain a degree of familiarity and intimacy.
Janina: “The cabaret was opened this time by Kaya, who shared one of her beautiful poems:”
Hey, you, space oddities, alien fucks,
Beasts and beauties
Space oddities waiting for takeoff
Yesterday our fleet landed
Silver and red
Reeking of rust,
oil and burned rubber,
This place smells of balls, sex and dreams
and those overpriced breath mints
I look at you
– a glitter of interest
I wonder about you
Who are you?
What are you?
– you’re beautiful.
You know that I love you.
I’d tear your eyes out of your head
And drill them
Into my own skull
So that I could fly through your sight
See the stars as I did when I was a bright-eyed kid your age,
I love you.
But you drink as if you’re drowning
You’re not actors, you’re celebrities –
Let’s be clear about that
I’m going to kill you
Haunted by your hardon
I love you.
I love you all.
I love the mad ones,
like roman candles blinding light.
Their furious passion’s insatiate seeking
glowing cinders in the ashen night.
I love the quiet ones,
their sparkling darkness,
with secrets hiding underneath their skin.
The deepness in their silence shining,
I long to drown myself within.
I love the undecided.
Those wanting all but daring naught.
Those living a continuous flicker,
minds wavering forever caught.
In twilight and ambiguous thought.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT?
Do you know what you’re doing?
With your life?
With your love?
Look at you all glitter and glam
Well shaved and well armored
Inside and out
Your hearts must be
shiny and slick
nothing will stick
hear how they tick
tick tick tick tick
space – a lie of purity
shiny silence seducing ourselves.
Our ships fall like autumn leaves.
We swirl through the spirals of our lives.
Those who survive,
keep the beauty of the movement,
tinned air feels like warm milk.
suffocating in perfection
yet inside these stars are hollow and sick
As tiredness joins desperation our sun
Yet the comets pearl like laughter
as the world stands still
like a three year old girl
with her its eyes shut tight,
to be kissed.
Kissed by who-ever comes first.
Our stars are uncountable flat screens
Projecting our longings
Will you kiss me?
Will you love me?
Will you cherish me?
Will you fuck me?
First you will fuck me.
Then you’ll fuck me over.
Then you’ll fuck off.
Of course I will kill you.
And then you will then kiss me
And we will walk on wet asphalt in the bluish- white glare of empty storefronts
We’ve left early yet always too late
Bobbing along like abandoned balloons
Empty bottles crack under our footsteps
Like the carcasses of insects, the 7th plague
A traffic light screams red
Red like the puddles
My thighs are bloodied
My spring sacrifice
Night, sex and wetness
And third-hand smoke
Your sweat like sweet liquor
Crystallizes on my tongue
Poem by Monika Katharina Hagg
This was followed by a stunning aesthetic-acrobatic insert with a hula hoop. The first musical part was given by trumpeter Miguel and the Hang player Gaspar, who was also responsible for the cabaret as a whole … although I have heard the sound of the Hang somewhere before, I have never had seen the thing before – fascinating. Just as their interaction. Next up was a burlesque couple who turned the classic order upside down: the woman came on stage almost naked and little by little she got dressed again. No less fascinating.”
Monique from the US Burners and Burning Man Member was recognized as the highlight, but she was still on the Händel birthday concert (more than 400 singers of an international compound choir sing the Messiah by Händel, a must for any singer) in Halle which lasted a little longer. But brave singers from the audience were found spontaneously who came together and performed a few songs were for bridging the gap.
Janina: “That was THE moment of the weekend for me. Besides the minute-long embrace with a complete stranger after tutu workshop. In this moment I recognized the hall as a whole. At each table were people of different ages, from all possible parts of Europe and America, women, men, transgender. And not only their physical appearance could not be more different, their costumes were so diverse and each so wonderful: it sparkled, it shone and glittered from all the tables. And so different all may be, at that moment everyone was focused on the one thing: to spend a fantastic night together, and everyone, yes, really every single person in the room took an active part in it, whether they sang themselves or gave acclamation and applause for the singers. My heart was cheering like never before … ”
And then she came. Monique’s live performance of classic jazz standards grabbed the already energetic mood and together they raised it even higher. Gaspar and Miguel accompanied Monique (and everyone else) on this trip, and together they floated for a while in the completely full ballroom. If you have been there, you can tell without having a bad conscience something kitsch like: Yes, that was an unforgettable evening.
But the real highlight was still to come … on which we were heading strongly around 23:00, the Burn of the Bär! The Effigy crew had done a great job and built a handsome bear. For safety, we have also invited the local fire department who looked amazed and amused that bunch of loving freaks, about to set this art installation on fire (No. 07, Civic Responsibility). Roseanne turned 50 this night, and was pleased by this oversized birthday candle.
Photos: Manolo Ty
When the flames rose at the highest in the cold air this February night, it was time for the naked dancers and runners, according to the Burning Man tradition. Anyone who has experienced a real fire, knows what intense heat is generated and did not ask himself whether the dancers would probably freeze. Quite the contrary. The group dynamics ensured that all held hands and walked in circles, ritual games from a bygone era. Suddenly you were aware that you do not necessarily need a desert with 80,000 people to celebrate a burn. 300 people in a castle in the winter in Germany has the same magical effect. Rather even intimate, after two days everyone knew everyone here.
Jimmy: “My friend and me had caught the slot in which the bear burned. We started, and soon after everybody ran out into the courtyard to the effigy. We as well did not want to miss that spectacle, was an awesome burn! The group dynamic was incredible. I also felt like ripping off my clothes and running naked around the fire … but I had other commitments: because at some point, yes at some point they all would return, a little chilled and charged through the final ritual … the best thing a DJ can hope for, and they ran directly on our dance floor. Hypnotized by the fire, hungry for the night, ready to fully let go. A feast for any performer. Of course they were given the full package of us. Hell yeah!
And then it came. THE moment. The moment where the sum and totality of the joy, excitement and love of that weekend was squeezed into this one room, and it wandered in the form of pure energy from one to another. Just by the looks of people who beamed each other, abounding of happiness and overflowing emotions – and the room bursted at the seams because of the abundance of these pure and cosmic energy and love, and I thanked the universe (again) for this moment of ultimate happiness here and now to share with my friends. HALLELUJAH!
The main act came right after us, for our headliner Maria we prepared the dancers’ bodies according to be now getting catapulted to the next dimension. Yep, MADNESS! At its finest. What. A. Night.
We are looking for the others sets, please send them in to complete this playlist!
On Sunday almost nobody wanted to leave. The last two days had welded together this group in such a way that everyone wished for another day or two … but the Default World and the ever-popular Monday were calling mercilessly at us and our positive heated souls. But it should not end that simply, Lisa from the UK Burners spontaneously initiated the ‘sharing circle’. All the participants could conclusively share their thoughts and feelings about the burn with the others.
Jimmy: “The ‘sharing circle’ was just right, otherwise that would have been missing. Firstly it was of course interesting to find out what experiences the other Burner had. And then this great feeling that all experienced a similar shift in mind and exhilaration, in the form of experiences, happenings, conversations or other things, and it was a collective experience. Well, and then it was time to say goodbye, back to the Default World. Whatever. I’ll be back next year.”
Janina: “I stayed until Monday and Sunday night was really nice, we were sitting on the sofas in front of the fireplace and drank wine. Went to the sauna and had made it comfy by the fire, all under one blanket, and you could extensively talk with the remaining dozen. It could not have been any better …
Well, two more days would have been terrific ;-)”
It was a very, very nice Burning Bär 2016. But there were also some things which can be improved. It was very hard work getting the last people to leave the castle. We know you liked it, but at some point also the most beautiful party ends. Please respect this, because we had to leave the castle on Monday in perfect condition. Which brings us to the next time point: Mooping (Moop = Matter Out Of Place) and Leaving No Trace (No.8). A lot of garbage was left behind. Burn events are distinguished by the fact that exactly the opposite is the case and it does not look like after a Glastonbury Festival. To emphasize the importance of all the principles, we have written most of them into this article again. Understanding and applying is the basis of these events – Be part of it! Here again the overview:
The 10 Principles of Burning Man:
01. Radical Inclusion
04. Radical Self-reliance
05. Radical Self-expression
06. Communal Effort
07. Civic Responsibility
08. Leaving No Trace
Afrikaburn adds another one:
11. Each One Teach One
We all can do better, and we can have just equally the fun as when many participants apply these principles. We could have even more fun, because it’s a cycle: the more good you add, the more you get back.
We look forward to the next time, and we look forward to you!
Did you enjoy our burn story? Like us on Facebook, use our RSS or subscribe to our newsletter to get the next update. The next adventures are already looking around the corner … we went to Afrikaburn in April, and upcoming are 5 articles with our journey, the photos, maybe a video and the interview with one of the 5 founders of Afrikaburn, Lil Black, as well as a feature with Michael Kennedy and But Corpaci, the men behind the Spirit Train.