// Overseas travel blog
As I crawled into bed at 11AM on Sunday morning, showered and clean, nothing had felt better for a while. I set my alarm for 3PM, as not to wake at 7 or 8PM and completely destroy my sleeping patterns for the next week.
I awoke at 3PM, feeling astoundingly refreshed and clear-headed. I performed some ‘tasks of daily living’ like washing and folding and a little tidying and before I knew it, it was dinner time. I had pleasingly spent the afternoon being a productive human. I was even feeling good enough that I was considering going back to Berghain... Sundays are renowned as the best day and the day when the locals go, and after all I had the all-important stamp meaning that I wouldn't have to play entry roulette again.
I decided that I would make a nice healthy dinner, massage a couple of friends (did I say massage? Freudian slip - message) and reconsider going after dinner. It was a wonderfully posh affair for a solo meal: grilled salmon, brown rice, and teriyaki vegetables (with plenty of antioxidants to counteract the alcohol, sleep deprivation, and passive smoke that is still permitted to waft around Berlin clubs). Both friends said they couldn't come - the one from the night before because she had to do some work, and another because she already had plans. Oh well, I thought, if there's one place it's not weird to go to alone, that's Berghain! So I quickly changed back into my black attire and threw some concealer under my eyes, had another glass of water, and grabbed a bag. I raced down the 8 flights of stairs and into the street, stopping briefly to buy a Club Mate to power up on the way there.
A short train ride later and I was back into the street outside Ostbahnhof. I walked past a group of 3 guys having a beer on the gutter as one of them shouted, 'Gehst du nach Berghain?' (Are you heading to Berghain?). I shook my head and kept walking, thinking that I either looked dressed for the part, or ruined from the night before. I chose to go with the former, and trotted confidently along to the entrance, where I was quickly waved through again.
The vibe in comparison to that morning was completely different: for starters, there were many, many more people and the music was several decibels louder. It was loud to the point that I manufactured some earplugs from tissues in the hope that my hearing wouldn’t resemble that of a 90 year-old the next day. (I know I sound like a fucking uptight moron. Rest assured that immediately after the earplugs were inserted, I removed every item of clothing on me except for the high-waisted black underwear and ordered myself a shot of vodka).
The sheer volume of people generated some serious heat. Ten minutes on the dancefloor was all it took to start sweating. I decided to check out Panorama Bar and trotted upstairs. It was jam-packed, and filled with happy faces and bobbing bodies. I had only finished a little of the Club Mate I had bought on the way, so I stopped at the bar for another quick vodka shot and a Mate to chase, and then took a spot on the dance floor.
There was no awkwardness in dancing alone, topless and relatively sober because the buzz was palpable and the crowd welcoming. After a couple of songs, the DJ dropped Music Sounds Better With You to the rapture of the pulsing crowd. Before you get all hipster and start dismissing this as a stereotypical pop-house track, may I remind you that it was composed by Alan Braxe (if you don’t know Alan Braxe, you don’t know French house) and Thomas Bengalter of Daft Punk fame. I can’t really put into words what happened when this dropped, but the shutters to the windows framing the whole dance floor opened, and sunlight streamed in from outside onto the outstretched arms of every single person on the dancefloor, lifting the energy up by ten notches. For 8PM on a Sunday night, I couldn’t even imagine how insane the vibe would be. I immediately sent a text to the friend who I had been with the the previous night/ that morning and told her in no uncertain terms that coming back was an absolute must.
Meanwhile, I climbed up onto a heater/ makeshift podium and danced above the crowd, watching the bobbing faces below and the female DJ who was also singing over some tracks. Soon after, another girl joined me up there. She was wearing an open, long black vest over naked breasts and not much for bottoms. The vest was soon removed leaving her top half unclothed, and I smiled as I watched the happy heads turn on the dance floor. No one cared, actually. We continued dancing and enjoying the view for several songs together, until she bent down and pulled out a chicken and salad bread roll from her bag and got stuck into her snack as she stood half-nude above the dancefloor.
Meanwhile, the friend I texted had a case of severe FOMO and insisted that she would re-join me soon, so long as we maintained a curfew for the evening in order to be able to work the following morning. Another vodka shot, and some time on the main dance floor later and she had returned. We soon made a beeline for the main dance floor, and squished our way through throngs of people to get a spot. I observed another thing I love about Berlin and particularly the clubbing culture: everyone looks after one another. The passageway from the stairs to the main dance floor bottle-necked and had a space only around a metre and a half wide for people to move in and out of. Despite this, everyone was calm and caring. No aggressive pushing, rather the opposite. Every person that sidled on past another was grabbed on the waist or shoulders, and helped through, making sure no one lost balance or was hurt. A simple observation that said a lot about the crowd and is another reason why the social dynamics of Berghain are second to none.
On the dance floor, we were taken on an amazing journey. The ebbs and flows of bass and the seamless building of the music was flawless. The crowd was just amazing. The lighting was amazing. The whole set felt like ten minutes and ten hours at the same time. The people-watching was fascinating and ranged from a guy on a podium who was expending 10, 000 calories per hour dancing, to the girl eating an apple with a haircut that made her look like a hipster alien, to the two dozen gay men with glistening chests, leather bondage gear and tight, short underwear making their own party in the front left corner. We were totally absorbed, hot and sweaty, and happy.
After about an hour or so, we sought some much needed refreshment. This came in the form of ice-cream. Berghain is a mysterious, magical place that also has a little hidden room where one can buy apples, bananas, berry smoothies, and choose between four varieties of ice-cream. We chose to indulge in another vodka shot (at the bargain price of EUR 2.50), followed by a chaser of a cup of ice-cream. It was cooling and delicious. After we demolished the ice-cream, we returned to the dance floor and eased effortlessly back into the flow. The vibe was simply unbeatable, and we revelled in the music for a while longer until the time came and the DJ’s set ended. The music was given a brief intermission while the crowd showed their gratitude to the DJ.
After a brief pause, the next DJ started with a deep rumbling bass track, with flowing movement but no danceable beat. The crowd stood completely still as every light on the roof turned to red and bathed the people below in an eerie light. It was brighter than it had been all night, and we looked around at the different ages, expressions, and body language of our fellow revellers. It was a strange sort of bonding moment, as if the light had briefly uncloaked the anonymity of the people, and no one had a beat to dance to and so had to appreciate the sights rather than the sound. It went on. The track lasted for five minutes and people just swayed, hugged, and looked around to take it all in. Gradually, a danceable beat blended in, the red light faded, and it was action again. The set had a slightly different feel, but it was every inch as impressive as the previous. At times, my friend and I turned to face each other, eyes wide, shaking our heads in awe of how amazing it was. Each song brought a new feel, and the atmosphere somehow just kept climbing. There is a reason Berghain is the most renowned techno club in the entire world.
It was an unfortunate moment when we realised that our curfew had been exceeded by 15 minutes (the horror! :-P). We didn’t want to leave, but given it was our second night there and shit had to get done the next day, we called it. The dance floor was still absolutely bustling and we were sure it would remain that way until near lunchtime on Monday morning. We, however, had things to do. I was satisfied I'd utilised the stamp well and made the most of two nights in that concrete heaven. Long live Berghain.