(***Caution: this post contains HUGE spoiler alerts. Do not continue if you want to discover Berlin’s most notorious nightclub for yourself)
Just like with the previous post I will share with you the THREE highlights of my THREE day THREESOME trip to Berlin!
The traveling threesome being:
Second highlight: BERGHAIN
You may have heard about this club before. Being around for 20 years it has gained worldwide acclaim. Especially after being honored top club in the world in 2009 by DJ Mag.
However, in the early years the club was far from a mainstream hangout. It attracted a typically eccentric Berlin crowd. Diehard techno fans, leather fetishists, transexuals, young professionals, … With music, sex and drugs being the key elements connecting them.
20 years later, with the rise of techno music worldwide and the low-fare tourism, the club is hotter than ever.
The craze has everything to do with the exclusive status of the club which has made it into an attraction almost. Standing in line at Berghain is considered to be a religious experience. Many people try to get in. Few succeed. On Twitter, fora, YouTube and blogs people are summing up tips and tricks in order to enlarge your chances to get in. You can even simulate queuing online. With a virtual queue and virtual bouncers and everything! It is craay-zaay. => https://berghaintrainer.com/
Of course I was triggered by Berlin’s most notorious and exclusive nightclub, and I wanted to see if I could find a way to get in and check it out for myself.
Not merely for the sake of getting in. I genuinely wanted to be part of the experience.
At first I was pretty confident. But a couple of hours before taking the taxi to Am Wriezener Bahnhof I wasn’t so sure. Chances were likely we would get refused. Just like 70% of those who try. And all depends on how you look and carry yourself.
Berghain (which takes its name from the adjacent neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain) is not your average nightclub. If you show up all glitzed and glammed up, you’ll probably not get accepted. This is not a place to show off your money nor your good looks. If you want to do that you’re better off in Saint-Tropez or Milano. The dress code at the door is: low key and as neutral as possible. Preferably black and no visible brand names. Once you’re inside you can change clothes, take off your shirt or just wear a thong.
Rumor has it Britney Spears was once refused at the door. It is more likely you see a bunch of people fucking at the bar than you’ll ever see a celebrity walking around there. Heck, according to some stories there was a time people even brought in frozen shit in a Tupperware container in order to use it as a dildo.
I wore a basic, see through turtle neck, no heels and my crucifix purse I love to death but everyone around me seems to hate. I didn’t put in too much thought. I don’t feel like conforming too much. After all I am a unique human being with a unique identity and fashion. I just dressed like me and hoped for the best.
When we arrived with the taxi at around 12.30 am we saw a huge line of people waiting to get in.
Like good sheep we added ourselves all the way at the end of the line and started queuing. Occasionally we saw people returning with disappointment written all over their faces. They hadn’t made the cut. They were refused by Berlin. *Auwch*
The suspense rose and in front of us people were starting to get nervous. Trying to act as discrete as possible but the sweat on their foreheads and the fear in their eyes said otherwise.
In front of us a big group of youngsters decided to split up in order to enlarge their chances. This is also one of the tips you’ll find online. Big groups decrease your chances of getting in. Guys being accompanied by a girl is always a good thing but a girl is better off with the company of one or two guys rather than standing in line alone => Although the club is mixed, it supports a very big gay scene. Two girls are also good. As long as they don’t giggle and chuckle and act all selfie crazy. It is best not to wield your phone around too much or you will come off as an attention seeker. The biggest strength of this club is its mythical character. Apart from the building’s facade and an empty interior, you will hardly find pictures online of people partying. It’s all about the personal experience. And it should remain that way too.
The queue got shorter and shorter and more and more people were getting refused. After all it was a Saturday, the night mostly tourists (guilty!) come out to play. The locals usually stay away until Sunday afternoon. And that makes it harder for people to get in. The door men aren’t too keen on foreign languages.
While everyone around us was suddenly quiet as mice, patiently waiting to face the club’s notorious bouncers, we were still talking and occasionally laughing. Not too loud, but we were still in Berlin to have a good time. Not to act all depressed. Some people were looking at us as if they didn’t wanted to be associated with us. But they were the biggest pretenders, really. I could see it from their brand new Doc Martens to their Forever 21 punk accessories. The two girls who were standing 3 meters in front of us were just acting normal too, and they got in without a problem. The two girls standing right in front of us acting all cool and tough, got refused. And then it was our turn.
I heard it was best not to look the door men in the eye.
After all: would you want to make eye contact with the terrifying gatekeeper (and photographer) Sven Marquardt?
But I figured the best way to get accepted was to subtly show your self confidence and just be your open minded self.
I looked at the door men with a kind of mischievous grin on my face while they were checking us out.
“Wie viele?”, asked Sven the Terrifying.
If you don’t get a ‘no’ straight away. They will ask you with how many people you are. If you don’t understand that question, you’ll still get refused.
“Drei”, we answered.
Suddenly the bouncers made way as a sign we could get in. As we were walking through the infamous door, acting like nothing HUGE had just happened, it seemed like we were stepping through a portal to another world. The excitement was buzzing through our bodies, still containing the euphoria. After we got our bags checked, paid our 16 euros entrance fee and got our precious stamp, we could let all our enthusiasm out. We were in the safe zone, after all. Ready for an UNFORGETTABLE PARTY!
As we climbed the stairs into the noisy darkness I could feel so much raw energy. And smell it too. Mostly a combination of sweat, weed and urine.
The place is enormous. And incredibly Feng Shui. Apparently they eliminated any dead ends, even in the bathrooms, so people can cruise each other without running into a wall. (Berliners => not to keen on walls these days)
The main Berghain dance floor, which focuses on hardcore techno, has heigh ceilings supported by massive concrete pillars. Originally constructed in 1953 as part of East Germany’s postwar reconstruction process, most of the building has retained its original industrial architecture. It is so large and maze-like, you can discover new stairways and rooms even after spending hours and hours.
Generally there are three levels where you can get your freak on. The Panorama Bar is the upstairs dance floor, which focuses on groovier, more melodic house music rather than the main floor’s severe industrial beats. On the building’s ground floor you can find Lab.Oratory, Berlin most extreme sex club which was closed unfortunately when we got there. Things can get very raunchy there. Reportedly not for the faint hearted.
Explanation for the extreme nature of the Berlin club scene lies greatly in the city’s history. Before the unification the city was poor and isolated. Half of Berlin was walled in. The militant character expressed itself in a very aggressive form of techno. Becoming the soundtrack of illegal hedonistic parties in abandoned factories and warehouses and later in the established nightclubs. Reportedly, in the past two decades, the city’s tradition of sexual permissiveness, lax drug policing and left-wing, anarchist politics blended together to create the most sexually adventurous, unconventional party scene in Europe. At the time there was a high unemployment and since people had no reason to wake up early on Monday, they held marathon-length party sessions as a fuck-off to the rigid capitalist version of time.
Everywhere we looked we saw shirtless men and women, some people wearing latex and bondage clothing, some wearing neutral gear not giving away any experimental preference. But mostly everywhere we could see feet marching and fists pumping in the air.
First we went to check out the Panorama bar. The more ‘straight’ part of the building. You can dance to the luscious beats or just hang out by the bar. You can even stay there till morning and have breakfast. If you have enough MDMA you can even stay there for 72 hours and have multiple breakfasts! The crowd keeps raving here from Friday night until Monday morning.
Good thing there aren’t any mirrors, so you don’t have to care about how you look. That’s something to worry about when you get back into the cab to civilization.
You probably won’t leave with a financial hangover either. Prices inside the club are extremely democratic and you can fill up your water bottle in the toilet as many times as you want.
Once on the inside, things started to make a lot more sense to me. Suddenly I understood why these bouncers had to be so picky. Not only to preserve the legacy and protect the longevity of this club. The exclusive character also creates an incredible feeling of togetherness for the lucky few who do make it inside. As if we are all part of something different, taking in the experience much deeper somehow. But also: just letting everyone be.
There is an overall vibe of extreme acceptance. You can choose to be naked, dance with chains around your torso, have sex in the toilet or just lie there asking every passer-by to pee on you. Everything’s allowed, nothing’s a must. You can also choose to keep your clothes on and have a quiet cappuccino by the bar.
If you choose to let your true self out and for instance experiment with your sexuality, you won’t have to fear ending up online. All the camera lenses on the phones are being covered by a sticker. Inside the club supervisors are constantly walking around to check if nobody is secretly filming or taking pictures.
As for me, I didn’t engage in orgies nor did I experiment with drugs or frozen shit dildos for that matter. But I did express myself according to my own standards. And I was very happy they made cappuccinos just the way I do: a little rough around the edges.
Overall I am very happy to have been to Berghain, thank you Berlin and Lord of the Night Sven Marquardt for approving us, but I hope they find a way to control the mass tourism. I feel bad for all the locals who lose their territory and express ground to low-fare tourism. Even though I have put it on this blog as one of the highlights, this doesn’t mean I’m encouraging people to go there. I encourage them to think it through. If you go to Berghain make sure you go for the right reasons. If you want to go there to get crazy ass drunk, tear down the place, harass people, laugh with them, judge them or take pictures for your Instagram feed then don’t go at all.
Stay tuned for the next and final highlight : the Bearpit Karaoke @ Mauerpark!