Today was awful. Just, awful. I lay on the sofa half-drunk for most of the day, groaning quietly, unable to sleep on the uncomfortable chairs. People came and went into the hostel, happy and healthy, going about their days, and I was just strewn across the room like a plaster floating near the drain of a public swimming pool. Alcohol can fuck you up. Drugs can make you a mess. But lack of sleep dissolves the very fabric of the universe around you and renders you a manky, gibbering globule.
I was a sleepless wraith, floating around the hostel, not quite dead, far from alive. People spoke to me and I gurgled in reply. I needed a bed. I had no bed. The word circled my mind, bouncing around the blackness of my consciousness like an old-school screensaver. Bed. At 6pm, Tommy emerged from his slumber, fresh faced and straight back on the booze. Good for you Tommy, that’s great. Very happy for you, as I lie here, eyebrow still swollen from the violent door-slamming incident some eight waking hours earlier.
I went out, bought a pizza, burned it, couldn’t eat a slice, and continued my howling stalk through the corridors of the hostel, haunting the residents with my anguished moans. 32 hours awake, and counting. Then, my saviour. Oh sweet bearded Tommy, with your flat cap and your auburn beard, thank you. He let me sleep in his bed for an hour. A blissful hour! One entire, uninterrupted hour of slumber! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
I collapsed into his bed fully clothed, set my alarm, closed my eyes, and woke up to my alarm’s frantic ringing almost instantly. Fucking dammit arse wanker bastard tit, an hour was up and I barely blinked, and now I was more tired because I had teased my weary brain and it was punishing me. I stumbled back into the dorm room, bleary eyed and whimpering. The guys were pre drinking for the night’s debauchery. Nooooooo.
I got a beer and decided to try to drink through it, but I was sinking further away from all conversation. They were playing a card game, and I watched hatefully. There were a few Aussies and a few others and aghhgeorgeg I don’t know I was a corpse.
Aside: At this point you are probably thinking ‘Why didn’t he just not go out? Why didn’t he just not have a beer? Why didn’t he just find a hostel that had a vacancy?’ I shall explain. I was Death incarnate, and my luggage weighs a fuck ton and I didn’t want to stagger sleepless through Berlin for hours trying to find a new place. The very idea made me feel faint. I had to go out because there were no beds and you can’t sleep overnight in the lounge, and I didn’t want to be homeless for a night. My only choice was to head out and party until check in the next day. Which was at 2pm, Sunday.
I had maybe two beers and felt sick. Silvery-dreadlocked Tianna came back from her conference that day with a blonde English girl called Katya, who was funny and at one point made a Harambe joke which I appreciated. Along with two Aussie girls, a German guy and an American, we headed to a bar Tommy knew called Bohnengold. Kottbusser Tor was chaos on Saturday night, and we passed many oddities. At a local drinking fountain, we were treated to the charming vista of a tall man with a long grey beard standing with his trousers round his ankles, washing himself.
We reached the bar; still trying to shake off the disturbing things we’d seen en route, and entered past two stern bouncers. Bohnengold is cool. It’s a succession of four rooms, each further back in the building, gradually getting more rowdy. The first room is a crowded bar/café with steamy windows. The second room is a smoky, tight corridor with long wooden tables. The third room back is full of pinball machines and worn out booths, with stripped wallpaper and basic furnishing.
At a glance, that’s all there is to the place. However, linger in the back games room and you will notice a throbbing sound, out of time with the speakers in the room. A string of fairy lights highlight a discrete door in the back of the room, and if you head through here you enter the fourth room, a huge, dark, booming nightclub, throbbing beneath a golden disco ball. This room is filled wall to wall with people dancing. It’s incredible.
We danced in there for a while and I downed a couple of beers and a Club Mate, the German iced-tea energy drink, to try and wake up. It still wasn’t happening. Sitting down to talk in the front room, I was immediately fighting to keep my eyes open. Katya, Tommy and Tianna wanted shots, and Katya bought me a Jager which I downed, ruefully. The Aussies and German and American took the shots as their cue to leave and I watched them go, bubbling over with envy. The remaining team kept prodding me to wake up and telling me to quit whining and be a man. IT’S NOW SUNDAY AND I HAVEN’T SLEPT SINCE THURSDAY I NEED TO SLEEP AAAAAAH.
As the four of us sat, this tall drunk woman crashed her way over to our table and banged on it, yelling “Where can I get some fucking weed?”. Katya and Tianna looked at her, gasped, and screamed like a pair of hen-night banshees, flailing, jumping to their feet, beer flying everywhere. Turns out this random weed woman was their waitress from earlier that day, or something completely not worth screaming about. Weed Woman looked like Tim Curry in the Rocky Horror Show. Honestly, spitting image. I told Tommy and his eyes bulged in sudden realisation and agreement.
So Frank N. Furter was fawning over the girls while I sat not-drinking because I’d ran out of money. She told us to follow her to get some weed, and we could smoke with her. I don’t like weed but the girls wanted to so I was dragged along. We left the bar around 1am and followed Frank N. Furter back to Kottbusser Tor station. I got cash out and went into an off license to buy a beer, and when I came back Frank N Furter was gone. Tommy and Katya hadn’t seen her go despite being stood with her. They had turned their backs and she had just disappeared into the Berlin night, like a fart in a gale.
So, a four once more, the girls decided they still wanted drugs, which meant a trek over to the next tube stop which is infamous for being crowded with dealers. They did their little deal; I sat with Tommy at a table and waited. We got the tube back again and found a bar called Paloma. It isn’t signposted, only accessible by a graffitied staircase that looks like a set from The Bill where someone gets bludgeoned to death with a 2×4. It’s inside an unassuming building I’ve walked past every day for weeks. I thought it was offices. Everything in Berlin is secretly a nightclub, I swear.
We chilled in there for a couple of hours, met a few weird and wonderful people, and headed back to the hostel to regroup. I was briefly not feeling so shit anymore, possibly thanks to the momentum of the night, possibly due to vast amounts of caffeine drinks, who knows. We got into the hostel at 6am and soon realised there was fuck all happening there – who’d have guessed?! Not four pissed up morons, at any rate.
We decided to go to Berghain, as we’d heard that 7am is the quietest time and you’re more likely to get in. We got the U Bahn and arrived just before 7 on Sunday morning. It was still dark, raining gently, and the ground up to the building was muddy. It’s incredibly imposing; a vast, grey concrete structure with windows running in long columns down the length of the building. All the way there, we passed people heading the other direction – people dressed in black looking sad, talking about how they didn’t want to get into Berghain, anyway.
Berghain is notorious for its door policy, and has built its own mythology. The people who get in tell everyone else how great it is, and everyone clamours to get in all the more. The bouncers calmly reject hundreds, if not thousands of people a night. You never get given a reason. Some people say speak German, wear black, act cool, don’t smile. Others say dress comfortable, be yourself and you’ll walk right in. Truth is, no one knows. For me, I’m guessing it’s random. They reject people based on nothing, and it keeps you theorising about it for days. It’s a marketing trick.
We approached the towering grey monolith of Berghain, feeling the bass vibrate the floor outside, and seeing brilliant lights and debauched silhouettes flash in the windows. There is only one tiny iron door, utterly unassuming, and three bouncers block the way. We approached and let Katya do the talking, as she speaks a little German. The bouncer asked how many of us there are. She said four. He asked another, quicker question in German. She said sorry, she didn’t catch that, as her German is a little rusty. The second bouncer said not to worry about it. The first bouncer looked us for a moment, standing near death in the rain at 7am, with no one else in the queue or anywhere near, and said:
“You didn’t get in.”
Note the past tense he used. There is no arguing. It’s been decided. You came here, you tried, and you didn’t get in. Katya asked if she could enquire as to why. Nope. The others looked heartbroken, but I’ve met enough Berghain rejects to have been expecting it. We headed off, dejected. It’s not so bad for me – I’ll probably try next weekend, or something. I’ve got weeks to try. It’s all good.
The fumes I was running on were all but gone, along with the last of my enthusiasm. We went to a club called Suicide Circus, which has a lot of hype and sounds cool from the name, but it’s just a warehouse with speakers and lights. There’s no character to it. It’s definitely just an end-of-the-night drug club, and there were tons of bizarre characters leaping about on the dancefloor, gurning to victory and dripping with sweat.
We danced and drank for an hour or so, and at 8am I said I was probably going to call it a night. The others agreed, and we slowly drifted out of the club, winding back on the U Bahn. Tommy’s voice had gone, and when he spoke it sounded like someone throwing a bag of gravel down an escalator. Katya was staying in a different hostel and was intending to head back there, however Tianna persuaded her to come to ours for an after party.
We sat in the lounge and my GOD the bliss of a bumpy old sofa. Tianna brought her duvet from her room and wrapped herself in it, while Tommy and I collapsed on a sofa each. Katya went to the toilet for about 20 seconds, and when she came back Tommy and Tianna were out cold. I was blinking furiously to stay awake, and apologised for the lack of after party. She said not to worry, got her bag and wandered off to get the tube home. As soon as she had gone, my head hit the pillow.
Blackness. Sweet, sweet blackness.