In Berlin, groups of young people from all around the world happily chanting and drinking as they walk past you on the street are a common sight. But where do all these drunken party tourists come from? And more importantly, where they were all going? To find out more about this phenomenon, we enlisted two of our coworkers from THUMP Germany, Philipp Kutter and Vincent Bittner, to tag along with a group of revelers on a nightlife crawl as they went from bars to clubs without a worry in the world.
Philipp Kutter: Some of my friends have never heard of a bar-hopping event for tourists. Immediate response: laughter. I get lost at Alexanderplatz [a public square in Berlin's Mitte neighborhood] and walk by a club called Traffic. I feel like I won't see this place for the last time tonight…
Vincent Bittner: The last time I was this nervous before partying was when I got a new haircut for my 6th grade school dance. I get my pregame on with some Jack and Coke from the nearest supermarket, and decide to keep tweeting my thoughts with the hashtag #PubcrawlBerlin so I'll be able to remember this night.
Rendezvous Point at the Hostel
Kutter: I'm running a bit late on my way to this hostel. Three other participants are quietly waiting there already. We all get a special wristband that identifies as part of the tour. I feel like a tree being peed on by some dog. They have a place to play table soccer at the hostel, and my colleague and I are crushed 0:10 by those show-offs from VICE Sports. Not really a good start, and probably not our last loss tonight.
Bittner: I arrive at the scene at 9:20 PM, ten minutes early. This trendy hostel does not treat us with a complimentary drink, so we just kill time by playing some table soccer—which THUMP of course wins 38:1 against those plebs in VICE Sports.
On Our Way to the First Bar
Kutter: The event finally starts at 10PM. There are 163 people. 163! The mob trots off just to stop again after a short distance. One of the guides named Mark stands up on a rock and explains the first part of our tour: "OK guys, we are now heading for the first bar. Make sure to show your wristband to the bouncer!" He jumps down from the rock and his army obediently follows along. We're walking along Alexanderplatz, past a beach bar called AlexOase. Thankfully we're not going inside. After two train stations we arrive at Rosenthaler Platz. We all have to wait a while in front of the bar, Cosmic Kaspar, because Mark is talking to the bouncers. A group of Brits starts singing "Our House" by Madness. I'm thinking about making a run for it across the street. Getting hit by car seems less painful in comparison.
Bittner: It all seems like a late-night school excursion. I get my wristband from a woman in a red dress. My little group tries to figure out where everybody is from and comes up with some new personas for this night. One Belgian performance artist to go, please.
The First Bar—Cosmic Kaspar
Kutter: We enter the first bar, which is somewhat of a club actually. The sound-system reminds me of a lowered Volkswagen Golf III. The music itself sounds like an air raid. The first guys start doing their drunk mating dance and turning a steering wheel decoration which is fixed on one side of the DJ booth. Meanwhile, they are releasing their stag-like mating calls upon the room. I'm still not drunk and at the same time afraid of getting too drunk. 15 years of prison are really not part of my life plan.
Bittner: Unlike my colleagues, I decide to do this right and immediately order a Jack and Coke, which costs me ten euros. Three young Englishmen approve of my decision and tell me about how this is their first day in Berlin and how they are happy to be here. Unfortunately I can't understand much more because the noisy sound-system and also because my legs are forcing me to dance. Some guys standing next to me are turning some kind of steering wheel next to the DJ booth like their lives depended on it. Shortly before leaving, the young woman in the red dress tells me about being harassed by drunken guys every night. When I ask her about her worst experience so far, she tells me the story of a 35 year-old man who pissed his pants in this bar.
Making Our Way to the Second Bar
Kutter: After this chi-chi place we're back in the cold, hard reality of Berlin in Alexanderplatz. Our group starts singing awful songs on our way from the train station. I'm trying to keep a little distance to them. My discomfort is starting to grow. We're walking past AlexOase again. No wait, we suddenly stop. We're entering AlexOase.
Bittner: A young woman from Spain wants to know where I'm from. I tell her that I'm from Belgium and immediately start to teach her some of my native language of "Belgian" until my companions explain to me that this language doesn't even exist. My eyes nervously scan my surroundings after she asks me about my hometown in Belgium, just like in one of those bad comedy movies. "Felsen…kant," I respond, "I am from Felsenkant. It's in the East-West." She is pleased with my answer and immediately tells me how cool that place is and that she has always wanted to visit the area. Suddenly we're outside of AlexOase. I ask one of the guides what he sees in this job and if he enjoys it. "Free drinks and party every night!" is his answer.
The Second Bar—AlexOase
Kutter: Wall-to-wall carpet with a tent around it and the atmosphere of a German county fair. Two young playmates are sitting at a table with some old guy who looks like a very fat Franz Beckenbauer. Some time later, he puts a yellow neon wristband on his ear and starts doing crazy dance moves. His two female companions start laughing about him until he walks to the bar and orders some more drinks. The dancefloor provides us with a solid mix of spring break tunes. Punjabi MC. A Martin Garrix remix of Nirvana. 50 Cent. "Miami" by Will Smith. People start taking loads of selfies. Four euros for a small beer.
Bittner: I order a Red Bull vodka for 8.50 euros and try to negotiate some free shots. To perfectly fit into my role as party tourist, I decide to go up to the DJ and request a song: Will Smith's "Miami." Unfortunately, he already started playing the song as I opened my mouth.
On Our Way to the First Club
Kutter: We're testing our group's willigness to sing Scooter. 50 people spontaneously join in. We cross the street, walk up to a club called Traffic and enter.
Bittner: After successfully convincing some guy that he kinda looks like the love child of David Guetta and Avicii, I feel the need to start singing some of the traditional songs from my hometown in Bavaria. People either join in or sing something completely different. I don't care either way. I hope the first club will be better than the second bar.
The First Club—Traffic
Kutter: The inside reveals nothing short of the apocalypse. The music is way too loud and everybody looks the same—one species dressed in white T-shirts. I can't stand another five minutes in here. After doing four shots and watching three failed sexual advances towards a girl of our group by two random guys, I come to the conclusion: this night sucks. We head out on the dancefloor. My co-worker from THUMP seems to be enjoying himself. The black light covers this whole place. At least it makes the guys here match their personalities: they look like a horde of vampires. It makes me sick and I decide to pass on hard alcohol from this point on.
Bittner: Everything around me is spinning. I might have to keep pumping more Red Bull vodkas and free shots. Turn it up, mate! Someone is touching someone else—I just have to keep drinking and dancing. A couple minutes later, I find myself next to the DJ, trying to pull my companions onto the platform to make it look like we're all enjoying this as much as I am. I somehow manage to locate my cellphone and shoot a video, until everybody becomes blurred by this blue ocean of Top 40 tunes.
On Our Way to the Second Club
Kutter: At 1:45 AM we continue our tour. Someone asks our guide Mark about our next destination and he replied, "Now we're going to Matrix." Finally. I've always wanted to see Matrix, one of Berlin's most famous megaclubs, from the inside. Our group is a lot smaller than before.
Bittner: I seem to have stuffed our jackets into a blue trash bag and left it at the coat check. On my way to get them, I rejoice in photo-bombing random people who are sitting in a photo booth. So many precious memories. I can't really remember the rest of the way.
The Second Club—Matrix
Kutter: Matrix. Just as I had expected it. But it is by far not the worst location of the night. Blurred from the alcohol we stumble into an empty room of this large nightclub. A staff member who followed us promptly asks if we were some of the people from a popular German reality show called "Berlin, Tag und Nacht." We give him our maximum of possible answers and ask him if he enjoys his job. "Of course," he answered, like he had memorized the response every single day, "but only if our guests are nice as well." One guy from our group instantly answers, "Well, then you must be having a great time right now!" He gives us a forced smile.
Bittner: Finally we have reached the temple of mediocrity. Whoever says that the Berghain is good has never been to the Matrix after five hours of extensive club crawling. I hear something about filming locations of the aforementioned "Berlin, Tag und Nacht," someone is talking to me, but I'm already drunk and ascended to a kind of heaven (or possibly hell) full of butts twerking to this Nirvana-Martin-Garixx mash-up while all of my colleagues have disappeared. Such party poopers.
The End of the Night
I've lost everybody. I'm alone. In hell. #PubcrawlBerlin
Kutter: We leave this establishment at 3:30AM. I have to go somewhere else now—this can't be a worthy ending to the night. My colleagues show a lack of motivation. "I have to go eat something first," one of them mumbles. A clear sign of drunkenness. One falafel later, we're at the Prince Charles. Session Victim is performing. Finally some good music. People are dancing in a more relaxed way. This is a worthy ending to this night. I am never going on a bar crawl ever again.
Bittner: I drink some more alcohol. Six hours of being a basic bitch is enough for me. Cab. Going home. I'm telling the cab driver about this video where a guy is making music with a bonsai tree [Link to this video on youtube]. I love bonsai trees.
The Next Morning
Kutter: After some pain medication and the deep insight of having had too much alcohol last night, I think about my vodka-loving colleague and what he might have felt when he woke up today. Is it shame? Yeah, it probably is.
Bittner: I start to realize that I only had that much fun last night because I was really drunk. I kinda feel good about the fact that the advertised drinking games and dance contests did not take place. Maybe I'll dial it down a notch when I'll go out tonight…
If you have no sense of shame or just want to get drunk without worrying that it might get boring after some time, you're dead right to go on a club crawl. But maybe you should avoid these things as a tourist if you're interested in the real nightlife of a city like Berlin, and don't want to be shooed from one meadow to the next like a sheep with deep pockets. But at least you can go to the Matrix without having to wait in line—if you really want to do that. As for us, we're going to exculpate ourselves at Tresor.