Thankfully, there was a bit of sun today, which meant that I got up at a reasonable hour and wasn’t entirely lethargic. I made myself some coffee to perk things up, and then got to work catching up on blogging. After writing, some answering of emails and a bit of laundry, it was the late afternoon and I felt like rewarding myself. So, it’s off to (re-)discover Kurfürstendamm.
Kurfürstendamm is (West) Berlin’s main shopping / tourist / luxury drag, sort of like Fifth Ave in NYC, the Mag Mile in Chicago, or Bloor/Yorkville in Toronto. Years and years ago (2002, I think?), I did the 6-week backpacking tour of Europe and landed in Berlin for a night. I had planned to spend the weekend, but that weekend was the German soccer cup finals between Munich and Berlin, and so there were absolutely no rooms available after Friday night. Anyway, the train station where our train arrived at the Zoologischergarten Bahnhof (the Hauptbahnhof, or main station, hadn’t quite taken over operation at that point). This is about half a block from Kurfürstendamm, so I spent a good amount of time walking up that street looking for food, and then sitting in an internet café somewhere along the way (before the days of ubiquitous WiFi).
I haven’t been back since, so it was interesting to emerge from the U-Bahn stop today and instantly recognize the layout of the street from 6 years ago. Nonetheless, a lot has changed; if anything, the retail density on this strip has multiplied and intensified. Where there had been one H&M store 6 years ago, there are now at least 5 or 6, depending on whether you count the women-only or men-only stores. What’s crazy about this is that they are within about 200m of each other, and they all stock the same items. Otherwise, there is a huge Niketown (as in every city, it seems) and a bunch of other recognizable multi-national clothing and luxury goods stores.
If you walk past the bombed-out Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche and along Tauentzienstraße to Wittenbergplatz, you go to Kaufhaus des Westens (Department Store of the West), known locally as KaDeWe. This place is Berlin’s answer to the grands magasins of Paris, without the space restrictions that those stores have in the Hausmann-designed buildings of Paris. KaDeWe is a good 8 stories tall, with a massive food hall on the top floor and a bunch of food counters on the floor below. Along with the food counters on this floor is a “gourmet” section, which my roommate had told me carried pretty much every specialty and imported food stuff that one could imagine. Since I was hoping to maybe do some Peruvian food for my roomie before she leaves, I decided to take a look around and see what I could find. In the end, I didn’t find any Peruvian hot peppers, but I did find a lot of chocolate. I won’t disclose how much I spent on chocolate, but it’s pretty comparable to the kind of damage I’ve done to myself in Paris shops.
After staggering out of there, covered in a mix of buyer’s guilt (but not remorse) and the shopper’s high, I did a turn around Wittenbergplatz and headed back past the church ruins and toward the South-West end of “Ku’damm.” By the time that you get to the Uhlandstraße station, the shops go from Zara and H&M to Gucci and Louis Vuitton. On this less-traveled end of the street, you can find all of the super-high-end shops you would expect in a large European city, including several that I didn’t see on Friedrichstraße in Mitte (former East Berlin, but the newer luxury district). Once my feet got tired and it was getting late, I climbed on a double-decker bus that ran all the way to Hermannplatz and enjoyed the ride home.
To Bar 25 and Club der Visionäre
The group of Frenchy friends that I had seen on Tuesday were back in town for a moment, but they were going to see Hercules and Love Affair at the Lido, and I wasn’t really feeling up to it. They had plans to hit Berghain afterwards, and I would’ve joined them…except that I’m pretty sure that Berghain isn’t open on Thursday nights. *shrug*
Anyway, my friend Fantômette was up for a bit of going out, so we headed out to Bar25 to check it out. Although the music was the sort of non-beatmached potpourri of “electronica” that one would expect to hear in an indy-rocker-spins-at-afterparty DJ set, the actual layout of the place is great. As far as I can tell, the Bar25 complex used to be some sort of frontier-themed amusement park or something, but now it is a multi-room entertainment complex. Upon entering through a rickety-looking doorway, you walk down a corridor of wooden fences and past an entry into a semi-covered club space. If you continue past there, you pass a door on the right that says “Pizza” (which I presume serves some sort of food during regular hours) and then you get to the river Spree. As you follow the river to your left, you pass a lit campfire with benches surrounding it, a few surrealistic lighting elements, a huge old willow with two swings attached to the branches, and then a sort of log-cabin facsimile with a bar at one end and a sit-down restaurant at the other end.
Fantô and I grabbed some drinks (I tried the Radler again, this time with lemonade) and sat down next to the river and chatted for a while. When it got too cold (what is it with cold and wet weather in July??), we headed indoors and had another drink on the very soft leather couches inside. The music was pretty insipid, though, and eventually we decided to change places.
I had heard that Dan Bell was going to be spinning with Barbara Preisinger and another guy at Club der Visionäre, so we decided to just head over there and check it out. After a bit of hemming and hawing about how to get there (the S-Bahn and U-Bahn service changes after 1h00), we caught a taxi.
The club was the same as when I had been there on Tuesday, except with maybe 3 times the amount of people. The decks were pretty much filled out with partygoers relaxing and chatting, and there were plenty of people packed into the little indoor space between the bar and the DJ. The three DJs for the night did a sort of endless tag-team set, so I can’t really speak of one person’s set versus another person’s, but the sound was a really pleasant low-key minimal techno / house for the entire evening. Although there is certainly something to be said for the intense Berghain-style party, I could really get to enjoy this more low-key setting. In some ways, this puts the lie to the claim that electronic dance music is only tolerable as an instrumentalized helpmeet for drug-fueled dancing. On the other hand, I’m wary of slipping into the “autonomous music is good music” philosophy.
Anyway, we had a great time at Club der Visionäre and managed to have a few amusing encounters with very drunk and/or high folks, and then around 4h00 we finally climbed into a taxi and headed home.