The legendary Berghain club in Berlin; a decadent hedonistic playground for hard purist techno revellers; a site of excess, experimentation, unraveling, and freedom. This club remains the most unique and amazing club I have and ever will visit again. I still have nightmares about the post-clubbing tinnutis I suffered afterwards [so worth it].
Evolving from the gay scene in the nineties – once a men only fetish club – the crowd remains predominantly male and attracts a leather, lederhosen-cladden clan of Bronsonesque, skin head marchers [think: Kevin & Perry Go Large & the German marchers]. Located in a former power plant in Friedrichshain, behind the Berlin Ostbahnhof railway station, the building is truly formidable, set within a steel and concrete interior with an 18 meter high main dance floor accommodating around 1500 people.
Aside from the main room, there is the Lab.Oratory basement room- a sex club considered one of the most “hardcore” gay fetish clubs in Berlin. Hosting an eclectic array of themed fetish nights, the Lab is open Thursday to Saturday, but you are only allowed to enter between 22:00 and 24:00 – dress code anything goes (literally). It is in the same building as the Berghain set within a huge maze/dark room, however the entrance is well hidden round the side. Most magazines and websites do not tell you this, as it is technically a secret! We didn’t find it…but we didnt actually look for it – the music was well enough for us newbies! Guests at the lab.oratory can usually jump the queue into Berghain and the bouncers will probably consider letting you in free of charge. Please be warned this is not a tourist destination, a place for the introverts or the prudish; it is considered the most hardcore fetish club in Berlin for a very good reason.
There is also the Panorama Bar located at the top of the building, playing host to some of the best House and Electro DJs. Decorated by enormous Wolfgang Tillmans photographs and tall windows with a view of East Berlin, the Panorama Bar is the space to unwind from the harder techno of the main room. Given the calibre of acts that play at the Panorama Bar every weekend, this space is usually heaving. The Panorama Bar certainly surpasses any House and Electro club I have visited, but even so we soon gave in to our cravings and headed back down the winding stairs into the vast epicness of the Berghain.
To preserve the reputation of the club, and to protect the practices inevitable in such an environment, photography is strictly forbidden; don’t even attempt it. We took a picture sitting by the bar, and we were hounded by another guest who told us in no uncertain terms to ‘delete!’ See Raider review on Berghain Privacy. There are no clocks, mirrors or reflective surfaces, and the events at the Berghain are extremely long lasting from Thursday through to Monday. The ban on mirrors and clocks is likely a clever ploy to keep revellers raving for as long as their bodies can take, blissfully unaware of time or appearance.
It was certainly the most surreal clubbing experience, somewhat like being in a techno time warp in which you lose all sense of self and anything other than the music. When our bodies could physically dance no more, we crawled out of the Berghain around 9:30 on the Sunday morning, shocked at the time, the overbearing daylight, and the queue of guests ready to begin their experience.
A Note on Door Policy
The Berghain is renowned for is selective and randomized door policy. We read a range of blogs/reviews before going to this club and they were flooded with people explaining how they were turned away ‘for no apparent reason’. Needless to say, we very apprehensive when approaching the foreboding building.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee you will get in; half the queue in front of us were turned away in seconds. Expect unashamed fear upon Berghain bouncer scrutiny. When it was out turn to face judgement – hands in pockets, chins out and looking hard – we were eyeballed for about 10 seconds amidst some debate and laughter from the other bouncers, (almost certain we were going to be turned away). To our surprise and elation they let us in. Maybe they were simply debating whether we looked ‘techno & tolerant’ enough…#paranoiaattack
The most obvious selection policy for the bouncers is an attempt to inject ‘realness’ into every night. In Sven Marquart’s own words: “It’s important to me we preserve some of that heritage, that it still feels like a welcoming place for the original sort of club-goers. If we were just a club full of models, pretty people all dressed in black, it would be nice to look at for a half an hour, but God, that would be boring. It would feel less tolerant, too.”
I wholeheartedly agree in this view. The Berghain wants to be a safe place for techno liberalism…judgemental, techno tourists need not join the line.
There are no ‘set rules’, the door policy is subjective and each bouncer is unique in their selections, but these tips may help:
- Don’t go dressed up (too try hard). No flashy logos, fancy outfits, lots of makeup, funky hair do’s. As far as we could gather, it’s about the music and nothing else. Leather jacket and jeans is a good option!
- The queue to get in can be very long, 4am onwards is a good starting time (Sunday morning 5am-8am is particularly good if you do not want to queue.
- Keep talking to a bare minimum, the bouncers patrol the line and will remember you. As soon as you enter the front of the queue keep quiet – from what we could tell the people who were turned away were the ones that were talking loudly.
- Don’t arrive drunk!
- Don’t go in a big group. Mixed groups are better and break it up into pairs or go in alone.
- If you look young you’re not getting in-they don’t usually check I.D. but the Berghain like their crowd at least looking 25 and over.
- Don’t talk the bouncers at the front, especially not in your native tongue – they will think your just a snaphappy tourist. Unless you’re turned away immediately, they will probably ask you in German how many? Go up in twos and simply reply zwei.
- Look them in the eye, and remain cool and collected like you are a regular to the club.
- If you do get in, stay calm until your entrance fee is paid (the ticket sellers appeared to embrace the scrutiny also).
- Once in and ready to let loose, be ready to experience a night/day/afternoon/weekend like no other.
- Final Warning: Once you have experienced the Berghain, be prepared for utter disappointment when visiting any other club thereafter.
The Berghain is about the music, pure and simple…letting go of inhibitions. If you are about neon lights, high heels and selfie sticks – this is not the club for you – head on over to the White Isle [Ibiza]!
Sound likes a lot to remember and slightly ridiculous? It is – but well worth the attempt. Just go in a small group, act cool and shut up in the queue. If you don’t get in, have no fear either get changed and try again, turn up after 6am, or go to Tresor Club (see link for Raider Tresor review), which is equally amazing.
Truly an epic and unforgettable clubbing experience for the lovers of purist techno, playing host to the very best Techno DJs including: André Galluzzi, Alri Brikha, Ben Klock, Cassy, Marcel Dettmann and Nick Hoppner.
Bass rating: INCREDIBLE!!! [Bass rating wouldn’t do it justice]
*The notorious Sven Marquardt-Berghain Bouncer [See Raider Marquardt Photography Review]
How to get there? Get a cab! BERGHAIN / PANORAMA BAR Am Wriezener Bahnhof 10243
Follow this link for a feel of the music/interior: https://www.youtube.com/embed/f0zxWFDo2KE“>Berghain – Panorama Club
- Berghain Gatekeeper Sven Marquardt Returns To Photography (renegaderaiders.wordpress.com)
- London’s Answer to the Berghain – Millenium Mills [Pontoon Docks] (renegaderaiders.wordpress.com)
- German Techno Clubs Suddenly Owe Millions In Back Taxes (businessinsider.com)
- Newsflash! Berghain Berlin Programme – Sat 11th-13th Feb 2012 (renegaderaiders.wordpress.com)
- Berlin’s Music Community Debates a Controversial New Nightclub Fee (thefader.com)
- Little White Earbuds Interviews Norman Nodge (littlewhiteearbuds.com)