hidden europe 10

The Polish Woodstock

by Nicky Gardner


hidden europe visits Europe's largest rock festival, Przystanek Woodstock, at Kostrzyn in Poland. Overshadowed by more well-known events, like Roskilde and Glastonbury, the Kostrzyn festival helps perpetuate a tradition inaugurated at Woodstock in the USA in 1969.

The summer now drawing to a close has been a memorable one for much of Europe. A super-abundance of hot sunny days with a full dose of football fever. In England, just one thing was missing: the Glastonbury festival. What is summer without Glastonbury's traditional mix of performing arts, mud and good music? The evergreen festival took sabbatical leave in 2006, giving those still drying out from 2005's rain soaked event in the Vale of Avalon the chance to sample some of Europe's other musical happenings. It is not the first time that Glastonbury has had a year out. Since the first Glastonbury festival in 1970 (attended by 1500 people, each paying a one pound admission fee, which included free milk from the local farm), there have been twenty five festivals at Glastonbury. Last year, 153,000 punters paid the equivalent of €180 each for the event.

Glastonbury is probably the best known of the many rock festivals that each year pick up a tradition initiated on a damp August afternoon in 1969 when African-American folk singer Richie Havens kicked off the Woodstock Festival with 'High Flyin' Bird'. By the time Havens had finished his fourth number, 'Strawberry Fields Forever', and moved on to 'Hey! Jude', Woodstock had caught the media's attention as the focal point of a vibrant counter-culture. That is a tradition that has been strongly maintained by Glastonbury and many of Europe's other leading festivals. This year, the Roskilde festival in Denmark, and Exit at the impressive Petrovaradin Fortress overlooking the Danube at Novi Sad in northern Serbia, both notched up record numbers of attendees. As did Woodstock's Polish successor. Though little known in western Europe, 'Przystanek Woodstock', is by a long chalk Europe's largest music festival - and it's free! This year, the Polish town of Kostrzyn played host to over 450,000 rock fans for a couple of days in late July. hidden europe was there.

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