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Ask a Berliner to describe Berghain and you will hear a lot of different opinions: the queues are endless and the commanding bouncers practice a notoriously inscrutable door policy. And if you do manage to get inside the former East-German power plant, the place is expensive, hot and dark, but in compensation the club is enormous and ecstatic. Berghain is perhaps Berlin’s greatest club; many even say it’s the best techno club in the world.
Taking pictures is forbidden ‘in the Realm of Madness’, so the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published a map with information ‘for those who may not enter’. The New York Times wrote a full page profile on bouncer Sven Marquardt, whose face is covered with tattoos and his mouth full of gold teeth. The paper compared him to the three-headed guard dog from Greek mythology, ‘the Kerberos of Berlin nightlife’. The local tourist office raves that 'people of all sexual orientations enjoy the debauchery in the dark rooms'. Berghain is without a doubt the most talked about club in Berlin.
Those who brave the queue and get past the bouncers enter a true temple of techno. The ground floor features a large room with concrete benches, and the wall-sized painting is made by Polish artist Pjotr Nathan. A steel stairway leads into the basement of the 18-metre-high turbine hall where famous DJs such as Luke Slater and Carl Craig spin techno music at full blast. Upstairs in the Panorama Bar, DJs play house music, and after sunrise the blinds sometimes open and close to the beat of the music.
Those who thrive in daylight can also dance in the garden in summer. If you prefer to operate under the cover of darkness, head to the labyrinth of darkrooms on each floor. All sexual orientations mingle here, however straight clubbers tend to be upstairs and the gay crowd downstairs. Berghain is open every day (or rather night) of the week, but the real nightlife marathon kicks off on Saturday: doors open at midnight and the party doesn’t stop until Monday. Be prepared for a wait - you may find yourself waiting in a queue for an hour even on Sunday.
“The doors open Saturday at midnight and stay open non-stop until Monday afternoon”
Even more mysterious than the events going on inside is the club’s door policy. The doormen are very selective and only those who will contribute to the right party vibe are allowed to enter. And although Berghain accommodates 1500 people, it is relatively small for a club this famous. On the popular website Berlin-Life.com, where visitors rate nightlife spots, ratings can be quite extreme: those who were refused entry give a 1, whereas those who were allowed inside give a 10. The exact admission criteria of the doormen remain a mystery, but those who are refused entry often include groups, drunk people, women in high heels, men without make-up, and tourists who don’t speak any German.