The music seeps through the door inside the bathroom, mirrors covered in black trash bags, men, women and everything in-between or outside the traditional binary understanding of gender mixing together, several of them folding at each time within the stalls like a well oiled Tetris machine. Even your phone has had a neat little sticker attached to it, to prevent you from taking pictures. It’s not just for show – what the club tries is to create a certain culture, also achieved by brutally denying entrance to anyone who wouldn’t fit it. It’s no wonder this futuristic, techno libertarian environment created inside.
Clubbing – Berghain and KitKat Club
Berlin is certainly a mecca for techno music – and it is the place where my previous dislike for the genre turned around. Clubs can be notoriously picky with who they let in. Avoid going in big groups, and split into smaller ones if you must if you want to get inside. They also seem to love gays so camp it up.
Berghain, described in the intro, sits right at the top of it all. So coveted is the entrance to the club that there are entire guides and articles on how to look, how to acts and who to screw (well, at least that’s how I got in) to be accepted inside. The location used to be a power plant and can host up to 1,500 people at any given time. The brutalist/minimalist architecture inside has several rooms and “locations”, including well knows Panorama Bar and The Laboratory – a gay club within the club (men only).
The club I prefer more, KitKat, tends to be somewhat different in terms of the vibe (given by the fact that it’s a kink club). Be ready to bring some toys and costumes to play less you risk not being let in. Everything goes – from fully naked people with chains on their necks to leather suits covering everything. Not a club for the weak hearted – sex can happen anywhere at any given time. There are several rooms, with different vibes, a pool, a room to relax, several dancing floors. Quite an experience all in all.
Cafes – Concierge Coffee and The Store x Soho House
Perhaps in stark contrast to London, Berlin also offers (have I mentioned cheap prices, by the way?) great tea and coffee throughout the city – so good in fact that I actually have coffee. Without adding 1 kilo of sugar in it!
Concierge Coffee (near Kotbuser Tor station) is this beautiful, edgy little cafe that roasts its own coffee in the Italian restaurant next-door (which is also quite good should you find yourself hungry). I am traditionally not a coffee drinker, especially because bad coffee tends not to be something I enjoy in the least – I dislike bitterness and have a tendency to smolder the cup with sugar. The fact that I had a latte at Concierge Coffee without adding anything in it should be worthy of an award at least. The staff is also incredibly friendly – and it was the location for my Berlin “BarelyEating” shoot! Hoorah!
Berlin is also astounding for the architectural and design diversity that it offers even in terms of places such as cafes. The Store x Soho House is a perfect example of this concept. While the quality of the coffee/tea is by a lot inferior to that of Concierge Coffee, the mood and environment is quite different. Built literally within a store, the vibe is very akin to that of uptown New York shopping spree with the girls.
Eating out – Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebab and House of Small Wonder
Unsurprising, should one be familiar with the ethnic composition of the population of Berlin, Kebab shops are everywhere. And boy did I miss them.
Among some that claim (or are claimed) to be the best, Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebab (near Mehringdamm station) is certainly up there – the queue in itself is ridiculous. Luckily there is a shop nearby, and drinking in public is allowed and socially acceptable, so you can grab a nice German beer (the shop even has a chained bottle opener) to enjoy whilst waiting. The meat was absolutely delicious and tender, and they also add cooked vegetables and cheese to the mix, adding not just to the flavour but also the texture. Kebabs here often come similar to a sandwich (as opposite to wraps in Romania – but you can order the wrap as well).
For breakfast we headed to the magical House of Small Wonder, and everyone going there should definitely try the Avocado and Goats Cheese Sandwich and the Croissant French Toast. “All Day Brunch” is all I need to hear. In terms of clientele the place seems to be quite popular with foreigners (just so you know what you’re getting yourself into), but it’s very lovely all in all.
Being Gay – Motzstraße
Motzstraße (Nollendorfplatz station is close by) would be the place where I would gravitate towards for a “gaybourhood” – from Romeo und Romeo for coffee, to Tom’s Bar for later night shenanigans, or the many leather and kink shops around. Most clubs (even the ones which aren’t gay per se like Berghain or KitKat, tho KitKat does have “gay night” on Friday) love us – and it seemed to be much easier to get in if it was obvious I wasn’t straight.
The scene is much kinkier and to some extent sleazier (walking around Schoneberg you’ll see so many bars being “cruising bars”) than London – and certainly in terms of bars or clubs accommodating for sex, I haven’t really come across anything quite like this. But don’t let all the leather and fetish scare you off – I found Berliners to be incredibly friendly and open minded, and the scene has much less attitude than London.