Travel chaos tarnishes party for festival-goers at Lollapalooza in Berlin

Crowds of thousands of people were left angry at the end of Lollapalooza, a major music festival on the outskirts of Berlin, after transport logjam led to many of them waiting several hours before they could return home.

Travel chaos tarnishes party for festival-goers at Lollapalooza in Berlin
Crowds of people at Berlin's Hoppegarten subway station. Photo: DPA.

On the way home from Lollapalooza on the eastern outskirts of Berlin on Saturday and early in the morning on Sunday, 30 festival-goers suffered from circulatory problems, with some collapsing. There were tight crowds and public transport delays at the popular music festival.

Lollapalooza organizer Tommy Nick said people who needed attention had been given water and glucose by paramedics. Police reported that there were no serious injuries or life-threatening situations.

The event team of the two-day music festival on Sunday expressed regret on Twitter over the incident. They praised festivalgoers for remaining calm, yet apologized for “how long it took for many of you to get back.”

Át the end of the festival’s first day, around 3,000 people had been waiting in or in front of the Hoppegarten subway station at 1:00am, according to a Deutsche Bahn spokesperson. The platform was crowded for hours, extending what would normally take about one hour to reach central Berlin to up to four hours.

Emergency services also had trouble locating people who needed help due to the crowds. Some people were even asking the police for water.

As irritation amongst the large group of people grew, some visitors decided to takes buses instead due to the long lineups at the nearest subway station. But the shuttle buses were also completely full and delayed.

Festivalgoers took to social media to complain about disturbing scenes in the crowd, long waiting times on public transport and blocked exits at the festival.

Some festival exits remained closed to prevent overcrowding, leaving many visitors questioning why they weren’t allowed out.

On her way to the second day of Lollapalooza, one women in the subway described her experience the night before as “really unpleasant.”

“Imagine you were claustrophobic, you'd go crazy,” she said.

But Nick rejected accusations that departure for visitors was badly organized. Trains were arranged to arrive every 10 minutes instead of the normally scheduled 20 minutes and longer trains were used, he said.  

According to DPA though, at one point people had to wait almost an hour before the next S-Bahn train to Berlin arrived.

Circulatory problems or weaknesses are not unusual at events of this kind, Nick argued. This often happens at festivals because “people have been on their feet all day and may be a bit dehydrated,” he said.

Chaos during departure isn’t the only thing that overshadowed the first day of the festival.

Visitors arriving on Saturday were also inconvenienced by traffic and planning problems, for which Lollapalooza’s event team also apologized.

85,000 people were expected to attend the American indie, pop, rock, hip hop and electronic festival in Berlin this year.  

In 2016, there were 70,000 attendees at the sold out Lollapalooza Berlin festival. Last year’s edition took place at a location closer to central Berlin in Treptower Park.

The first edition of Lollapalooza Berlin in 2015 also took place in another location in central Berlin.

There were no reports of tight crowds and chaos departing either of the Lollapalooza instalments in the capital city last year and the previous year. 

For members


EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.