James Went To Berlin

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Germany, and especially Berlin as I had the most amazing time there back in 2006 for the now-defunct Love Parade.

So when two of my closest friends, Matt and Sam, booked flights to Berlin and asked if I wanted to join them – there was no way I could refuse.  3 days and nights in Berlin, with lots of amazing clubs and bars to visit – I got proper excited…on the day before anyway.

I seem to have developed this inability to hold my excitement back for my adventures recently, especially this year – ideally one would go away fully stocked on sleep without a hangover.

So, me being me, I went out for a drink on the Friday before.  Which turned into more than one.  And went to bed an hour before I had to get up to pack my suitcase and get ready.

Not the brightest of ideas but I knew I could sleep on the plane and my excitement carried me through anyway no problem – no problem until we collectively decided to be rebels – after all we are going to Berlin, the coolest city in the world allegedly and the most anti-rules place I have ever been to, so ignoring the words “Go To Gate” until there were just 12 minutes until the flight was due to leave – when we arrived there with 5 minutes to go, we were advised with quite some scorn that our bags had been taken off the plane.

Oops.  For some reason, whenever me and Matt go on an adventure, there is always some sort of mishap!  But I like a story, we all took it in good humour, waited an hour and a half for our bags to return, paid £50 for a flight the next morning (there was one on Saturday afternoon but only two spare seats).

So, I grabbed a few hours sleep, went out for a quick drink, again came home many drinks later and then was too excited to sleep again.


This time we got the plane in plenty of time, and arrived in our apartment which was, as one would expect in Berlin, rather minimal in style.  In a good way though, just simple colours, simple decorations – Richie Hawtin would approve.  And at €60 for 3 nights each – a total bargain.  It was in Kreuzberg which was a little like a Ghetto with the amount of graffiti on every single building, but it is Berlin and that is part of it’s charm.

Sunday afternoon, we went for a wander, I bought a Bratwurst.  Then I bought another Bratwurst.  Not eating sausages is like not eating a bacon sandwich in Dubai.  It has to be done otherwise you are disrespecting the country and their religion.  We found a nice bar with lots of deckchairs outside to sunbathe on, and yes there were people sunbathing despite it being a nippy 5’C at best.  This is Berlin, ja?

Oh and I must mention the highlight of my trip – I got a free hug from two German hotties.  Happy days.  Love is in the air.

Cue a few hours sleep to take my total to around 4 hours for 50 or so hours (I had slept loads the week before so clearly lots of stored energy), and a good chunk of Jagermeister to warm us up, and some good tunes to get us prepared for the night ahead, we found a little random bar nearby, and ordered a meat platter to share which had one piece of meat and 500 pieces of cheese.  Ish.

It was kind of like a tiny, intimate version of the Oakford, cool tunes too.  The toilet was a little more interesting – opposite the toilet in the cubicle was an office chair facing.  These Germans certainly have a strange sense of humour – at least I hope it is that.

Anyway, ready to hit the night-life, albeit on a Sunday evening but as the coolest clubbing city in the world there would surely be plenty of choice.

We spent a good hour or perhaps more walking around trying to find a target and decided to go for the most difficult one – Berghain.  For anyone who does not know, this club has the reputation of being the most difficult nightclub to gain entrance to in the world.  Even Richie Hawtin has been thrown out…though not sure if that is too much of a surprise as I heard he isn’t welcome in one or two London clubs too though I won’t repeat them here in case they aren’t true (ask me and I will tell you).

Anyway, we walked up around 1am, hearing some really angry shouting and there was some very scary looking guy stomping up and down the walkway to the club and kicking the fence, shouting mostly in German but he did now and again shout a bit of English, something along the lines of “You fucking English skinheads are French” – anyway we approached the entrance, can hear the music, can see the lights, get excited but get to the door and there is no way in.  Not even the world’s scariest bouncer to tell us where to go.

At least we tried to get into the most difficult club in the world – surely we get brownie points?

So we give up, pop to this totally empty and quiet bar with no music – though she kindly puts on some electro-house for us, realising we are English and probably didn’t get into Berghain, sit down to have a beer and work out a plan.

We opt to go to this derelict area next to the river which had some lights on, and looked like a cool place.  We got to the door and the bouncer asked if we had a stamp, to which we replied “no”.  Not a good sign.  He kindly explained that most people in there had been partying for 2-3 days and that we were too sober.

Me…too sober?  Seriously?  That is a new one.

Back to the drawing board, and the map and it was around 3am.  One place we knew was open was a club called Weekend, which we knew was in an office block and we knew the direction, so continued walking in the frosty air looking at various tall building until I spotted flashing lights – this was our last chance of Berlin night-life (unless we risked going to Tresor on Monday night and going straight from there to the airport).

Walking through the entrance, we are stopped by someone at a desk who clearly sees we are English (I don’t think anyone spoke to me in German the whole trip) and asked us for €250.  Each.  We laughed at him and thankfully he was joking and waved us through.

Yes, we are in a club in Berlin!  But then he says “hey, wait a minute guys, do you realise this is a gay night?”.

With a line-up of Gloria Viagra, Barbie Balls and Richard ‘Dick In A Dress’ (ok I made the last one up and cannot remember Barbie’s last name), we had already come to this conclusion – so we said “of course, gays have the most fun” and he was like “ok”.

Phew.  Maybe?

Inside, on the 12th floor, give or take, was a fairly simple nightclub, quite dark and painted black, with nice minimal lighting, a reasonable sized dancefloor, reasonably priced drinks and a sizeable seating area with many people making out.  Noticeably a girl in a black dress with rather muscley legs and a not-so-feminine jawline imitating sex with everyone she could get eye contact from.

Oh yes, we so looked the part.

And musically, wow, it was quite something.  Many tracks I didn’t recognise but I did recognise this classic (go on have a listen – I dare you), which seemed to go down well.

Somehow we managed until the end around 6am, but we stuck out like a sore thumb on the sidelines – and I didn’t dare go near the dancefloor – it is difficult enough at fabric having to fight off the attention of so many women, no way was I risking it 😉

So we went back to the apartment and had a few drinks in the fridge to finish off and lots of good music to listen to so carried on as long as possible…which was quite a long time, and then later on the hangover started to kick in so the planned sightseeing went the same way as the underground clubbing idea…oh and the Saturday morning plane.

So it didn’t go to plan.  Nowhere near to plan.  But I had a super time, and so much fun.

I thoroughly recommend Berlin to anyone – the city is wonderful, it is charming, it is strange, it is quirky and it is very cheap for western European standards – I spent just €120 in Berlin, with €60 for 3 nights in an apartment.  I probably spent more in Reading on the Friday and Saturday night!

You have to go to Berlin.  Simple.

But plan your weekend and stick to your plans!


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