I had heard many things about Berlin; It’s superiority for Techno, an unrivalled grungy underground scene that locals revel in every weekend, culture and modern architecture, the much adorned ‘Currywurst’. However, when it came to going myself, I went with an open mind and tried to forget everything I had previously been told about the city.
What I did discover on this short 4 day trip, was that the city and people itself almost had two sides to it. An alter ego if you will. On the outside and visible to all, a modern monochrome city, with an incredible history, played host to thousands of tourists, all keen to view the remnants of a horrifying past and the perseverance of its people. New buildings that had been rebuilt and refashioned after the war, with architecture inspired by art, literature, mythology and German pride.
On the other, somewhat hidden away from those who are unwilling to explore, was a much more colourful, unorthodox and ‘queer’ face to the city. One that is very reassured in itself and knows what it is and who it wants to be. You only need to venture out when the street lights come on and the sun goes down to experience this side of Berlin; the bars, clubs, street food vendors, live music gigs, the Burlesque shows and old industrial estates like Raw Gelande, that have since been made into street art havens and alternative meeting places.
Perhaps epitomising this underground hidden scene, Berlin plays home to acclaimed techno world hub and secretively selective night club, Berghain. I was lucky enough to experience Berghain twice, and I left with a mixture of feelings. I felt empowered; much more confident in myself, after being surrounded by people that were there for themselves, not to pass judgement on how others looked and for the experience, not to simply get drunk as in many normal nightclubs. You could see the passion for the techno music culture and it was easy to understand why the door policy is so strict and selective. It protects the people that are there and keeps toxic and judgmental vibes at bay. I saw all sorts of people in there, and such diversity that it really captures what I believe Berlin as a city is all about. The Berliners are very proud people, and like their city, very comfortable in themselves and their way of life.
I left Berlin as I had entered, very open minded. I had seen the somewhat ‘touristic’ yet vitally influential and story telling historical landmarks like the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, the OperaHouse, the remaining section of the Berlin Wall and the various remnants of a war and political group that crushed Berlin as a city.
But I had also witnessed the diverse nightlife, from Berghain to Salon [an abandoned workspace turned into a huge almost house like space with trippy 1920’s style rooms and a backgarden that made you feel like you were living through all of Berlin’ eras], to the graffiti tagged East Side Gallery at sunrise and abandoned warehouses turned into skate parks.
There is much more to Berlin than meets the initial tourists eye.