Berghain in Berlin is easily the most notorious underground nightclub in the world today. Known for its strict door policy that turns away everyone from celebrities and tourists to regulars. It is well-known for denying entry to hopeful patrons, weekend-long raves and the policy of no judgement inside.
With such an exclusive aura surrounding Berghain, the questions on many people’s lips are, how do you get inside Berghain? And once inside, what is it like?
Google is littered with articles that break down everything from what to wear to correctly answering the bouncer’s questions (more on that later).
This is written as a first-hand account, having been lucky enough to crack a winning lottery ticket and enter the hallowed halls of the techno institution.
The Queue To Get Inside Berghain
Imagine standing outside on a bitterly cold early November morning in East Berlin. The queue of revellers in front of an ominous-looking former East German power station is long and eerily quiet. Ever so slowly, the line begins to creep along as the bass-heavy kick drum from Berghain’s sound system thuds into earshot through the still winter air.
Nobody complains about the cold or the lengthy wait. Doing that would mean inevitable rejection at the door. A subdued feeling of excitement begins to wash over as you come into view of the entrance. But before being granted access to explore the wonders that await inside Berghain. The most famous doorman in the world must pass his verdict on whether or not you ‘get it’ or not.
Spotters In The Line
Although not confirmed, it’s highly likely the vetting process begins well before you ever stand in front of the doorman. Spotters who stand in the queue to filter the potential patrons. So anything that shows you’re blatantly a tourist or there for the wrong reasons, word will make way up to the doors, and you will be turned away. But not before they let you stand for hours in the freezing cold to wait your turn for an up-close rejection.
For those unfamiliar, Sven Marquardt is the gatekeeper. Sporting barbed wire facial tattoos, a bullnose piercing, a grey-haired man bun, and big square framed hipster glasses. He makes the final decision on your hope of entry into the building.
A single question will likely come your way ‘wie viele’? Answering with ‘zwei, bitte’ or ‘einz, bitte, is magnitudes better than saying ‘two, please’ or ‘one, please’. If you don’t know why then be sure to check out the article below.
The Berghain Dress Code
While it’s the most common recommendation around, dressing like a goth when you aren’t is not what wins you the lottery or not. And you might find yourself feeling silly when Sven wears all white at the door, which he has been known to do!.
The simple fact is no one has the foggiest idea of what works. It’s all simply the luck of the draw. But if you are dressed like a preppy frat boy, then you aren’t getting in. So, leave the boat shoes at home.
Any first-timers need to remember just how the debaucherous nature of Berghain was formed. Before Berghain started in 2004, the ownership ran a club night known as Ostgut. This was a space for the male-only fetish scene in Berlin in the early ’90s, where patrons who entered did so without fear of judgement. A hallmark that is firmly in place today in Berghain.
Today it is open to all genders, and it is commonplace to see open engagements of sexual acts. Although the club’s darkrooms are used, you’ll likely see fornication in the bathrooms and even the queue for the ice cream bar (well, you need to cool down somehow!)
The Main Room:
Marcell Detman, Ken Block, Steffi and Tama Sumo are all residents and regularly play the cavernous main room. Its ceiling is 18 meters high, and the void in between itself and sweat dripping revellers below is filled with one of the world’s most powerful sound systems.
Techno sets that start here on Saturday night can run until Monday afternoon. It has been the launch platform for many a DJ into the techno limelight.
Venture up the stairwells (which are the world’s most interesting) and discover the Panorama Bar. A good yin from the main rooms yang. More house and melodic house DJ sets get played from the booth. Which looks like a butcher’s shop set from a Saw movie where the antagonist would likely operate.
With the likes of Tale Of Us and Adriatique, who play regularly, you’ll always be treated to cutting edge unreleased music. And sound so clear and crisp that you could have a conversation, even a disjointed one, without your words getting lost in the ether.
Berghain’s original purpose is found in the male-only club in the basement of the building. It is hardcore and not for the faint-hearted. Tales of what goes on are many, and they neither get confirmed nor denied by the Berghain’s owners/founders. Just the short response when asked about it ‘if we were to build Lab.Oratory again, we would have installed better drainage’. Make of that what you will.
Berlin has become the unofficial clubbing capital of the world, and 1 in 3 tourists come to experience the nightlife in some form. Many of them will attempt to get inside Berghain. The exclusivity helps feed the nature of the beast with more and more people wanting to have a Berlin clubbing experience.
It is a space where you can get totally lost, both literally and figuratively. Open to any number of sexual desires and an area for avid techno lovers to dance an entire weekend.
There is a palpable sense of unity in the dancefloors that stems from everybody’s pure engagement with the present moment. No phones mean nobody is taking dodgy videos for social media and, therefore, no distractions. It’s pure unity moving together to the sound of the kick drum.
Berlin is well known for not allowing phones or photos while inside its nightclubs. A verbal warning and a sticker to put over the lens are enough for most club-goers to get it. Removing that sticker and getting snap happy will get you thrown out, no questions asked.
Berghain feels like breaking through the cloud and into the clear air above in a world of increasing velocity. And yes, it may seem counterintuitive to think the world’s most famous techno club is anything but feeling light and airy. But after you put the phone away and get utterly lost in the present within the cavernous temple, you begin to escape the pressures of the outside world. It is hedonism, personified.
Berghain is as much a nightclub as it is a symbol of electronic music culture. Its recognition by the city of Berlin as an important cultural location in 2016 reinforces this fact. It represents something different to each person that enters. It has the ability to delight those that enter and infuriate those that are rejected.
It is freedom of expression, a musical mecca, a place to escape, a place to get lost, and a place to get found all at the same time.