vendredi, juillet 25, 2008

Berlin in 4 Easy Steps

I had not been feeling all that well last night at Weekend, so I slept in pretty late today and then slowly got myself together. Another roommate arrived today from his job at a summer camp, so I chatted with him for a bit. As he went for a much-needed shower and nap, I disappeared into my room and did a fair bit of writing (mostly blogging, but a bit of proposal, too). By 20h00 or so, I was getting ready to go out again.

Fantômette and her crew were taking it easy tonight (alas, no rest for the researcher!), but my French-via-Québec friend from previous nights was still up to go out. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to call him John for the duration of this post, since he will be a recurring character in tonight’s story.

Step One: Dinner at Bar25

John was only in town for a week, and although I had only been here for about 3 weeks, I had already taken on the role of tour guide. So I decided that he needed to see the two major before/after-party patio bars tonight. Since Bar25 has a restaurant attached to it, we decided to eat dinner there before moving on for drinks.

When we got there, I was surprised to find out that there was a 7€ cover charge. Of course, I’ve never been here on a weekend night, and they certainly didn’t charge cover on off-nights. Grumbling, we paid the cover charge and then headed through the patio complex, through the bar and into the restaurant. After a moment of standing around looking confused, we finally got seated at a little table on the edge of a balcony overlooking the river. The location was excellent, although we were promptly invaded by a family of very large spiders. After a bit of wrangling, we managed to convince them to hang out somewhere else.

When we got a look at the restaurant, I realized that I should’ve taken a look at the menu online before heading out. Although the Bar25 complex tends to look like an abandoned American Frontier Town movie set, the restaurant clearly had ambitions for haute gastronomie. We shared an appetizer of roasted goat cheese with a chili-fruit conserve, along with a spicy chutney and an apricot chutney. After that, John had some tagliatelle with mushrooms and cream sauce, while I had some sort of chopped veal and mushroom thing, with a cream sauce and potato fritters. All of the food was quite lovely, but those three dishes, along with a bottle of water, 2 glasses of wine and two coffees, came to 60€. Even in Paris that’s a bit steep for a restaurant in the middle range of the cloth-napkin-eatery spectrum. Considering normal food costs in Berlin, the price was just way too much. At least the view was great.

As we got up and paid the bill, John felt certain that restaurant patrons at an expensive place like this shouldn’t be expected to pay the cover charge for the bar, so he tracked down our waitress and asked her what the policy was. As it turns out, he was right, and we hustled back to the entry gate with our receipt in hand to get our refund. From there, we hailed a taxi and headed over to Club der Visionäre [LINK] for the next set of drinks.

Step Two: Club der Visionäre

Although I still hadn’t quite figured out the rules for the Kurzstrecke fare for taxis (it’s 3.50€ for anything under 2km, but you need to hail a moving taxi, and not one from a taxi stand), the driver at the stand in front of Bar25 was good enough to give us a kurzstrecke, even though it was a bit more than 2km. I gave him a hefty tip.

I hadn’t been to club der Visionäre on a weekend, so I was a both surprised and not surprised to see just how densely packed the place was. Thankfully, this place doesn’t ever charge cover —you just pay 1€ extra the first time you buy a drink and that goes towards the DJ fees—so walked down onto the patio and wrestled our way through the patio and over to the bar. The wait at the bar was really long, so we finally bought ourselves two drinks each to spare ourselves the task of getting more drinks. After walking nearly the entire length of the pier, John spotted a chair and a sort of stool-box on one of the floating pontoons. Although there was something pleasant about hanging out on a floating deck of wood, it was sometimes a bit annoying as people would jump on and off the deck and make it wobble, or push against the pier to make the pontoon drift out to the end of its chains.

Anyway, we amused ourselves for a while on the patio, talking about American politics (mostly discussing what had been missing in Obama’s speech yesterday) and marvelling at the size of the fish that were swimming in the canal. I imagine that the cover given by the huge weeping willows over the patio must be fantastic during the daytime, and we resolved to try it out sometime soon. My only complaint about the place is that the men’s washroom smells like an open sewer; I mean, it smells like a hobo’s alleyway, where layers of urine and feces haven’t been cleaned up in years. Gah. Anyway, by about 1h00, we decided that it was time to move on to the next step.

Step Three: Tresor Club

Although we were very interested in seeing Bruno Pronsato at Panorama Bar that night, John had not yet seen Tresor Club, and the Detroit Grand Pubahs were supposed to be spinning there, so we decided to check it out.

I tried getting a kurzstrecke with one of the taxis waiting out front, until finally one of the nicer taxi drivers explained that I could only ask for that rate from a moving taxi. Odd, but OK.

We decided to start walking towards Tresor, which was actually on the same street about 2km away, with the intention of hailing a cab or maybe catching a bus. As we crossed the canal along Schlesichestrasse, we saw an N65 bus picking up passengers. Although I had no idea where the bus would go, we decided to catch up with it and hop on. Even if it only ran along the street for a few blocks, it would still be faster than walking. Once we were on the bus, I look a look at the route and realized that it would actually take us directly to the club. Yay! Public transit wins again!

We each grabbed a RedBull from the imbiss in front of the Heinrich-Heine-Straße U-Bahn stop, and then wandered over to the club. To my extreme surprise—considering last week’s escapades at Tresor—there was absolutely no lineup to get in. It was 1h30, which should’ve been rush hour for getting in, and the front of Tresor looked like a ghost town.

A bit unnerved, we made our way in and paid the cover charge. I again switched into tour guide mode and started to take John around the club, showing him the various rooms in the complex. We found the Detroit Grand Pubahs spinning downstairs to a crowd of maybe 100 people, which was a bit disappointing, considering the size of that underground room. We were also bummed (but maybe not surprised) to hear the DGPs spinning a “classic Detroit” hard techno set, instead of the more hard-edged minimal stuff they have been also known to produce.

Upstairs in the Batterieraum was another DJ that I didn’t recognize, spinning techno that had a bit more of a minimal sound to it (at least, more high-frequency click patterns), but was still too fast and a bit too bombastic. The crowd here was even more pathetic, with maybe about 70 people looking lost in a room that should hold 400. I was at a loss for words as to why Tresor was so empty tonight; this is the kind of club that is so massive that it needs about 1000 people at least just to feel populated, so this was sort of depressing.

We bought some beers and headed out to the patio area to hang out for a bit, where we ran into a pair of young French boys that overheard us speaking French. Apparently, they had mistakenly headed into the nearby KitKatClub (the longest-running and most famous of Berlin’s sexclubs), where they were turned away at the door when they refused to take off their clothes for entry. Only then did they realize that they had been at the wrong club.

The boys seemed to have taken it in stride, so I joked that it would give them good practice for getting into Berghain. They had heard that it was hard to get into that club, so I gave them what had now become the standard spiel about the door policies of Berlin’s larger techno clubs. They had apparently been turned away at Weekend [LINK] earlier that night, so I consoled them with my own dour opinion of the music programming there and then advised them on how to appear ambiguously gay for entry to Berghain.

At one point in the conversation, one of the boys piped up and asked me and John, “So you two are gay, then?” As a reflex, I jumped in and said “No, just me. He’s straight,” as if I were defusing a tense moment. John, however, quickly said, “Not yet, I haven’t really tried it.” (note: John has been in a hetero relationship for 10 years.) I thought that was a great way to say “no” to that question without making it sound like you’re denying an accusation. We all made a few jokes about all the effort and dedication it takes to be gay and then changed the topic.

Later on, we were talking about the Paris club scene and they both declared that Queen was their favorite club in Paris, followed closely by Showcase. This immediately caused me to adjust my understanding of these boys and their relationship to the techno scene, since both of those locations in Paris are known as being mainstream, rather fashion-y, and certainly not respected for their musical programming. I suddenly wanted to say, “Wait, actually, Weekend is exactly the club you want; don’t go to Berghain.”

Anyway, we traded phone numbers and then John and I headed back inside. We grabbed one last drink and watched the Detroit Grand Pubahs for a little longer, and then we made our move and headed to Panorama Bar.

Step Four: Panorama Bar

We grabbed a cab and headed over to the Berghain complex as the night was just beginning to get lighter (4h00 or so). Mercifully, there was nearly no lineup at the club, so we got in with no trouble and headed straight upstairs. After checking my jacket and running to the washroom (where 5 giddy men spilled out of one bathroom stall), we headed to the dancefloor. As John said the moment he arrived in the building, “Ah, this already sounds better.”

There were maybe 300 people in Panorama Bar that night, but since that part of the building is relatively small (Berghain itself only opens on Saturday night), the place still felt reassuringly full. I couldn’t quite recognize who was spinning and the usual playlist wasn’t posted on the wall next to the DJ, so we just pushed our way into the crowd and got to dancing.

True to the Berghain/PanoramaBar scheduling, the headline Bruno Pronsato started his live set around 6h00. His set started off really well as a throbbing, bass-heavy minimal set, then went through a rather lame breakbeat-and-303-squelch tangent, and then came back to some pretty heavy minimal techno. Although most of his set lacked that house-y touch that I prefer in techno, it was still a far sight better than what we had been hearing at Tresor. [Also, John pointed out that Pronsato seemed to structure his set as a series of endless build-ups, which gets boring after a while.]

By about 7h00 we both decided to call it a night and save our energy for Saturday. We made our way out of the building and walked that tranquil 1km or so to Ostbahnhof, where we got on the train and took our separate ways home.

By the way, I’m rather proud of my trail of admission stamps on my arm from tonight, so I took a picture to post on here. I messed with the image levels to make the stamps pop a bit, so my apologies if the colors are a bit oversaturated.

2 commentaires:

Kristy a dit…

1. It’s not fair for you to disappear for 3 days, then post all at once. In case you’re not aware, you are a rather verbose creature, and this takes time.
2. Spiders: ew ew ew ew ew!!!
3. Kurzstrecke = ?
4. I will not be using the men’s washroom at Visionare.
5. What was missing from Obama’s speech?
6. I had no idea “squelch” was a musical term. They must not teach that at IU.
7. You d@mn well should apologize the oversaturating those colors. What’s the matter with you?

LMGM a dit…

@1: Heh. Yeah, I was sort of out of commission for a while...
@3: Kurzstrecke = reduced fare for a short transit trip, no further than 3 subway stops, 6 bus stops, or 2km in a taxi
@5: I thought the Obama speech in Berlin was going to be his opportunity to disprove the criticism of his opponents about his lack of foreign policy experience/knowledge. He said some flattering things about Berlin and told a poignant story about his father and freedom and such, but I was hoping that he would give some more specific plans for foreign policy. So far, he's said that the world is becoming increasingly intertwined, nations should cooperate with each other, and the environment is important. All of which are laudable sentiments, but don't give a clear idea of what he wants to do about it.
On the other hand, he had about 200,000 people show up and scream like he was a rock star, so I suppose that's proof of a certain kind of foreign policy. =]