Saturday Night at CCC2015

It is around 11pm on the third day of hacker camp, and the Quadrature du Thee (Camp), beloved center of social, political, and hacker camp wellness, is packed whith people chatting, singing, and napping by the dim lights on each low to the ground table. It is here at this oasis of comfy cushions and no shoes that I present an idea friends and I have put into effect in previous gatherings like this one. An embassy/consulate/village tour; a late night adventure to visit as many nationalities and interest groups as possible, to greet them heartily, and as often as possible, to consume their national products while taking in the intricacies of their inventions. Uninvited guests bringing goodwill, and upon departure, appealing for that group to send a delegate to be part of the tour.
4 years ago, together with friends from 2600 (the Hacker Quarterly) we carried out such a tour which resulted in an eclectic group of new friends forming and dancing/drinking all over camp all night long. Would it be possible to repeat such a feat this year, with everyone seemingly so tired and the camp being so large? We were going to find out.

The tower at C-Base by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro CC-BY-SA 4.0

It was some special people from Berlin who volunteered to take on the challenge. This group of dynamic observers of society and human behavior, assembled as the core group of what would hopefully become a parade of fun. Stepping out of the tea zone, past the booming sounds of C-Base with their shining antenna, we approached some small tents where two gentlemen were busy preparing a 4 wheeled mini vehicle which seemed to be carrying some kind of liquor complete with shot glasses. Looming over their tents were Danish flags, but upon greeting them as possible Danes, they replied that in fact this was the Finnish embassy and this robot-vehicle is their creation and the licorice liquor was for sampling. The tour took a shot, praised their ingenuity and ventured further into the tent to try out the “Run a powerplant” game-art installation — another Finnish invention. Several of our team took on the challenge, but within minutes an ominous sounding alarm blared and smoke billowed from the tent. A dry-ice manufactured meltdown, we had pressed the wrong button.

After wishing the Finns well, and failing to get them to come with us, we ventured into the brightly lit Danish embassy, where we were greeting by gentlemen who seemed hard at work, but relished an opportunity to show us some of their light, liquid, and behavioral experiments. (do not push this button) Snaaps was consumed, and after fantastic conversations, 3 Danes joined the group, with fresh ideas about what embassies to visit and other diplomatic activities. Their insider knowledge took us through an obstacle course through the mysteriously empty Swedish embassy — all out partying, it seemed. Onwards through secret passages, over and under wires, til we arrived at the Norwegian embassy. Several laid back residents greeted us enthusiastically. Again some shots and what looked like a sticker exchange. Within minutes 2 Norwegians, not completely aware of what they were getting into, joined the group which was now very much a gang. After a brief signing of autographs at a Danish run party tent, we moved across camp to the legendary home of some of the finest Austrians on the planet, Leiwandville. There the tour came face to face with the amalettomat, better known as the Crepe making robot, already hard at work spitting out discs of batter covered in chocolate-hazelnut paste. Several of the Scandinavian delegates went to investigate, while elsewhere in the tent our Austrian hosts put on a light show and exchanged devices with several tour members. A discussion about karaoke broke out and a moment was taken to honor the symbolic phone booth where mysterious phone calls are placed 24 hours a day. After completing these ceremonial activities, and acquiring 3 to 4 Austrians and a few random Germans, we set out like some kind of marching band, with a mission to find the illusive Scottish consulate and/or the Irish Embassy. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon the modest Scottish consulate DURING a state visit by an Irish delegation. Our tour far outnumbered the capacity of the tent, so we sent our cultural experts to negotiate national products, and communicate our message of goodwill and curiosity. Bottles exchanged hands, as did confused expressions. A surprised Scotsman joined the tour as we rambled on to the seldom talked about Spanish embassy where it was rumored kind people and deliciousness lived.

Our merry carnival arrived in such numbers that the Spanish too were caught off guard. Greetings were exchanged, as were smiles. Several tour members were treated to a presentation about 3d printing, while others were treated to red wine squeezed out of some kind of animal skin bottle. There was applause, laughter, the joining of an enthusiastic Spaniard, and on we went to what may or may not have beeen the embassy of the UK. At the gates of the embassy we were met by 2 alleged citizens of the UK who assured us this was not an embassy, but rather, an outpost of a camp that takes place on their island every other year. An impromptu press conference broke out, with the tour pelting our hosts with questions about their camp, and more importantly, what national products they might share with us. After much discussion the tour moved on with fists full of promotional material, and the sneaking suspicion they were holding out on us.

Choo choo, a homemade train chugs passed the Italian Embassy Party. (photo by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro CC-BY-SA 4.0)

On to the Food Hacking Base, or as we renamed it, the Food Embassy. Here, surrounded by a plethora of cooking tools, the tour was warmly greeted by a table full of Foodies. Their leader, Big Mac, made a brief statement on the importance of eating and making food, a belief they do their best to promote worldwide. A suspicious home made drink was offered to the tour, jokes were shared, and on the party migrated towards the Swiss-German consulate. At the home of the Swiss-Germans, we were received with boisterous shouting and welcoming gestures. We discussed diplomatic relations with the Italian embassy, a love of Swedes — wherever they are- and oddly enough, the tour itself became a topic of discussion. Amazingly, this visit resulted in the absorption of Swiss and Swedish refugee delegate. Onwards the crowd of curious minds moved, with a quick visit to the food making republic of Milliways. At Milliways, we were briefly received by 2 bakers who were preparing bread to go into the oven, as one does at camp around 1am. They explained their structure as a donation based hub for meals and beer, and invited all to partake. A thank you to Milliways and within minutes the group was wandering down the road, past the iconic Heart of Gold rocket ship, towards the Idiopolis; not quite a consulate, but home to many Dutch people, and venue where as we arrived, a tesla coil-piano concert was taking place. The tesla buzzed in every tone possible, as campers stepped up to the keyboard and belted out beloved tunes. As the secretary general of Idiopolis briefed the tour, our Spanish delegate stepped up to the keyboard to light up the night sky (or the Tesla at least) with a few classics. The crowd roared, the tour celebrated, and despite some tired legs and lack of sleep, it was on to the Belgian embassy.

Though choc full of tables for building hardware, funny decorations, and beer, what was alleged to be the home of the Belgians was largely devoid of people. In their absence, and honor, we acquired national liquid products from the bar, and moved on towards the Italian embassy. As we did so we stumbled upon a large tent filled with people tinkering with devices. Who were these tinkerers our lead Austrian Phillip asked enthusiastically — as luck would have it — Belgians! The tour descended upon the tent where they found comfy seats, chocolate, and an interesting game our hosts explained to us.

Determined to not be knocked out by chocolate and an overload of visual stimuli, we ventured into THE party of the evening, the Italian embassy. Here our gang would seemingly disappear into what was already a tent overflowing with people. After explaining our mission to an Italian representative clutching a bottle of something, he responded by filling a row of tiny cups with what was labelled “open grappa”. The music grew louder, a home made train with bright lights, chugged on by the party, and the tour somehow acquired a few more Berliners who had been inspired by our joie de vivre. Onwards to the French embassy. “Would their be cheese?”, wondered our Danish allstars. An important question that would be answered soon enough.

Upon arriving at the French embassy the tour found a gaggle of French sitting outside their headquarters, they watched as this crowd of people stopped to greet them. After going through the standard camp diplomatic protocols, we were invited into the tent, where despite very bright lights, we were warming received by citizens busy with various machines. Coincidentally, a veteran diplomat from the US, Robert, was also visiting, and he took this opportunity to offer each member of the tour a souvenir necklace, marking this momentous occasion. He then joined the tour along with possibly one Frenchman, though this report is unconfirmed as it this point our posse had grown too large to properly keep track of.

Now for the final chapter of our story, the grande finally at the place we know as BER. Where a party awaited us, along with the celebratory speeches after such a successful mission. On the road to BER there was a brief attempt to establish diplomatic relations with the Club Maté consulate. This attempt was short lived after various misunderstandings with their security team, followed by a technical malfunction with a slushy machine. Thus eliminating the final obstacle, the victorious mob marched across the tracks to be greeted by a massive group dance, to which several representatives were dispatched. Some final words, a promise to repeat this goodwill tour in two or four years time, some emotional goodbyes and the tour was disbanded.

Almost. In fact several tour members stuck together and brought a BER dome to life. They danced their hearts out and just as it seemed like the night was complete, a last minute addition to the tour. A bonus mission to the once abandoned people’s republic of San Fransisco consulate, where the fog was so thick, the lights so blinky, it was impossible not to enjoy this added bonus as dancing in the insanely thick smoke continued til the wee hours of the morning.

For alumni of the Hacker Camp Embassy/consulate/other tent things tour (also known as the International Mostly Human Tent Crawl) I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks and share with you a promise to launch another such initiative in 2017 and 2019. The fate of the world may depend on it. Sort of. Maybe.