This article was illustrated by my incredibly talented lil bro, Charlie. If you like his stuff you can jump on over to his Instagram, here, to see more.
Vic and I were complaining to each other a couple of weeks ago that although we’ve been in Berlin for a quarter of a year now, we’ve only gone to a few night clubs. I’ve been to Chalet, Monarch, Sisyphos twice, Kater Blau four times, and yet there are dozens of clubs I’ve never gone anywhere near. So, when Michelle text me last week saying she was off to the near-mythical Heideglühen for a day party on Saturday, I was well ready for mayhem. Mayhem I tell you!
I got an early night Friday to allow me the energy to wake at the ungodly hour of 9am on Saturday. I headed to Vic’s new place around 10.30 and met her in the snowy street, fingers raw, bone frozen in our summer jackets, beer clutching, always. We bought breakfast bread and more beer from the supermarket under the usual judging stares of the elderly, and attempted to navigate to the location Michelle had given me.
Heideglühen is akin to Isla de Muerta, in that it cannot be found save by those who already know where it is. If you type the club’s name into Google or Facebook and head to the location detailed therein, you will find a fat load of nothing. It’s all smoke and mirrors designed to keep undesirables away. I suppose the thought process goes that if you have to ask where it is, it’s not for you. Despite the fact that we knew this, we still managed to fuck up the entry process and nearly get ourselves booted out into the cold morning snow within seconds of arriving.
We disembarked the S Bahn and crossed a wide bridge over a frozen river, and caught sight of a collection of huts and mismatched outhouses on the far bank. We ditched our beers and stuffed the remains of our bread in our pockets and trudged across the snow thick grass to where we could see the bouncer huddled in black under a patio heater. The entrance was small and inconspicuous, just a plain door set in a hodge podge wooden fence. No queue at all. Why would there be? It was 11am and -5 degrees.
We approached in our accidentally matching denim jackets and bid him a hearty ‘hallo’. He answered in German and, our German vocabulary already exhausted, I had to apologise and speak to him in English. German bouncers, although terrifying, are infinitely more polite than UK bouncers. It’s probably because German doormen only have to deal with people on drugs, not awful, slurring, hostile drunks. High people are much nicer. The Heideglühen Guardian began his questioning. We almost fucked it at the first: do you know the name of this club?
Oh no. Oh no. Blank. I wrestled with this out loud in front of him, squirming and writhing like a worm in a frying pan. Oh god, was it, Heeben… gleeven? Hoodimassen? Migmahoolen? It was on the tip of my tongue, my tongue that was currently fabricating German words with such ineptitude that it was bordering on racist. The bouncer stood sipping a warm cup of soup in the snow, patiently observing my floundering. Wait! It ended in ‘glühen’, right? Yes! Heedee- wait- Heideglühen! It’s Heideglühen!
The bouncer nodded. He asked us where we were from, how we knew about the club, where we lived, how long we’d been in Berlin. We were nervous and it showed, but we were unassuming and honest, and I think that showed too. I told him Michelle had invited us, and that she was already inside. He told me to call her, and said we could come in if she came out to get us and proved we knew someone inside. I called, I called again, no answer. I looked up at the bouncer full of sorrow, readying myself for the long train home.
‘So where do you come from?’ he asked. We told him Leeds and Manchester. He nodded quietly. ‘Okay. Enjoy.’ He stood aside and let us pass. What? How? ‘Promise me one thing though: buy yourselves a winter jacket. You will freeze to death!’ We thanked him giddily and headed inside, after putting stickers over our phone cameras.
We paid in, stopping a while to chat with the merry ticket guy. His little booth was decorated with old newspaper clippings and faded pictures of swimsuit models, tits out, lounging, now old women, somewhere. I told him I liked the décor. He spun around on his little swivel chair, surveying the microworld he inhabited, his mini heater, his broken till, his hat stand complete with solitary bowler gathering dust. ‘I like it too,’ he told me, ‘and here you can see my main girl’. He pointed to a torn out caricature of Margaret Thatcher, big hair, teeth everywhere, pointy shoulders.
We got our stamps from him, giddy in disbelief at having made it inside, and laughed as we remembered that our pockets were still stuffed full of bread rolls. Walking through the complex we found ourselves in what looked like a long abandoned film set, something out of a Western flick from Hollywood’s golden years. Think wooden buildings with rough exterior staircases, balconies and roofs just begging for a bullet-riddled cowboy to tumble down and land in a water trough; store fronts painted and roped together and hauled skyward by old generation men who shaved with razor blades.
I’d expected a crowd but there was no one around, just snow falling gently, gathering in an old bathtub and on empty sofas spilling their stuffing. We could hear an underwater bass throb carried on the morning breeze, its vibrations shaking loose icicles from nearby spidery branches. It was coming from the largest building, dropped from the skies into the centre of the ramshackle town. The entrance was a heavy black curtain hung across a doorway. We pushed inside.
A wall of heat and the smell of drugs and dancing embraced us, and our shivers ceased. Jubilant music and people everywhere, people in floral shirts and top hats and bare chested fur coats, people who were out of their fucking minds. This wasn’t just a party, it was a celebration. I glanced behind us as the curtain drifted back into place, and caught one last glimpse of the blue-white morning we were leaving behind. Goodbye, real life, hello again, Strangeness. I’ve missed you.
It was an Old West saloon; the only thing missing was the honky-tonk piano player. The whole building was one giant open room spread over two storeys, with the upper floor looking down onto the heaving dancefloor below. The kids up on the balcony were throwing glitter and confetti down on the crowd and hurling bright coloured streamers across the room, draping them over the chandelier that hung in the centre of everything, flashing and pulsing.. We slipped through the crowd and bought drinks at the bar. High above, the ceiling was glass, and snow heavy clouds passed slowly, out there in another world. Daylight was streaming in, and it was sublime. I couldn’t stop smiling.
It was easy to differentiate between the people who had just arrived and the ones who were still there from the night before. Dancing up on a wooden podium above the crowd was the most spangled man I’ve ever seen; hair stuck to his face, shirt four buttons undone, jaw swinging, eyes rolled back, totally and utterly gone. He was holding a cigarette as he danced, and god only knows how he managed to muster enough coordination to smoke it. Up on the balcony a topless man in running shorts was leaping around, skanking with a Club Mate clenched in his palm, his beard thick with glittering paint.
Vic nudged me and I turned, and in joint awe we watched a tall, dark haired girl duck inside out of the snow. She looked like a figure straight from a revolutionary propaganda poster, her expression lofty and remote and impossible, black boots, black backpack, transparent black top and a black beret tilted back. Jesus. We’d found the cool kids, alright.
We did a few laps of the place trying to find Michelle, and as we were slumped on a spring-worn sofa upstairs, we spotted her on the dancefloor below, laughing with Harry. She looked like an astronaut on holiday, wearing an oversized floral shirt and shiny silver leggings with big boots. We hugged and said hello, and before long Dave had arrived too, duel wielding bananas like a bandito on a health kick. Bananas are a godsend on Berlin weekends – all too often you forget to eat for 18 hours, all the while wondering why you’re feeling sick and shaking like a leaf. He gifted me one, which I happily chomped.
I’m sure that by now on this website I don’t have to go into much detail about any substances that were ingested. Use your imagination. They were myriad. Vic left after a few hours as she was tired, but Dave was just getting into the swing of things and had by now stripped down to his thermal leggings and a baggy t shirt, dancing up on the balcony with wavy arms and bouncing locks of hair. Flossie turned up too, now sporting purple hair, as well as Ollie, an Aussie clad in glitter and huge ear dangly rings. Together, we set out to discover just how many people you can fit in one toilet cubicle. The answer: apparently infinite, if you’re determined enough, and if one of you takes one for the team and stands on the toilet rim (cheers, Michelle). When we came out it must have looked like a clown car emptying.
Now, usually after 8 hours in a club the sun comes up, and the dawn’s grey fingers invariably make me realise how sleep deprived and generally sick I am. As time crept on and Heideglühen grew darker, however, it felt as though for once the environment and I were on the same wavelength; both growing progressively more trippy.
The sky hung above the glass ceiling turned to black, the UV came out, and glowing holographic projections cranked into life, sending twisting shapes across the crowd. There was a 3 or 4 hour period where I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on at all, everything was a bit vague and gooey, and I kept having strange and wondrous life-affirming revelations, before instantly forgetting them.
Up on the balcony, the Most Twisted Man Ever had somehow partied himself sober, and now was sipping a drink quite respectably, chatting articulately to his friend. His puffy red Quasimodo space-gurn had ebbed away, and he looked like a basically functioning human again. The topless guy with the glittery beard showed no signs of slowing down; he’d conjured a fur coat from somewhere and glow sticks, and was running around shrieking and banging on the walls. I actually recognised him – way back in Come Backpackers a girl told me about some guy that she’d met, who she called the ‘King of Berlin’; a guy who knew everyone and every happening place. She’d shown me a photo of him, an unassuming guy with black beard and black hair. I was pretty sure the topless man before me twirling neon batons with wild eyes was the same guy.
I left half an hour before close, at 7.30pm, as I made the dreadful mistake of sitting down. I sat on a bench to send a quick text, squinting to make the glowing letters of my phone stop moving around, and soon felt the energy that I had thought endless fizzle out in an instant. Oh god, how long had it been since I sat down? What sweet bliss is this, the sweeping relieved cry of my leg muscles finally alleviated of their tension? I bid farewell to Michelle and the gang, grabbed my coat, and left Heideglühen in the snow under the orange streetlights. I trudged home alone, exhausted and ruined, hair thick with confetti, glitter on my cheeks, my bloodstream filled with nonsense, pockets stuffed full of stale bread rolls, happy.