First of all, I know what you’re thinking… How does a holiday to Berlin with your mates constitute stepping outside your comfort zone? Granted, a fair few elements of this trip weren’t outside of my comfort zone, but there are a few good talking points. I initially planned on finding a ‘one off’ challenge in Berlin that stood out, but I soon realised there were a fair few things to talk about.
Before I start, it must be said what a beautiful city Berlin is. Heaped with years of modern history, amazing architecture and a frightening amount of graffiti (above), Berlin is without doubt my favourite city in the world. Not only for it’s beauty, but for it’s atmosphere. Unlike London or other capital cities in the world, Berlin is in no rush. Everything is so relaxed, you’ll never be caught in the hussle and bussle of Clapham Junction station or Oxford Street. There’s a sense of trust, that is much more apparent in Germany compared to England. There are no barriers at train stations, it is run on an honesty system; there are no closing times in clubs/bars, they simply close “When all the customers have gone”; people smoke in bars; you can drink at football; you can ride around the city on a bike whilst drinking beer. The city oozes creativity and if feels like there is an anything goes atmosphere in the air. My favourite qwerk was without doubt, that no ‘Berliner’ would cross the road unless the green man is showing, even if there’s not a car in sight.
What blew my mind the most about Berlin, is just how fresh some of the history is. The Berlin Wall was only taken down in 1989. There was still a divide between Soviet communist and East German Government and West Germany (USA, UK and France) until this point. That’s less than 30 years ago. The wall is incredible, what’s left of it goes for miles.
One thing I found fascinating was the Fuherbunker. The place Adolf Hitler eventually committed suicide. A huge moment in world history, yet the today the bunker was now a car park site and is very understated, in fact it was actually very hard to find. I believe this is because Germany don’t want this ever to become a Nazi shrine to Hitler. If you didn’t go out of your way to find it, you’d have never known it was there. I could write for hours about the history of Berlin, I won’t bore you with it, but seriously make sure you visit if you get the chance if you haven’t already.
A visit to Berlin isn’t a visit to Berlin without trying a ‘Currywurst’. This is the food of Berlin, you can’t walk down a street without seeing one Currywurst outlet. Basically, it’s a german sausage, with a curry tomato ketchup all over it. Having not had one before, I didn’t like the sounds of it, but I love sausage, I love ketchup and I love curry. Guess what, I loved Currywurst.
I’m going to take a moment to talk about the nightlife in Berlin. This was probably where I was most out of my comfort zone, believe it or not. The door policy is SO strict. Night one, we try to get into Watergate, as a group of 6 english guys. We thought they’d want our money, apparently not. Split into two groups of 3, the first 3 managed to get in, the second 3, which included me didn’t. The lady bouncer asked me something in German, I replied “Darius” (I was told to say this, as apparently this was the DJ on that night), she turned me away without reason and the other guys had to follow. Berlin is famous for it’s strict door policy, we didn’t even attempt to get into the infamous Berghain (honestly look this up if you’ve never heard of it).
We managed to get into a smaller club called Sky Club, and this may have been the most frightening thing I’ve ever been part of. The entrance was a stone door, without a bouncer, covered in graffiti. We walked in, greeted by 4 tough looking bouncers, pay the entrance, and enter the club. First thing I see, is a guy sitting down just staring at the cigerette machine. Head to the bar, order some drinks, look around. It’s not busy, but there are just a handful of people dancing by themselves, wide eyed, and not talking to anyone. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what was going on in this place. The music was so hardcore, that I started to think what is this noise (am I getting old?). Safe to say, we were very out of place, out of our comfort zones and after having a drink, quickly moved on.
The next day, we went to a few bars, rather than trying to hit any clubs, we got speaking to some local Berliners and asked why it was so hard to get in. They said “Why are you wearing shirts? In Berlin, you need to dress like you are about to dance all night”. I think they were suggesting we looked too smart, which was probably a first time for all of us. It goes back to what I was saying, Berlin is so relaxed. No one cares for dressing up. People are just out for a good time.
With any new city, way finding was tough to begin with, but that certainly was part of the fun. We made sure we found our own way places, and avoided cabs wherever possible. All part of the adventure so they say.
The final night of the trip, I finally saw my musical hero Noel Gallagher and absolutely loved it. 12 000 people singing songs back at him, and not a single flaw. A few people have suggested I do an open mic night as a challenge. I’ve put it on the list, one that really will take some balls to do. I’ve put it in for later in the year, give me some time to practice.
I’ve put in a little video of some of the stuff we got up to below.