I’m determined not to omit any significant events in my ongoing travel narrative, so an entry about my trip to Berlin at the end of November is required! My designer/music producer friend Nick turned 30 at the start of December and to celebrate he invited a bunch of us to that notorious home of techno, street art and overall balls-out coollery.
I’d never been before so was well excited, though I was due back in London only two days before an eagerly awaited 6 week holiday to New Zealand and Australia. I wanted to be fresh and spritely for my journey across the world. Most of our group were already in Berlin when I flew over by myself after work on Friday (Jim wasn’t able to come). My plan was to arrive at my hostel and go to bed…meeting the others in the morning after their hard night of partying, smugly facing the sub-zero temperatures with dignity and aplomb. Unfortunately (fortunately) after I ran into my friend Tim at Schönefeld, took a midnight metro ride with platform-beer to the fantastic St Christopher’s Inn and tiptoed into a dorm of sleeping girls I thought Screw this… I’m in Berlin! Tim and I grabbed our essentials, texted our friends to find out where they were, then made our way to… Berghain.
Now, my prior knowledge of Berghain/Panorama Bar was this: parties lasting 30 hours, rude bouncers who are impossible to get past… and once you manage to get in… hordes of hardcore (mostly gay) Germans writhing to techno and occassionally/often having sweaty public sex on the dance floor. “Do you think they’ll mind my mustard turtleneck cable-knit sweater?” I asked Tim as we climbed into a taxi. “You’ve just gotta own it…and don’t look excited…look like you don’t even care whether you get in.” This was do-able. We arrived and crunched our way up the frosty, infamous path leading to the door, my heart hammering away but the rest of my body exuding the coolest demeanor I could muster; my lips were firmly set, my hands were in my pockets, one eyebrow was slightly raised and Tim and I were studiously ignoring each other. Security glanced over my dorky khaki bomber jacket and my protruding mustard knitwear…and let me through. We were in!
|Stock photo of Berghain|
What followed was a hilarious night of drunken antics that made me feel glad to be alive. All of us went into the situation aware of Berlin’s dangers re: theft. Despite that, I believe three of my friends lost their jackets and one person lost their wallet. Some of those items turned up after a tail-between-the-legs return visit, in the cruel light of day, to argue with the meanest cloak room bitches in the history of the world. Beneath a gigantic photo of a gaping anus and dangling scrotum, a certain male companion chatted up a cute girl…who turned out to be a man. Our Professor buddy who never ever takes off his formal wear was the epicentre of the Panorama dancefloor…twirling around random girls and boys…getting cut off at the bar…generally having the best time ever experienced in a tie and tweed jacket. At one point I had my drink knocked out of my hand by a whirling, twirling raver. Subsequently I was presented with a sobbing friend and her boyfriend wanting to go home. Having arrived hours after everyone else and therefore still having some remnants of energy, I launched into a Braveheart-esque tirade about why it was a rubbish idea to leave – “Who are we?! Are we old and decrepit and no longer capable of staying out late? When we look back at this time of our lives, this moment in time we had at one of the best techno clubs in the world, in one of the coolest cities on Earth…what will we say? Will we say we felt a bit tired and some shit things happened so we went home? Or will be say that we stayed…stayed and DANCED like nothing mattered…like we were going to live forever?! We’re going to fucking stay, and we’re going to fucking DANCE”. We all cheered and stormed onto the dance floor, where we danced for 5 minutes before I said that actually I was tired and we should go home. What happened to Tim? He stayed ’til 9am, partying with some new German pals we’d randomly made earlier in the night.
|My view of the unlucky ones, enroute to the hostel|
Needless to say, the next morning did not see me waking up and greeting the others with aplomb. It saw a case of extreme fragility and nauseousness that led to bouts of dry-heaving on the ‘alternative’ New Berlin walking tour we joined on Saturday. From memory it was around -6 degrees in Berlin during the day, so…pretty cold. Despite the weather and our eccentric tour guide bemusing us a bit, the walk was enjoyable and totally worth the 10 Euros we each paid. We got to see some cool, often quite famous street art and some grimier parts of Berlin that we may not have seen otherwise. We were filled in on some background to the clubbing and alternative scenes of recent years, although the take-away message was that by its very nature, the underground is transient – “Things go up and then come down…” That night we were out again, with similarly stupid antics of which the high point for me was probably licking the ‘electric science ball thing’ at Tresor (again, another hugely famous techno club), as it wasn’t working well with our hands due to the layers upon layers of grime coating the disgusting thing. If that was the climax, then getting (sensibly) cut off from the hostel bar in the late hours of the morning, bursting into a bakery and, in the words of my friend “confronting an old man surrounded by all these croissants and shouting ‘Do you sell beer?!'” was the finale. I spent the entire next day in bed as sick as a dog (booze or ball…who knows) whilst everyone else played 3D blacklight mini-golf…dammit. Again, most of us were down a few essential personal items such as coats, scarves, gloves etc… but luckily no wallets or passports.
I managed to get it together for breakfast at the Reichstag on our last day, which was delicious and an opportunity for a final reflection on our time together. On the way we got yelled at by a middle-aged woman who looked a bit strung out out and whose only legible word in her aimless rant was ‘Discotek.’ Oh Germany.
What did we learn from Berlin? I’m not sure that trip popped up in our life paths to teach us anything…all I know is that Nick had fun, we all had a chance to act mental and we’ll be back there in August for his wife Bianca’s 30th. Sometimes things don’t need to be overanalysed.