Darklands is always a special event. There’s only one comparable happening in size in Europe and that is Folsom EU. But that’s an entirely different vibe. And this year was even more special, since it was the first time a big event like that happened after the Corona Lockdown loosened up.

The Travel

Of trains and scooters

Even before travelling I was excited an jumpy whenever talking about it. And on the day of travelling, I could barely contain myself.

Travelling to Antwerp is always best done indirectly. The flights to Antwerp airport are rare, and cover almost no major aiports. What most people do is fly to either Brussels or Amsterdam and take the trains from there (Brussels 30min , Amsterdam 1h 15min) . In our case we took Amsterdam and spent a lovely extra day in a hotel there before heading to Antwerp on thursday, where we got greeted by the beautiful structure of the Antwerp Centraal station, which looked almost more like a cathedral than a train station.

We quickly made way to our Airbnb. Btw. If you’re planning on going to Darklands, it is quite recommended to book your stay as soon as you get the tickets, because we had extreme luck on finding a good location 2 month’s before (our host opened it up by mistake on those dates). This goes for hotels too.

As for travel in town, we quickly noticed, as it was pretty much unmissable, that the city is just full of rental e-scooters. And they’re a great way to cover your way around. You could get a day ticket for around the same price as a day public transport ticket. And with the accessible bicycle infrastructure of Belgium, they were quite quicker, and a ton more fun to drive than trams.

My friends and I had a blast just standing on them and driving the beach route to the event venue, feeling like part of a small fetish parade in our outfits and getting curious looks.

And we definitely weren’t the only ones with that idea.

The Event location

Lounging at the Quai

Darklands happens in an event venue called Waagnatie Expo & Events. It seems to be a purpose-changed dock storage centre or similar of the sort, right by the Quay, with cranes towering over it right besides it. It makes for an amazing industrial feel, which fits right in the theme of gay fetish. And it’s so big that everything which would be spread around at other events over multiple locations, fits under one roof there.

The organizers didn’t spend the time during corona sitting idly fumbling their thumbs. They stepped up their game. Which is quite the impressive feat, considering the economic time and the already huge size of Darklands in the first place.

On arrival you were greeted by an outside bar and grill area which was freely accessible. You almost felt like at a beach party (which fit right in their Deep Sea theme this year) if it weren’t for all the fetish geared pups, leather guys and so forth enjoying their drinks and chatting under the sunny weather.

From that area, and also from another one besides it, you were able to enter their roofed premises and the locker rooms.

The lockers are always the first thing to be sold out at Darklands. You have to be really early if you want to get one. It’s one of the very few annoying points if you count yourself to the unlucky ones. But that’s definitely not for a lack of trying of betterment from the organizers. Every time the locker area becomes larger and larger. They even moved it outside in a tented area because of a lack of space inside. And it looks huge when you get in. You feel like you’ve entered a dream space for soccer gear fetishists. Just rows and rows after another. And all filled with kinksters getting and changing their outfits.

Thursday Party

Hello, Hello, Hello

That was my first impression arriving on thursday. And it felt glorious. So many kinksters, people like me. You felt like you were at home among your kin.

When you finally managed to put on your cuffs, jockstrap, socks etc etc. the right way, you were finally able to enter the place were the real fun went on. The main venue. You already could hear the pumping music outside before even going in. Oh but first, we all needed to make a short stop at the token shop to exchange some of our money for their bar and food shop currency. Else we’d have a very dry night.

Once we’d done that, we went under the railing separating the different areas into the main stage, where the party was already in full go. You could see people in harnesses, uniforms and catsuits dancing around everywhere.

We joined in of course, and had a blast. It feels exhilarating to dance in your gear without feeling out of place or like a strange attraction in a club, just… fitting in. But eventually, we all needed a break, and made our way to the inside bar right besides the locker area, the “Kraken bar”, themed appropriately with a large floating artsy kraken statue in the corner, its suction cups made out of bottle caps. There we met up with some of our friends, and the bar quickly became our gathering point for our forming group. Although another one of our friend groups decided to more hang out at Ariel’s Grotto bar, which was more sporty themed and 80’s music styled. And had a huge range of outsorted sent-in toys on display all around it in curious ways. I think I even spotted a tentacled on in there, which was very appropriate.

For most returning visitors, thursday is the greeting evening. You walk a few steps and are running in to a recognizable face, accompanied by lots of hugging, smiley welcomes and a quick catching up what happened since last time, only to be interrupted by another familiar face and more joyous shouts and hugs. It was great to see so many friends again I couldn’t visit and didn’t hear much sometimes for years.

We also had a few first time visitors in our group this time. Some of them felt right at home, started to explore and talk to people they found cool, having a great time chatting with others of our common friend group etc. Others who were a little more introverted had it a little rougher, needing to get over the shy barrier. Darklands can be a little overwhelming, it seems like so much going on at once. And the vibe can be a little extreme. But since we were a group, and always had some caretakers, both doms and subs, around, they slowly loosened up over the evening and next day.

If you’re a first timer, I recommend the same. If you know some people going, try to form a group. If there are experienced goers, don’t be shy and ask them if they can show you around. It’s highly likely they’ll be delighted to introduce you, if only to see your glittering eyes and be able to snicker knowingly on experiencing everything. And if you don’t know anyone personally, try to hit up a few people online beforehand, on twitter or so. Ask if they have plans, if you want to have a beer or fun together there, if they can recommend stuff, or help you out as a newbie. It makes it so much easier honestly.

The night seemed to go by in a rush, and before we knew it, it was late / early hours, and time to go home. We didn’t want to miss the market and main party on friday after all too. So we put some of our stuff in the lockers, and took a scooter home to the airbnb with the rest.

Friday/Saturday Market

How to get lost in a Hall

The market is a truly special experience. While the venue felt big already on the thursday party, much of it was closed off to just have the party areas available. And now they’ve opened the whole thing.

It is huge. You literally could get lost in there just wandering around the different booths, and being flabbergasted at what’s all going on. You could of course find the common brand stores, like Mr. B, Mr. S, RoB and such. Their areas looked fantastic, and even themed into the event. But you also could find more specific shops presenting themselves. Everything from Leather makers like Monkey Sergeant, Taurus to bondage rope sellers like Twisted besat, Steel toy makers such as Steeltoys, latex suit brands like Latex101 and Rubaddiction and more and more.

But there weren’t only shops there. You had a puppy play area with a big ball pit, fake garden with dog house, and cages. You had a trial area where you could try out different equipment and gear like vacuum cubes, slings, cages and such. A bondage area where you could get tied up in rope or tape and even suspended under professional supervision. Mr. S had a special play lounge which gave you some private play chances (if you got a ticket beforehand for it). Community Organizations had their booths which offered services. A charity Wheel of torture where you could get “terrible” things done to you. Bootblack stations, Photography areas where you could pay for professional shots. Even a tattoo station!

All meanwhile you could have some breaks in the many bars across the place to chill and talk up with your friends, which you now had a lot more time to actually catch up with than in yesterdays rush, and find some new ones while just going across the place and seeing tons of interesting people. (And of which half tbh I was also to shy to actually go say hi sadly, even I still need to work on that.)

Our first time friends also had a blast. They got into their fetish wear, ran around the compounds, and tried to find out what all the different shops were about, went to the darkrooms with other kinksters. Some tried their first professional bondage experience at the station. Others got lead around by doms while blindfolded and just used as toy. A few went to the puppy social, and some chilled out at the main stage and viewed the Worldfetish Show contests and Mr elections. Or danced off to the singers on the second stage. Many also went outside to the bar area there, or made photos of each other underneath the cranes and the great sea/skyline. And we still, even collectively, likely missed some of what’s all going on there haha. There were Masterclasses, Fist and furry socials, BLUF (Leather Dresscode Club) Dinners, etc etc.

Both times, before we knew it, it was time to have dinner. There were quite a few places to get some good food around the location, although with the scooters, you could get to any place very quickly. You could also stay in the premises, and the event space even had some food booths as well, and there was a dinner event for Bluf members. But then you had to be careful not to go outside the venue after 8 p.m., as they won’t let you back in until 10 p.m. since they were changing and closing off areas for the evening party.

I stupidly didn’t remember that, and went out in jock strap and crop top outfit on friday accompanying a friend on a smoke. But I got saved by the outside bar area they kept open, and warmed myself up around the bbq grill and had some good conversations.

Friday/ Saturday Parties

Dancing until your feet fall off

Friday’s Main Party is very similar to Saturday’s one. It was amazing. On the main stage were enourmous Led screens with fetish themed looping vids behind the dj pult and light shows going off in rythm to the hot music. Smoke, water jets and fire blasts added to those effect shows.

People were dancing to the beats, dressed skimpy and full geared in their fetish wear. Some latexy, some leather, some furry or femmy or whatever they liked. It was a very special sight, seeing everybody vibing to the same beats, all having fun and accepting and respecting each others kinky essence.

And the second stage was no less filled with the same view, and while with less effects, the music was just as entrancing.

We got our asses on the dance floor naturally too, and had some more wonderful times. And got horny of course. There were blowjobs given out here and there, asses rimmed, fucked around. And that not only in the darkrooms. There was fun going around everywhere. At one point I saw people getting railed in the kraken bar, licked someone’s ass on the main dance floor, gave blowjobs in the locker area and participated in a rimming chain in the entrance room while a tied to railing subwatched us enviously.

But the dark rooms were a thing as well of course. And wow, did they go all out there.

Darkrooms

Or the 2story-size Darkhouse

First of all, there were several darkrooms. From the entrance room you walked underneath scaffolding constructions to the respective stages (right from the entrance the second, left the main), with stairs leading up to their respective darkroom areas between them. You had constructed rooms with many mats, beds, small labyrinths, slings etc etc. The second stage one also had a gear-only zone, if you were looking for that only. And also areas with view to the stages. Which made for great sleazy hangouts there. Fucking and partying while seeing a pool of dancing, waving people and a raving dj on stage is an incredible feeling.

But those weren’t even the main dark rooms. That one was behind the main stage. Once you walked into the entrance towards it, you had a orientation area with a small bar to the right, a table with desinfection stuff, condoms, lube and gloves and other supplies. And a lot of other things. Boy were there a lot of things. There were 2 large floors.

On the lower level you had a fuckbox area with blowjob holes and ones like in the czech porn, where only your ass looked out. In the back was a carousel like construction of 8 slings and benches where you could get fucked and fisted in every direction. You had a piss play area, which was entirely covered in sheets and could be pissed upon from the upper floors, if you didn’t want to wait at the queue to the toilets. There was a prison bar labyrinth and mirror room. And I believe (the location escapes me) also a fisting club like area, with a booth where you could purchase supplies like lube, crisco, poppers etc.

On the first floor you could go into a bdsm like area, with bondage cage, other kinds of cages and restraint possibilities. There were also military style fuckbed lined areas around the stairs. There was a steamy fuckbox like room styled in the sea theme. And so much more still. Honestly, I believe I’ve yet to see anything comparable in size and equipment provided. It felt gigantic. And still, most of the time it was filled, sometimes to the brim. There were even events hosted at that area too. On saturday they had a Horse Fair (like the german Fickstutenmarkt).


Both days were sleazy parties, you could feel the uninhibited fun people were having, how they were letting loose, knowing they could to things without being judged, if not encouraged.

On friday, people were excited to finally get really into it after having the welcome and friend meet filled thursday. And saturday was filled with people into it, and wanting to have a great big go before the slow final on sunday. I personally was more dancy on friday, and more sexual experimental on saturday, since I was also looking out for the first-timers a little.

The DJ’s performed fantastically on all stages. Though I at times almost preferred the smaller stage, but that’s just personal taste. And should you have had enough of the club music for a bit altogether, you could always chill out at the bars in-and outside.Or just go for a taste change into Ariels grotto and sing along to schlager music.

Sunday

Slowly extinguishing Flame

I’m going to be honest. Sunday half flew over me. Not because there was a lot going on, but because I was hungover as heck from two days of excitement and partying. After going to bed 2 times around 6-7a.m. , my head and body both felt quite heavy. Still, we enjoyed our time at the venue. Took a last look around the market. We hung out one last time and said goodbye to our (equally hungover) friends who were leaving that day (we left on monday), and tried to hang on to the party and social feeling for as long as we could. All the while the organizers slowly started to shut down area by area. We danced one last time with all the remaining people on the dancefloor, hearing the close-off of the last dj’s set and cheering to him on the final note.

And then realized that, oh gosh, all the people are going to go now. And we should rush as fast as we can to get one of the few available scooters.

And that was the end. We drove to the airbnb, ate, fell into bed, and when we (almost too late) woke up, packed our things, checked out and went home. It felt surreal once we landed back in our airport. Like, it can’t be truly over? Is it? And we definitely want to come back.

Darklands is a very special event.

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