Fourteen years after opening, Berlin‘s infamous Berghain still attracts tourists in droves every weekend. Housed in a huge former power plant in east Berlin, the institution is as renowned for its techno music as it is for the sordid stories of salacious goings-on inside, yet its strict door policy means hundreds of punters are turned away every night, often after waiting in line for hours.
Annabel Ross visited the Holy Grail of nightclubs back in April to celebrate her birthday. Here’s what she learned.
When Is The Right Time To Go To Berghain?
Berghain is busiest between 12am and 6am on Sunday mornings. We didn’t necessarily plan on going at 2pm Sunday, but it worked in our favour; we waited just 45 minutes, which is nothing compared to the three-hour wait – without guaranteed entry – that some endure.
What Outfit Should You Wear To Berghain?
While the club’s most famous bouncer, Sven Marquardt, says he doesn’t buy into the “wear black” rule, we felt it was better to err on the side of caution – and nearly everyone in the queue and inside the club clearly felt the same.
Active wear is clearly appropriate outside the gym, Adidas in particular, but anything casual and modestly stylish seems like the right choice. Leave the heels at home – they smell “tourist” like nothing else.
How Should I Act In The Line At Berghain To Get In?
Go With The Right People. Crowds of three people or more have a harder time getting in. If you’re in a group, split into twos and line up separately. The bouncers are said to prefer gay patrons (Berghain is a straight-friendly gay club, after all), but pretending to be something you’re not won’t fly.
I was in good company with my mate Adam, but the guy in front of us was doing it all wrong; filing his nails theatrically, taking selfies and loudly commenting on others’ outfits. He was denied entry.
Just Be Cool
Just Be Cool. So, you’re finally close to the front: stay calm (though the wait is nerve-wracking as hell, the bouncer will smell fear – and you won’t be allowed in), keep chat to a minimum (Germans will get preference over foreigners), and don’t drink in the line. In a nutshell, do nothing to draw attention to yourself.
Familiarise yourself with the artist line-up for the night, be ready to reel off a couple of sentences about who you’re keen to see. We weren’t asked the question – the bouncer (not Sven, he was sadly absent) simply asked Adam, “How many?” and we walked straight in. But be prepared. You never know what might be thrown your way.
After squealing and furtively jumping for joy once inside (or not, you do you – I sure did), ditch your bags, jackets, everything at the cloakroom because the less you have to look after, the better. Feeling very sober after the nail-biting wait to enter, we grabbed a celebratory drink and scoped out the whole joint.
In the vast main room, thumping techno fed through imposing Funktion-One speakers feels oppressive and abrasive. But you grow accustomed, and eventually appreciative, the longer you stay.
Upstairs, the Panorama Bar is home to more melodic house music. There are lounges and bars scattered throughout the cavernous space, a rooftop that’s only open in summer, and plenty of little nooks and crannies.
Lose Yourself For As Long As Possible
The drinks are reasonably priced and you can refill your water bottle for free in the bathrooms. There’s even a small snack bar selling sandwiches, bananas and ice cream should you get hungry. You’re in Berghain – stick it out for the long haul!
Eleven hours was enough for us to feel we’d done it justice, but people are known to stay much, much, longer – like, days at a time. Wander around by yourself, talk to strangers, dance. Soak it up and take it in. Who knows if or when you’ll return.
Finally, If You Don’t Get Into Berghain On First Try, Try Again
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again (Or Go Elsewhere). If you do get knocked back, and you don’t have the time or desire to try again, don’t despair. Berlin is full of excellent, more accessible alternatives. That said, they don’t call Berghain “church” for no reason. It really is an experience bordering on the spiritual.
While the door policy is somewhat antithetical to rave culture’s core tenets of “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect”, it does make entering the club feel that much sweeter. I’m yet to meet a person who said Berghain failed to meet their expectations.
It blew my mind, and I can’t wait to go back.
(Lead image: Bart Van Poll / Flickr)
Annabel Ross is an Arts and Entertainment writer for The Age. She also contributes to Rolling Stone and Jetstar magazine. She has a weakness for European summers (eight at last count) but hopes to one day better explore all the other continents (once she can sacrifice those European summers). She is currently terrible at social media (WIP) but you can catch her tweeting occasionally @annabel_ross.