If you’re familiar with Berghain, the infamous Berlin super club, it would be for one of two reasons; the salacious rumours about what goes on inside or you are seriously into EDM.
I’d heard of it in a combination of both and the mythology surrounding the place got me curious. I’m no seasoned techno fan by any means and my intentions of visiting the club were not of the shady kind either but the enigmatic door policy?
Well that was a challenge too hard to resist.
Housed in a former East German power plant and now dubbed the ‘most famous club in the world’ no wonder there are hours long queues each weekend to get inside.
As a result, the club has adopted a criteria for entry that nobody can seem to get their heads around.
Chief doorman Sven Marquardt rules the night here and holds the fates of hopeful clubbers in his hands. Ruining nights with the wave of his hand, people have tried for years to crack the perfect formula for crossing Berghain’s concrete threshold.
You could be the world’s biggest techno fan, even a famous DJ, and still get turned away. Anyone planning a trip to Berlin specifically for a trip to the ‘worlds most famous club’ best be prepared for heartache.
What some find even more discouraging is that there appears to be no rhyme or reason for refusal, and it’s futile to ask why as you’ll just be met with a ‘not tonight’.
But in stark contrast to UK clubs there’s an untold level of respect here. Rejection isn’t met by an argument with the bouncers, people just simply suck it up and move on to the next place (which leaves nearby clubs dubbed as places for ‘Berghain rejects’).
Wear black, no chit chat in the queue, no eye contact, speak German if you can and no drinking while you wait were just a few tips we picked up online.
On the approach it’s deadly silent, nobody in the queue wastes time on chatter for fear of jeopardising their chances of getting in.
Everyone is on edge, and it’s no surprise when everyone is about to face Sven and could witness disappointment up ahead first hand as countless people get turned away. Groups of young girls, couples, solo clubbers, older groups; all turned away, but all let in too.
Telepathically I think me and my friends had mutually agreed that we were about to receive a ‘not tonight’, of course we couldn’t discuss our tactic so waited in silence as we got closer.
To put it bluntly, Sven is fucking terrifying, which is probably the point.
He looms over the queue with tattoos and piercings covering pretty much every bit of skin on his face. He shows no expression and constantly wears sunglasses which left me convinced that he didn’t even look in our direction once.
After a brief exchange in my broken German the bouncer turned to Sven and we got the nod.
How. What. Why.
There have definitely been more deserved people (ie. more techno music savvy people) who have tried and failed to get in but we, three girls from Essex, managed it.
But we didn’t let our joy show too much. Berghain rule 101 – don’t get too excited, not at least until you make it to the cloakroom.
Because of the salacious rumours I mentioned earlier of what goes on inside the club (better not discussed on this blog really) they ask you to hand over your phones and cover the cameras with stickers to preserve privacy.
Once your inside Berghain, it’s another world. No photos and no daylight – despite the club remaining open all day on Sunday, they put the shutters down to keep things behind closed doors.
There are of course certain doors in Berghain that shouldn’t be opened. I couldn’t even tell you where they are, they’re intentionally discrete and only known to those who need to know, but darkrooms exist in that place and are best left to certain members of the clientele. After all, it was originally founded as a fetish club and still host male only nights twice a year for the veterans of Berlin’s gay scene.
But my experience of Berghain? A place where time doesn’t really exist, hours could easily get lost inside those walls which makes it easy to believe that people enter on a Friday and don’t leave until a Monday morning. There was no ounce of seediness, not even a massively obvious presence of drugs (although it was undoubtedly happening all around).
This is a place where people come for the music and come for a good time, just like any other club really. People arrive, drawn in by the stories, and leave bewildered in a good way.
The architecture of the place is enough to leave you in awe, if not the shock of actually getting in of course. That gratefulness of being granted entry is also palpable; we got chatting to a New Zealander called George who couldn’t believe his luck either.
So I’d say give it a go, at least once if you’re visiting. Dress in black and face Sven, what’s inside will probably surprise you and not in the way the stories would make you think.