It was this very day last year: June 7, 2019. The first day of the latest (hopefully not the final) edition of Rock am Ring (RAR), the world-renowned rock music festival in Germany. It was one of the best rock fest experiences I have ever had. Because it is not happening in 2020, I want to share my experience both to pay tribute to RAR and offer a guide for potential participants of the event in 2021 and the coming years.
This year, like scores of other public events, Rock am Ring has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So basically, RAR2020 will be missing from the 35-year history of the legendary rock festival.
For ticket holders of RAR2020, the organizers are offering the option to swap their ticket for 2021’s Rock am Ring, which will probably happen, unless there is another deadly global outbreak or a world war. Just make sure you notify them by June 10, 2020.
Easy Travel By Train And Shuttle
The festival takes place in Nürburgring, which is a massive complex used as a motor racing circuit and has a capacity of 150,000 people. So if you are “directionally-challenged” like me, you better make use of the map on the brochure they give you to find your way.
There are three stages set up for bands to perform: Volcano Stage, Alternastage, and Beck’s Crater Stage.
You can travel to Nürburgring by car, or you can take a nice train ride to Koblenz (or Ahrbrück, Koblenz Hbf, Cologne Hbf or Bonn Hbf), watching gorgeous views of the Rhine river through your window, and then get in the line outside a Rock am Ring office to hop on a shuttle that will take you to the festival area.
For a non-German attendee, the festival staff is pretty welcoming, despite the fact that you don’t really encounter any signs that were written in English. That huge encyclopedia-like book titled “25 Years of Rock am Ring” they hand out to you along with other gifts at the entrance is also in German.
So if you go there without a German-speaking company, you may have to walk around to find someone who speaks English and ask them for help or guidance.
The Rhine river. Photo: G. Hilal Stellmach (Aygun)
Special Gifts For ‘Experience Camping’
The other cute items they give you come in a clear shoulder bag that bears a RAR logo. It contains a plastic rain poncho (you will probably need it, because it will probably rain at some point,) ear plugs (you won’t need them if you are a rocker and used to music at a high volume,) a large RAR banner (not sure what you would do with that,) a nice black RAR hat, and a little “festival kit” with a toothbrush and toothpaste, band-aids, a condom and… wait for it… a small pack of “antibacterial hand sanitizer”! And this was almost a year before the coronavirus pandemic. That I would call foresight!
Before I forget, you need to make sure you are wearing your armbands at all times as festival staff will be checking those every time you enter the concert area.
The crowd in front of the main stage during Slipknot’s performance at Rock am Ring 2019. Photo: G. Hilal Stellmach (Aygun)
Over 70 Bands On Three Stages
Including big names, a total of 74 bands performed on three stages from June 7-9, 2019.
For me, the stars of RAR 2019 were Godsmack (which was amazing in every way, including that mind-blowing drum performance by its lead singer Sully Erna) and Slipknot (that drove the crowd crazy as usual.)
But of course, others could say Slayer (which was definitely a must-see with all their flame shows and all), Tool (even though it was below my expectations,) Smashing Pumpkins (always a classic,) Alice in Chains (featuring William Bradley DuVall, who replaced legendary Layne Staley 14 years ago as the lead singer after he died in 2002,) Eagles of Death Metal (which I failed to see because I was watching Slipknot on the Volcano Stage at that time,) or Behemoth.
Dropkick Murphys and Jack Black’s Tenacious D were also definitely worth watching. And I’m glad that I got to see the decades-old German punk band Die Ärzte (The Doctors) live.
Tents in the camping area at Rock am Ring 2019. Photo: G. Hilal Stellmach (Aygun)
‘Experience Camping’ Lodges Are The Best
We stayed in a tiny but cozy lodge in the “Experience Camping” area. It had a comfy bed, sheets, blankets and pillows, two hanging closets, one on each side of the door, for your belongings, an outlet where you can charge your devices, a safe, and even its own little porch outside. Of course, they didn’t forget to include a portable table and two chairs which you can throw on your porch to enjoy some fresh air.
There are also areas of Caravan Camping, Green Camping, as well as Rock N’ Roll Camping, where you can stay in tents. They also designated parking areas for each camping option within walking distance of where you are camping.
Despite the fact that it is a little expensive, I would recommend Experience Camping, which is much more comfortable and pretty close to the main stage. It also gives you access to a separate fast lane towards the Volcano Stage. Free WiFi access comes with it, as well as its own lounge, bars, catering, and self-service grill stations.
Aside from lodges, Experience Camping provides a tent section within the same area and the same distance of the main stage.
Experience Camping area at Rock am Ring 2019. Photo: G. Hilal Stellmach (Aygun)
There were two public jacuzzis some people were using, while we were there. Obviously, it doesn’t sound like a very good idea especially after the coronavirus crisis experience we’ve all had.
But don’t worry, they also have public showers, which you don’t have to use “publicly” (unlike the jacuzzis), as well as open sinks, where you can brush your teeth or wash your face and hands. Their toilets are clean and well-maintained.
I should also hand it to the staff for perfectly attending to the needs of the festival audience. In our case, we had a loose metal rod that was hitting the roof of our lodge at night because of the wind, which made it hard for us to sleep. So we asked an employee for help in the morning and the problem was gone by the time we got back from the concert area just a few hours later.
A food stand for vegans at Rock am Ring 2019. Photo: G. Hilal Stellmach (Aygun)
Vegan-Friendly Rock Fest
If you pay a little extra upfront, you can get in the line in front of a breakfast stand every morning to get your first meal of the day, which is pretty satisfying.
And for the rest of the day, you can rely on a variety of food stands where you can buy things like pizza, burgers, crêpes, fries, hot dogs and ice cream, as well as beer and soft drinks.
Plus, I have good news for vegans. They can stop worrying about their diet the whole time they spend here, if they know where to go. “World Food Trip” is the label you should be looking for among the signs on top of the food stands in the festival area.
Even though I’m not a vegan, during the three days I stayed there, I got addicted to their amazing vegan burgers served with a special sauce.
Ferris wheel and other attractions at Rock am Ring 2019. Photo: G. Hilal Stellmach (Aygun)
Ferris Wheel Fans, Over Here!
While you are walking around the festival zone, you will come across a lot of attractions like a Ferris wheel, from which you can take perfect photos of the whole area. There are also lots of fun rides, but make sure you hold on tight!
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