Samuel Johnson said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’.
And when a man is tired of clubbing in London, he heads to Berlin.
Berlin hustles hard. Much harder than London and probably New York too. It’s the go-to city to pull the ultimate all-nighter.
The hottest DJs and sound systems travel from far and wide to spin the newest, rarest and most celebrated vinyl. Be it at intimate parties or blowout raves under a stream of static lights – they seriously throw it down. And what with Berlin’s licensing laws being pretty relaxed, you can hop from club-to-club and party past sunrise.
The city attracts the young and the restless – it’s got that creative buzz that makes you feel excited to be young, independent, liberal and curious. Berlin has gained a reputation for being a European hub of youth culture; the rents are cheap; warehouse spaces are vast and street art and graffiti coat the city.
I’d read about the nocturnal hi-jinks and low-brow partying; heard how Techno and House ruled the dancefloor and listened to friends tell stories from clubland.
And now it was time to check it out for myself.
My friend N had suggested we take a break – a few days in Europe. Our friend M moved to Berlin at the end of the summer for an adventure so we decided to visit.
We flew into Berlin via Schoenefeld, dragged our bags to our ho(s)tel in Ostkreuz and dropped M a line to let them know we had arrived.
“Right. So it’s not a posh cocktail bar, it’s a really trendy hotel where all the DJs stay and people often go there to start the crack on. It’s really famous. It’s called The Michelberger. Nearest U-Bahn is Warschauer Strasse and it’s literally opposite the exit. We’ll move on to somewhere else for drinks before the club but come to The Michelberger in one hour. Can’t wait to see you!”
So we followed M’s instructions and made our way to the hotel.
The Michelberger oozes cool and draws an artsy and creative clientele. We hit the bar (doubles are standard and at single prices) then made ourselves comfortable on the low sofas. I glanced around and noticed the quirky touches – exotic flowers, vintage books in wire cages, the random red lights…
DJs spin minimal and house from decks on top of a grand piano. The ‘fash pack’ roam around and blow air kisses to each other and snap away on manual SLR cameras.
But as we begin to settle, M tells us to down our drinks. It’s just gone 12.30am and the night is about to begin.
We climb in a taxi with M’s friends and zip through the city to the Prince Charles for the Love Fever party.
M tells us how their friend – an exiled Brit named Kazim Kazim Kazim – is DJing and we should expect to dance pretty damn hard.
Like a lot of clubs in Berlin, the Prince Charles lurks behind a door. No signage, no lights, nothing.
We rock up and walk through a glass door and it’s almost as if the club unfolds and opens up. House music booms out of an impressive sound system and people mill around near the cloak room.
Love Fever is one of London’s most famous discos. Its roots lie in derelict Dalston warehouses and unloved Hackney lofts. Their parties encapsulate that dirty yet erotic atmosphere reminiscent of a decadent, 1970s New York nightclub. And now, armed with a smoke machine and their distinctive pink neon heart , they’ve brought Love Fever to Kreuzberg.
The square bar is the nucleus of the club and clubbers sweep from there to the nearby dancefloor armed with multiple drinks. There, they join other faceless bodies and shimmy and sway as a succession of DJs drop wax from the likes of Footprintz, Foreign Language and MK.
After an hour or so throwing shapes, a girl taps me on the shoulder and says “the party has moved”. She leads me through a door and a single white light shines down from the ceiling as clubbers work up a sweat to soulful house.
But as things start to peak and the beats get harder, we’re rounded up and bundled in to a taxi.
Minutes later we’re stood outside yet another wooden door on Skalitzer Strasse. Well, ‘Farbfernseher’ to be exact. Its translation is ‘colour TV’ and once upon a time this place used to sell them.
M disappears inside and the seven of us pretend not to be fazed by the subzero temperature.
After what feels like an age, a hand pops out and beckons us in. We’re led through a super narrow corridor and in to a space which feels no bigger my living room. It’s small. It’s cramped. The ceiling is high and I can feel air. Cold air. There’s a window open somewhere.
People are on top of each other. Like, there are so many people – it’s crawling with bodies. We battle our way through a throng of spaced-out clubbers and head to the balcony. We grab an Amaretto, jostle for space and look down on to the dance floor. A bed of light bulbs glow above the dancers and you can just make out an outline of hands, heads and legs as they nod and shuffle to electro house.
My eyes start to twitch. The alcohol is wearing off. It’s got to that point in the night where each song sounds identical to the last. Two hours have skipped by. I look down at my watch. It’s just gone 6am.
M appears from beneath the balcony. “Right – in the taxi – we’re off to the Berghaim.”
I laugh. “Not for me”, I say, “I’m hitting the hay”.
♫ Storm Queen – ‘It Goes On’