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All together now

Tom Hodgkinson relishes the prospect of carefree days in a field

Festivals are pure pleasure. For three days, or longer if we’re lucky, all we have to worry about is which field or stage or bar to wander to next. For three days, we can drink, take drugs, lie around, stare at the sky, talk, listen to music, sing, dance, eat or do whatever we like without worrying about the consequences or what people will think. Everyone knows that festivals are not really about the bands. What they are about is a suspension of everyday realities: no work, no worries, no rushing. For three days, we are no longer bourgeois wage-slaves, we are freewheeling bohemian dreamers. All the rules that govern our normal world evaporate. Festivals mean freedom.

At the festival, something strange happens to time. We no longer respect the difference between day and night; they blend into one. The great thing about Glastonbury in particular is that it’s at midnight, when the bands have all stopped, that the real fun begins. That’s when you wander round in the darkness, looking for campfires, looking for kicks; that’s when things become other-worldly, when strange and wonderful figures appear out of the shadows. It’s the time of the chance encounter, of watching the sun rise, of sitting on a standing stone.

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How it got hip: Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

Six years ago Nato bombs were raining on Belgrade – today the city is at the cutting edge of cool. To the jaded palates of today’s jet-setters, being in a recent war zone adds a distinct frisson to any city’s appeal. There’s a vicarious shiver of danger, even if the reality is completely safe.

But Serbia’s troubled past has actually helped shape Belgrade into the hotspot it is today. During the Milosevic years, liberals hung about in clandestine bars, and many have remained to form the basis of the city’s exciting bar culture. Others were so-called ‘hobby bars’ set up during the war in people’s flats to help get cheaper access to alcohol. Ben Akiba, in an apartment block, is the pick of the formerly secret bars. In cellars under the fortress, Anderground attracts big-name international DJs.

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