The Berghain Chronicles – KCRW in Berlin

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The line at Berghain

The line at Berghain when it opens at midnight
entering the club at 12:30pm on a Sunday. just getting started
entering the club at 12:30pm on a Sunday. just getting started

(Berlin is one of the biggest exporters of culture in the world and KCRW is in the German capital to explore how the sister cities connect and much more.)

When I first told people I was going to Berlin, my music friends said I had to hit Berghain. It’s possibly the most famous nightclub in the world and people travel from far and wide to dance away a weekend (not a night. a weekend).

I knew getting on a guest list was next to impossible so I dragged my jet lagged self into a long line right after it opened at midnight on a Saturday night. I struck up a conversation with a few folks from London standing behind us who were looking forward to seeing a DJ in the main room, where you can hear more industrial techno– whereas the Panorama Bar plays more danceable House.

Well, at least that’s what they say. But I’ll never know because, after waiting an hour in line, I was told “sorry for the wait” and dismissed with a head nod by the bouncer (who dismissed the few people in front of us as well).

With places like this, it’s hard to know — was it my bright blue jacket, the fact that I smiled, my inherent nervousness at being judged like that for the first time in a long time? Who knows.

But, there was a strange giddy excitement that I had at being turned away. Firstly, so I could go to sleep sooner. But also that I’m as much a part of the Berghain myth as those who get in.

You see, this is par for the course.

It’s the denials and insane waiting (including hours in the middle of bitter winter cold) that keep the myth alive as much as what goes on inside.

They’ll send away a Norwegian model and invite in a pack of 8 guys (which is pretty much unheard of in LA, or most of the US for that matter). Three friends will come together and two will get in while the other is sent away. The folks I talked to all take it in stride — so much so they even support and defend the practice to keep the “vibe” right. They don’t take it personally.

Australian friends outside Berghain after a night of partying
Australian friends outside Berghain after a night/morning of partying

I did return the next day at noon to talk to some of the party people on site. I befriended a trio of Australians covered in glitter who told me the club was a “different world” as soon as you walk in.

Aside from the rampant nudity and sexual activity in all corners, they say it’s world where you are living in the moment, with no one on their cell phones, no mirrors on the walls, no rules, and where people focus less on how they look and more on how they feel. (in fact, they said the only rule was don’t fall asleep).

Thousands of people show up every weekend to test their luck at the door. I can’t say whether it’s worth it or not from my own experience, but many people certainly think it is.