At the Exit Fest (July 12-16, 2007) you never know what's around the next corner. Quite literally. This year, there were 15 different stages crammed into every conceivable nook and cranny of the vast Petrovaradin fortress complex, which overlooks the Danube River in Novi Sad, Serbia. On Saturday night, a survey of the grounds revealed 30,000 people raving to Frankie Knuckles in a drained moat on one end and Serbian hip-hop group Beogradski Sindikat rocking a home crowd high on a hill on the other, with everything from Balkan death metal to gypsy folk to drum & bass in between. To some, the number of different genres represented will come as less of a surprise than the fact that there's a festival here at all. Serbia and the Balkans are still fixed in many people's minds as a former war zone following the brutal conflicts that tore the former Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s. While Exit was borne out of that era–beginning as a protest against Slobodan Milosevic in 2000–it has since become one of the largest festivals in Europe and is emblematic of the new spirit of hope in a region genuinely rising from the ashes.
Speaking of finding things in unusual corners of Eastern Europe, XLR8R also checked out the second year of the Garden Festival (July 6-8) in Croatia. Although this country's beautiful coastline means its tourism industry has recovered quicker than that of its former enemy, it's hardly the first place you'd expect to find this kind of boutique festival. Dwarfed by Exit in size, but certainly not in atmosphere, Croatia's first international dance music festival drew a few thousand people, who danced al fresco to nu-jazz stalwarts Mr. Scruff, Rainer Truby, and Domu in the fishing village of Petrcane, and set sail on boat parties as the sun set on the glistening Adriatic–and, hopefully, the Balkans' troubled history.