Berlin is a city that needs no introduction. It is an iconic metropolis that has been the setting for tumultuous moments in history. The German capital has undergone many transitions throughout its lifetime: it has been the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia; the German Empire; the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Berlin was also the personification of the divided capitalist/communist Cold War world of the1980’s; West Berlin was free, East Berlin was red and they were divided by the one of the world’s two most famous walls – the other one still stands in China. In 1990, the Berlin Wall came down, opening up the city to another new era.
All these famous epochs and moments have left an indelible mark on the city with a vast amount of sightseeing for culture vultures to feast upon, such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building, the Gendarmenmarkt and Unter den Linden. The list of attractions is endless.
The first goal of this trip was to draw a big, red X through all conventional culture ventures and mark them accordingly: NOT DONE. With this task completed, my vacationing comrades in hedonism and I could move on to feasting on the city’s world-famous nightlife.
A partygoer can fly to Berlin for a fraction of the price of pleasure that one can derive from a full-on weekend of partying in this city.
I arrived in the city late on a Thursday afternoon and having navigated my way via the superb train and underground system from Berlin Schönefeld Airport through Alexanderplatz to Samariterstraße, I reached my accommodation. An eighth-floor apartment rented by an ally who is currently studying architecture in the city at the famous Universität der Künste. Cormac shares this apartment with a northern German who bears more than a striking resemblance to the teen comedy character Screech from the 1990’s US show Saved by the Bell. This link to the city – by way of a real German and his Berliner pals – proved a valuable asset in our gaining entrance to the city’s inner sanctum of pleasure.
Thursday night was spent in Kreuzberg; a must-see bar area. The area is central and is easily accessible by the U-Bahn. A wide selection of bars allows one to ease back and enjoy a Berlin seemingly caught in a time-warp; that is, a communist time-warp. None of the bars are obvious from the street. They bear no signage above their entrances and are dimly lit, as though those sharing a beverage inside are hiding from watchful Stasi eyes. Upon entering, this suspect atmosphere continues. The walls are crumbling and unkempt, the lights are dim and wreaths of cigarette smoke entangle the customers and the furniture that surrounds them. This furniture is of a bric-a-brac nature, seemingly bought on the cheap and with little regard for Bauhaus design.
Inside, one chats with almost solely Germans and the odd foreigner who has been lucky enough to unearth one of these local gems. Music of a distinctly European and US Beatnik nature fills the bars, while German lager tingles imaginations and kick-starts conversations. A knackered fußball table generates groans and shrieks of delight from the goals knocked in by the users of a three-time World Cup winning country, as I talk to an orchestral bassoonist about electro music.
Several lagers, mojitos, a kebab from Beirut Bistro and eight hours sleep later, I awake to the arrival of two more friends from that other great city of hearty hedonism: London.
Having outlawed conventional culture, the afternoon and evening were spent discussing the entanglement of German and Turkish cultures in 21st century Deutschland with Cormac’s housemate Jacob (a Berliner studying Islamic studies) whilst drinking Rothaus beer – priced at €1.50. Incidentally, this is a price that most Berliners will shake their head at with disgust – such is the low price of beer in the city.
A massive steak in the local San Diego Steakhouse, many more beers and two bottles of Jagermeister later into the evening, we depart for the party all of Berlin is talking about: Champagnerama.
On the outskirts of West Berlin lies an abandoned brewery called Alte Kindl Brauerei. This brewery will be – for the next 70 odd hours – a minimal techno den. Upon arriving at the building, one is greeted by an imposing redbrick structure which looms high into the early morning skyline – when I say early morning, one must remember parties only get going at 3am.
The next sight is a rugby-style scrimmage at the massive concrete steps that lead up to the entrance. As one approaches the front, thronging with the masses, one gets the feeling that this just might be a great night.
Having paid ten euro to gain entrance to this emporium of entertainment, you would have to be a fool to be disappointed. The attractions are endless inside the old hops factory. The first room reveals two gigantic funnels used for siphoning the lager ingredients into the rooms below. Upon sliding back a panel on the side of one of these funnels, you can peer down below into the cavernous depths that reveal a room that is heaving, bulging and convulsing with bodies dancing to Rammstein-like German rock music. The closest image that comes to mind is the scene from the Wachowksi brothers The Matrix Reloaded when we see a post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world rave unfold in Zion.
Down metal stair after metal stair, one travels further into the belly of this monstrous epicurean beast. One passes characters like Red Riding Hood and punks; exotic scents drift through the air; models of deer and ham legs hang from the ceiling and then one enters an underground white mosaic tunnel. Before one sees it, one hears it: thumping, thumping, techno, techno, music. Bang, bang, bang, bang…
As we finally exit the tunnel, the ceiling opens up to reveal a room of pipes and gauges; more statuettes hanging from the ceiling; kin who are all clearly fans of electronic music, bedecked in day-glo. The folk either dance to the robotic primal music or lounge on a selection of homely armchairs.
Friday has become Saturday; Saturday has become Sunday. With some snatched sleep, a kebab and a burger in between, my fellow weekend warriors and I are queuing outside Watergate Club in central Berlin to see Konrad Black and Martin Buttrich. This famous club sits on the waterfront of the river Spree overlooked by an incredible work of graffiti by the BluBlu art group.
This wonderful club, however, is a prelude to the inevitable return to Champagnerama; as soon as Sunday morning becomes Sunday afternoon.
Eventually and regretfully, after a 16 hour sleep-fest, we find ourselves sitting in an Italian Café on Samariterstraße, polishing off al-dente pasta and sipping black coffee.
The weekend is at an end – the time has come to point our compasses towards Schöneberg Airport and make our way west. It is time to put up the wall that separates our own lives from those of the Berliners. Comrades in hedonism: mission achieved. Calling all hedonists – visit Berlin.
WHERE TO DRINK:
Kreuzberg: a district to the south of the river Spree. There is a wide selection of bars around this area. The area also has several U-Bahn stops; Schlesisches Tor would be one of the handiest.
WHERE TO GET A LATE-NIGHT SNACK:
Kreuzberg also has a great selection of late-night eateries. Right beside Schlesisches Tor you can find Beirut Bistro and Burgermeister.
WHERE TO CLUB:
Alte Kindl Brauerei:
Alternatively, check Resident Advisor to see what is going on in Berlin during your stay there:
WHERE TO EAT:
San Diego Steakhouse, Bänschstraße 75.
Telephone: +49 30 4 27 89 79
Excellent, cheap Italian café:
Fior d’ Arancio, Samariterstraße 14.