An Illustrated Guide to Surviving 24 Hours at Berghain
It's even harder than you think.
Illustrations by Nathaniel Flagg
In recent months, a handful of mainstream media outlets have done a fine job of illustrating and investigating the legacy of Berghain. As Berlin's most infamous nightclub, it rests on its reputation for wild parties and the distinctive, highly influential style of music that pounds within its walls. However, no amount of research could ever prepare an American for a night at the big house, largely because one evening there might last up to 32 hours; most Americans don't have the clubbing stamina required to last that long.
Berghain isn't the kind of place that you roll through on your way to another spot—the way the locals talk about it, one hasn't properly experienced Berghain (and thus has no hope of enjoying its magic in any meaningful way) unless they've spent at least 12 consecutive hours in the building -- and that's just the minimum shift. Any respectable and experienced clubber has sacrificed at least one 24-hour period to the techno gods.
Don't expect to roll off the plane, pick up a Club Mate (Germany's favorite caffeinated carbonated beverage), and cruise into your first day-long session at Berghain—you'd just as easily be able to strap on a pair of tennis shoes and run a marathon without training. Extended trips to the nightclub demand a certain amount of preparation, and hardcore wannabes have to bolster their resilience in order to last for hours on end. Luckily, we've done the research for you and compiled a survival guide that will help you endure the greatest 24-hour night of your life at the one and only Berghain.
1. Go on Sunday morning.
Any crash course in Berlin nightlife will start with a lesson on peak hours. While Friday and Saturday nights are prime time in the US, Berliners seem to consider any time between 10 PM and 6 or 7 AM touristy. This is especially true for Berghain; Friday nights are generally reviled, because that's when all the n00bs and barns come out to play, so rest up on Saturday night and get there around 7 or 8 in the morning, which is when Berghain's house-oriented floor Panorama Bar is just heating up.
2. Wear the proper attire.
Tips on how to get into Berghain often advise punters to leave their strapless dresses at home and to wear sturdy shoes like Doc Martens instead of high heels. If you don't look cool, the door staff won't let you in. Not dressing like a basic bitch is only the half the battle. We'd warn you not to wear a dress at all, because tights engender crotch swamp a lot faster than pants. Plus, if you're wearing a dress, you won't be able to change your clothes unless you pack another dress altogether, and thus you'd be better off wearing pants so that you can swap out your shirt halfway through.
3. Bring a backpack.
This is the kind of advice that no one would even think about unless they were embedded in a culture that parties for days straight: bring a backpack to the club, fill it with clean clothes, and leave it at the coat check. If you want to take the bag with you into the club, a tiny backpack is the ideal way to keep track of all your things, like joint rolling materials, the tag the coat check gives you, your wallet, keys, and phone. Just don't bring a nice one, because you'll sweat through it.
4. Pack some toiletries.
In addition to the extra shirt you're storing in that tiny backpack, don't forget to pack some toiletries. You're definitely going to want some deodorant, a comb, breath mints, and a little packet of tissues in case the bathroom runs out of TP (which has been known to happen).
5. Choose your drugs wisely.
You don't NEED to take drugs in order to have fun at Berghain, but if you're trying to stay entertained for 24 hours, you probably will. Don't start hitting the booze or pills until you arrive (especially if you're arriving at 7 or 8 in the morning). Instead, give yourself an hour to settle into the vibe, have a drink, and get acclimated. Alcohol isn't the best choice when you're going for longevity, because it's expensive, it makes you need to pee, and, eventually, pass out. Berghain veterans seem to favor a combination of MDMA and Ketamine, because it's social, long-lasting, and trippy—sort of like acid, but less likely induce misanthropic navel-gazing.
6. Bring a buddy.
Going to Berghain alone is fine—you'll meet people, you'll have fun, you'll dance, and it'll be awesome. But there's no doubt that you'll get bored more quickly unless you've got a friend to keep you company, and to pressure you to stay another hour when you really want to go home.
7. Always have something to look forward to.
Perhaps none of your friends are willing to commit to a 24-hour shift at Berghain. In that case, make your stay into a game where you're constantly finding new things to be excited about, like a new group of friends rolling through, the shutters in Panorama Bar opening for the first time that morning giving you a thrilling glimpse of the sun for the first time, or the next dope set.
8. Refill your water bottle in the bathroom.
You'll probably figure this one out on your own just from seeing other people do it—just don't keep spending money on fresh bottles of water or Club Mate, because you can just refill that shit in the bathroom. Duh.
9. Find (relatively) quiet spots to unwind.
Unless you're a superhuman who can dance for 24 hours straight, at some point you're going to need to sit down, preferably in a spot where other people aren't going to bother you. For a quiet moment, head to the lounge area above the Panorama Bar bathrooms or the smoking decks, which are oddly bright and quiet. Don't post up on the couches in the back of P Bar unless you want really high people and lingerers to strike up a conversation with you, and avoid the couches in Berghain, because some seriously nasty behavior goes down on those things. :
10. Power through the dark place.
At some point, you're going to feel like shit. Your skin will be clammy and coated in a Panorama Bar sheen. The sun is going to hurt your eyes and face. You're gonna be high and coming down at the same time, which feels like god clenching your brain in a meaty fist. Your back is going to ache, your muscles will be sore, and you're going to be bored and over it. If you can still string together a complete thought, you might even start pondering how terrible Berghain is, and how much time you've wasted there, and then you'll feel guilty for devoting so much time, money, and energy to such a selfish and meaningless activity. We haven't figured out how to conquer the dark place in any graceful way, so our only advice here is to keep telling yourself that if you just get through it, a higher plateau of ecstatic frenzy awaits. At least, that's what they say.