A former power plant with a steel and concrete industrial dancefloor. Hedonistic techno parties spanning 36 hours. Barbed wire tattoos on the face of the head doorman. There can only be one place I’m talking about.
The club is a place of legend, only fuelled further by the strict secrecy surrounding it – no cameras are allowed inside, photo-taking being a certified kicking-out offence.
Maybe it is out of curiosity then that hundreds descend upon Berghain every weekend, only for more than half of the queue to be turned away. Despite this hand-picked selection of each and every one of their 1500 capacity, the queue still can be seen to trail back down the dirt path week-in week-out, with prime-time queues of over an hour, even in the depths of winter.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that you can turn up a few hours later and avoid the rush. Prime-time at Berghain goes from the midnight opening till about 8am – this is Berlin, after all. On Saturdays the club opens at midnight, and doesn’t stop the music until noon on Monday. Morning, noon and night, the beats keep pounding and the dancefloor keeps moving.
Inside, be prepared for something unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Perhaps it is the club’s total uniqueness that won it the title of No 1 Club in 2009, without having to ask for its votes like certain others. Arguably, it still is. Through the entrance opens up into a vacuous concrete space, where the throbbing techno upstairs gets your heart pounding to the same intense rhythm. A bar and some places to sit away from the crowd are usually empty; the fun is all happening on the floor above. Ascend the stairs and you’re there, in the heart of the Berghain powerhouse.
Windows metres-high span up the walls, but not a trickle of daylight gets through the shutters, leaving you to lose yourself in the timeless freedom that defines Berghain; that ensures you never want to leave. Here in this vast room, self-indulgence and decadence rules. If you can’t find it with a partner in the infamous ‘dark room’ in the corner, or in the bizarrely-situated café and ice-cream parlour above, you’ll most certainly find it on the dancefloor.
Further and higher into the club, you reach Berghain’s little sister, Panorama Bar. Here the mood is lighter and the colours are softer, but don’t go thinking she’s any tamer. The music here crosses over into two days’ worth of stellar deep- and tech-house. As the last dancefloor to close on the Monday morning, Panorama keeps up the pace of the whole weekend. With residents like Berlin favourite Steffi, and an interesting choice of erotic art on the wall, the bar is a vital part of the Berghain legend.
Tempted yet? Well not so fast. Before you get to be a part of the pulsating pounding inside, to move with the undulating crowd, to partake in the debauchery of the ‘dark room’ - you must first negotiate the all important door policy. Big group? Forget it. Lad’s night out? Not a chance. Dressed for the occasion? Don’t bother.
The doormen aren’t interested in you or any answers you have to give. Their word is law, and they carry the highest respect. Nothing screams undignified like walking away from the door calling the bouncer an arsehole after all. There is a long list of contentious rules that may or may not be the key to getting in, but ultimately, be casual. If they don’t like you, they don’t like you, deal with it and move on.
Once you ARE in though – welcome to what may well be the most intense clubbing experience of your life. World-class DJs make the schedule each week without exception, providing hours-long soundtracks to the Berghain/Panorama floors. To be a part of it, after the agonizing wait at the door, is quite the sensation: Relieved, that the hard part is over. Dizzy, in awe of the place. But mostly, the deepest feeling of anticipation and excitement you will find in any club this side of Europe. You’re in for an unbelievable night. Just remember – pace yourself. There’s hours to go yet.