The Berghain as a Symbol of Berlin: It’s Nothing Like You’ve Experienced Before

Berlin is different. And when I say different, I mean like no other city in the world. Granted, it probbbbbably has something to do with the fact that HELLA history has gone down there. I mean, not many cities can say they were home to the world’s second biggest genocide.

With that being said, today’s Berlin is one of the COOLEST damn cities I’ve ever been to. Maybe even the coolest. A city whose youth culture is marked by hippie lovin’ rebellion, grunge music and underground techno clubs, graffiti coffee shops and a big “I don’t care what my grandparents are going to think about my hot pink dreads” counterculture. Take THAT, ya’ old regime.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, the sad truth is not many of us are cool enough for “Berlin Cool.” If you wanna get technical, only 20% of people pass “the test.” And I learned the hard way, I sure as hell am not. It alllllllll started…

Here. THE BERGHAIN. At 1 AM on a Friday.

Via Flckr @Gemma Bardsley

The Berghain is globally known as THE WORLD’S BEST CLUB.  And certainly, the world’s scariest. Located in the building of an old abandoned power plant, this huge industrial monster sits on the edge of East Berlin. It’s surrounded by fences with barbed wire, some polluted dirt n’ grassland, a few neighboring abandoned factories, and kebab stands blasting techno music. It also happens to be THE home of the world’s best techno DJ’s, the world’s best surround sound system streamed throughout the building, and is known for a “whatever the F happens in The Berghain, stays in the…well, you won’t even know 48 hours later.” Yes, the club is open from Friday night to Monday morning. No shutting down. And yes, people stay the entire time. There aren’t any beds to rest, but if you really must be “that guy” there are black rooms hidden off to the sides, where you can sit with the comfort of cement walls hugging you back. Or do other things. Oh, and this “Dante’s Inferno, hell brought to life” club is guarded by the world’s scariest bouncer. Don’t believe me? Google it.

So, I wanted to experience it. Now, disclaimer. This isn’t my usual scene. But, when in Berlin, right? So, I tried. I thought maybe I’d get lucky and be among the 20% of people who get past the bouncer. Lol…

The minute I hopped on the back of the very, very long line I noticed a few things:

1) Nobody was smiling.

2) Nobody was talking.

3) Nobody had their phones out (and how I often to do you see that, these days…)

4) Nobody was making eye contact.

5) EVERYBODY was wearing black. And sneakers.

Via Flckr @jgieseking

Needless to say, me and my goofy smile stuck out like a sore thumb. I was doing my best not to laugh, but it was nearly impossible. I MEAN COME ON PEOPLE, we are on line for A CLUB! It’s not like we are awaiting the deciding moment of our death…

Whispering to the regular Berghain-goer next to me, I quickly learned “the rules.”

  • Smiling or talking, in fact, isn’t “allowed.”
  • People wearing heels won’t get in.
  • Groups of more than two people won’t get in. If you’re alone, better.
  • If you’re wearing “nice” clothing, you won’t get it.
  • Money won’t buy you anything.
  • Even if you’re doing everything “right,” you probably still won’t get in.
  • And if you’re a foreigner, well…Pray that they don’t make you speak at the door.

LOL. Here goes nothin’.

Via Flckr @Moe in Berlin

Two freezing hours later, it’s decision time. My two new friends and I communally decided that we were all going to enter separately, in hopes to increase our chances. Each for his own. And I was up first.

About 10 people away, I hear this deep, monstrous voice yelling “NEIN, NEIN, NEIN…JA.” I realize this voice is sorting out the people who get in, verse don’t. My stomach starts to churn. This situation reminded me all too well of something freakishly similar sounding that happened right in this city, about 70 years ago…

I’m next up. I see this huge, six-foot-something blonde dude with a ponytail and an expression of death, staring at ME. This must be the guy. “Omg…” I’m thinking. “HE KNOWS IM A FOREIGNER!!” For a split second, I forget that I’m waiting to get into a club. I step in front of him. He says something to me in German. I nervously respond, “OON…”

WTF IS OON?! I meant to say “einer” or “one” in German, as in to tell him “It is just one. Me.”


Didn’t see that one coming. So, I collected all my pride, dignity, what’s left of my stomach, and waltzed off by myself to the reject pathway (yes, that exists)…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


A city marked by a frightening history and a crazy, counterculture present. To me, the Berghain represents Berlin in so many ways; more than just the world’s craziest party city. It stands for conformity as a symbol of its past, yet rebellion as a symbol of what it is today. The rules of the Berghain are like no other club. The less posh you are, the more “dare to be different” you look, and the more “down to have fun” you appear, the more accepted you are.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I said, the coolest city ever.

I know, it’s controversial. Do you agree?

#youngwildwanderingandhungry #andnotcoolenough

5 thoughts on “The Berghain as a Symbol of Berlin: It’s Nothing Like You’ve Experienced Before

  1. So, would I survive the test?
    You’re kidding? I am 80 now. But even as a 20 or 30 year old I doubt I would have had the guts to have wanted to go into such a club. For me it was very interesting to read about what it stands for. I was 10 and a half at the end of World War Two. For the first nine years of my life I had lived in Berlin. I love freedom. I enjoyed the freedom after the war, even though Germany suffered from all the damage that had occurred due to the war. What Berghain stands for does not look to me like freedom. How any young person would love to spend time there, boggles the mind. For some reason the regulars to this club must be pretty desperate people, I think. But I grant, maybe they do need such an outlet. Well, it’s all voluntary, isn’t it?

    1. Thank you for your input! It’s very interesting to hear your perspective, especially living in Berlin during the time of/ post WW2. Yes, the club is all voluntarily. It definitely attracts a “type” of person. The idea is that once you are inside, you can completely let loose, as opposed to the “outside” experience. Unfortunately, I can’t completely account for what goes on inside! But I definitely see where you’re coming from 🙂

  2. Your account of the club and Berlin gave me the chills!!! As I kept reading, my mind kept saying – it sounds like the beginning of the Nazi regime!!!! The conformity, the negativity, the fear – – – and much more. So to me, my dearest Casie, this is not cool – this sounds like repetition of something that should never happen. I know you would have liked the experience – and I can understand that – but you have had an experience. Have you stopped to think about why they have a place like this club – and why so many seek admission??????

    I love you. xoxox

  3. I just prefer to be myself… Honestly, I never liked clubs and I have only been to very few ones in my lifetime. I much prefer a calm, “hipstery” bar in Neukölln, an ethnic restaurant where you are probably the only non German or the ethnic group of the bunch, or even a café in Mitte

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