For the past three years, I’d been living with my Berlin flatmate at university and another of our little uni family decided to come and visit us.
After another visit to the East Side Gallery, the three of us stumbled across a hipster-looking bar (not that they are hard to find in Berlin) and then had dinner sitting under the railway tracks at Burgermeister on small crates. Trust me, it was much nicer than it sounds. I have been past several times and there has never not been a queue. Personally, I’m not sure my burger lived up to the hype but I was certainly in the minority and it was still definitely worth the wait.
That evening involved a night out on the town. We went to a genius wine bar- the Weinerei– where you pay for your glass then keep filling it up before paying at the end of the night for how much you think you owe. It seems a risky strategy but I’m pretty sure that I overpaid anyway.
As the bar was closing, we met a group of locals who took us to Mein Haus am See– a bar with seating based on a baseball stadium, i.e. staggered. The place was impressively busy for a weekday night and we enjoyed a beer here before moving onto the end goal of the night: Club der Visionaere– a chilled, cheap-to-get-into club on the side of the river. In my opinion, it seemed more of a busy bar than a club, with lots of seating and chilled music. We did not end up staying long and just had a drink before catching a cab back. In the end, the night was more of a bar crawl than a club night but that did not detract from its enjoyability (if that’s a word).
The following night we were far less ambitious. My roomie had previously tried to visit an open air cinema- Freiluftkino– around the corner from our flat but on that particular Saturday night it had been full upon her arrival. With that in mind, we turned up ridiculously early on Wednesday evening for the screening of Django Unchained.
Once the gates had been opened- that’s how early we were, they were still locked- we were thrilled to find out that the seating not only came in the form of plastic chairs but also deckchairs. We grabbed three of these and set up camp. Fellow cinema-goers had brought picnic bags- I wish we’d thought of that- and, as the screening time crept closer, a cage full of blankets was brought out. This turned out to be a lifesaver because even with them, on a summer’s evening, it was bloomin’ freezing. Apart from the cold, the night was great.
Thursday was a more serious day with a visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. I feel that this topic deserves its own blog post and so I will say no more here about it here. However, I will say that as much of a somber experience as it was, it is well worth a visit. I think it is only by visiting places like Sachsenhausen that we can begin to understand what happened in World War II.
The next morning, at the bright and early time of 5am I had to wake up to allow our guest to leave for her flight. Needless to say, my day did not start there and I went back to bed.
With her departure came our busiest day of the week. Badly timed, I am aware. In the afternoon (the morning was spent in bed- so maybe our day was not that busy) we took a trip to the abandoned Tempelhof airport. My travel buddy and I turned up (without getting lost- despite the lack of signage) and found that the site had been turned into a park. Although this meant it was not the abandoned space we had expected to run around in, this actually added to the atmosphere. The airport had become a place for sports, with people cycling and land-surfing up and down the runways. We even stumbled on what looked like a Segway class, with kids riding them around a course marked out by cones. I had to wonder whether that will be the norm one day: we’ll learn to drive at 17 after having learnt to Segway as a kid. Walking is so quaint after all.
After taking plenty of pictures through the fence that cordoned off the old terminal, we found an abandoned plane and spent a while taking pictures through another fence around that. Although this was clearly not the naturally preserved site we were expecting, the surreality of our surroundings made it a well spent afternoon in the sun.
Since the sun was still out, our next stop was the floating pool- Badeschiff– situated on the edge of the river. Sadly, upon our arrival, the sun typically disappeared. We sat on the decking, as the sandy faux beach was now shaded, and shivered whilst reading and sleeping in the semi-sun. We then shivered our way through the cold showers and into the pool, where the wind came off the water, hitting us in the face. Clearly we had badly arranged our day. Had we been there earlier, it would have been perfect. Instead we left after maybe an hour and a half. Still, how often do you swim in a pool on the river, in the middle of a city? It’s worth going, sunny or not.
We also found some giant benches which we sat in for novelty value, on our way home.
Since it was a Friday night and there was just the two of us, we felt it was the perfect occasion for an attempt at Berghain. The elusive club set in an abandoned power station. We figured a few drinks at Yaams was in order first but sadly they were charging for entry and we were not in a position to pay for pre-drinks. It did look pretty cool though, with UV lighting illuminating the outfits of the players on the basketball court. Had we been staying there, we would have paid the 10 Euro fee but we knew that Berghain was not going to be cheap entry (although it turned out not to be too bad at 12 Euros).
We wandered down the East Side Gallery (again), partially sick of the sight of it and partially intrigued by the fact that, although this was the third time we’d seen it this a week, there were still paintings that I couldn’t remember seeing before. We walked for a good hour, in the direction of Berghain, before we stumbled across Fitcher’s Vogel– a buzzy bar with an open mic night going on within. The best part however was that they served cider. Berlin’s own cider turned out to be pretty good- either that or I had just had so much beer that any cider tasted good.
We then finally made our way to the club, down a residential road that just didn’t look right but that our map (yes, we were clubbing with a map) told us was the right direction. We were dubious but soon spotted a taxi full of obvious clubbing-goers that told us we were on the right track. After following a group of people down a dark and ominous looking pathway to get to the front of a big building with bright lights and thumping music, we past people discussing tactics to get in. This was clearly the right place: Berghain is notorious for turning people away for no obvious reason. We hoped that as we were in a small group of just us two girls, dressed smartly and not that drunk, we stood a good chance of getting in, but in truth we had no idea of what the bouncers were looking for.
As we got further down the queue, we got anticipation giggles and had to bite our cheeks as we came to the bouncer. We’d heard that the bouncers don’t like it if you cannot speak German and although we knew a little, we weren’t sure our skills were up to the challenge. Thankfully, he asked us nothing but instead held up his fingers to ask if it was just the two of us before ushering us in. We had to really concentrate so as not to high-five. I’m sure that would have resulted in us getting chucked out; I doubt such behaviour is Berghain.
The next step was to make it past the seemingly angry security lady- who vehemently told us that we were not allowed to take photos. Then we met our next challenge: finding the dance floor. It was harder than it sounds. We had evidently ended up in the cloakroom area and so decided to follow a group of people who looked like they knew where they were going. They didn’t. They were just trying every door before finally finding a staircase.
Apparently there are two areas in the club, the main room and the Panorama Bar. We only seemed to be able to find the main room but it may have been that we stumbled across the bar without realising! We spent our first minutes inside the club looking for the loo. We found one filled with men and so assumed that was not right so preceded to looked into every dark corner until we realised that it was a unisex loo. It was then time for drinks. We found a grapefruit flavoured beer called Schöfferhofer beer- we had fun attempting to pronounce it- Schoffer Hoffer was obviously not right (what larks)- before hitting the dancefloor.
I stand by this next statement: you cannot club to techno music. The first couple of rows of dancers behind the DJ booth were standing in lines moving side to side simultaneously. I guess that’s understandable. There are few dance moves to techno and if everyone shuffled in different directions they would bump into each other.
At about 3.30am, I received a message from a friend who was supposed to meet us that night- he was just on his way out. Not a chance. I had enjoyed my few hours at Berghain but that time in the morning means one thing and one thing only- kebab time.
On the first train, a guy in the carriage started chatting to us, asking where we’d been. We told him and he took one look at us and said that we didn’t look like we’d been to Berghain. As we got onto train number two, our journey became more surreal than our Tempelhof experience. To my left was a man playing the bongo drums, in front was another man in a clown outfit- complete with red nose- and to my right was a guy who wanted to talk about Berghain.
The absolute high point of the night came as we walked from the U Bahn to our flat, stopping off for a kebab. It was like no kebab I have ever had and I have had a lot of kebabs. There was salad that didn’t look like it had been sitting out all day, chicken, seasoning and feta cheese, all lovingly wrapped in a toasted bread roll. You would have been happy if you had been served it in a restaurant. Now that is how you do a night out in Berlin.