Clubbing in Berlin, a notorious night out.
Black is Berlin’s heaviest color, draping over the scraped sky and open on bright thighs. This contrast the color code for an open door.
Police of fashion, attitude, and attraction guard the thumping black behind them. A quick blink and you’ve been checked out, faster than gum at the grocery store.
This is the scene I agreed to at 8:01 am when I rolled over in bed to read the incoming Whatsapp message:
“Got the rental car, we will leave around 12/1 to get you”
At 8:03 am, I replied, “Amazing!!” and promptly dozed through the next two hours of the morning.
By 10, I had peeled lazily from the bed, opened an avocado, and toasted a slice of bread. Salt, pepper, and chili dusted into the mix as I crushed and spread.
While I enjoyed my autopilot breakfast, my mind stuck to the nature of our Berlin trip.
Would it be a quick sight-seeing jaunt? A night-club night out? A brief meet-up with a traveling friend? I hoped for a night out, leaving the logistics for later. I was up for anything.
Crocheting through the rest of the morning, I waited for the “one hour” text to ding before getting ready.
I showered my sleep-tussled hair with the shampoo and conditioner set I earned with 20 minutes and google translate at the grocery store. After smoothing the soft shampoo into my scalp and working the conditioner into the tangles behind my neck, it was time to shave.
Bristled legs met a razor head and chopstick combination, my creative solution to leaving the real handle sitting idly in my parent’s shower.
Nevertheless, I emerged refreshed and rose, embracing the chill that severs the cling of steam on the other side of the shower.
Dressed in pink straps and short denim, I slid my “may the force be with you” socks under white sneakers. I paired my signature face sunscreen with the noir of pink bottled mascara for the special occasion. As I shimmied the last layer over my lashes, I was interrupted by the call of “CAROLINE!” through the open window. I lined my lips with a smile.
“Berlin! Berlin!” they chanted into the kitchen five minutes later, and I caught on quickly that this was going to be a night out.
I was excited, though woefully unprepared with my lightly packed side bag of basics. Grabbing my backpack, I shoved a change of clothes, face wipes, and overnight necessities into its depths.
I snatched a green-patterned dress for the clubs, with no excuse for this colored faux pas. I had just finished a book about girls in Berlin; the chapters full of repeated rejections and an insistence on black everything.
My colorful mind brushed past this, shrugging that it was Wednesday and I look good in green.
With hastily-packed bag in tow, we pulled out of the cobble-stone streets of Munich and took to the uninhibited sway of the autobahn. Redirecting my hair from waterfall to wavy, I tried my best to execute car makeup as we made our way from city to city.
We swore we would break the six-hour sentence issued by google maps authority, and we did, despite a 45-minute backtrack.
Half an hour after one stop to relieve ourselves on the side of the road, we realized we were missing a phone. Tracing our steps back to the quiet field, we scoured the earth and inspected the car’s nooks and crannies, turning up nothing.
In observance of the fallen, we changed the music from Fergalicious Fergie to ASAP and his F*ckin Problems.
Soon enough, our wheels rolled into the city. Graffiti and concrete greeted us through car windows, and I felt my heart swell. It was a wink of Chicago, just a twinkle of home, and I wondered into the reason.
It was a symptom of WWII, the bombing of Berlin. This is Germany, after all. After decades of repentant strife, these modern materials rise from the rubble of elder stone, replacing the ancient Germanic buildings that once stood as tall as their rivals.
This tragedy eclipsed the loss of a gadget and released a bit of our mood as we found auto rest in the parking garage of the Bikini Berlin.
A last-minute friends and family reservation gifted us a home base, and we gladly traced the blue-lit halls to the comfort of four stationary walls.
We dropped our bodies and bags on the bed, only breaking the seal of sleepy eyes with complimentary mini fridge beverages and the discovery of a hotel-provided speaker.
I drew orange over closed lids and sleeked my body into tight green skin. Reaching down, I married the sharp teeth of my white platform docs in two quick zips.
Another hour found us looking out at the night-lit city from the hotel’s balcony. Aptly named Monkey Bar, the roof-top terrace kept Bikini Berlin’s tropical theme.
Our smiles sipped espresso martinis, sub tequila, as we commenced our search for prospective clubs. Thankfully, Wednesdays mark the start of the clubbing weekend, and it is never hard to find a good time in Berlin.
We settled first on a club called Matrix. A venue with good reviews and a shared wall with a 24-hour Doner place. I convinced my companions to join me in taking down some fries.
The starch of the potatoes was sweetened by the joint-condiment heart drawn by my pommes frites dealer.
The warm air brushed my bare legs as the line shortened and we joined the influx of front-line hopefuls. We watched as the bouncer took his pick of the crowd.
A man in sandals was denied, but his girlfriend was able to argue their way in. My shoulders relaxed with this new faculty of persuasion.
The same bouncer let us in after staging fake scrutiny of our IDs. Taking to the bar, we sandwiched shots of tequila with salt and lime, the €7 total price offsetting the €10 entrance fee. The salty burn turned sour with lime and brought us to the dance floor.
After fifteen minutes of bouncing between cigarette boys to a sub-par beat, we decided we could do better, leaving the dark club for a river-side walk to our next destination.
With a recommendation from a friend and a brief google-search we chose Tresor.
As we inched closer to our next intention, we brisked by another thunderous black door. Deciding to try our luck, we stepped into the short line of KitKat Club.
We watched the group in front of us knock twice on the door, just to be denied despite their all-black and bare skin.
“Nein” was the quick answer from the emotionless bouncer.
We resisted, but his negotiation was “lose the dress, take the pants off,” and our prudish American blood accepted defeat. We later realized that KitKat is a sex club and that this Wednesday was their “no pants” night, hence our hasty rejection.
No sweat, as we were still outside, so covered and colorful, we resumed our route to Tresor.
The gray concrete stood tall against the 2 am stars. The line snaked around metal gates and met us at the street. There we stood, the cool air hovering just above our tequila-warmed skin.
It wasn’t long before we approached the front of the line; or maybe it was, but I didn’t notice.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the bouncer was a woman and immediately followed my exhale with the realization that my womanly guiles would be rendered useless.
Her stern eyes accepted a group of Aussie boys, all black and sunglasses. Then denied the man in front of us, his yellow shirt deemed unworthy of the techno graces that lie behind the doors.
We struck our pose, my green-vined torso flanked by my black-clad posse, arms crossed and eyes burning through dark lenses. We looked confident, self-possessed, and answered her scrutiny with conviction.
“Have you been here before?”
“If anyone is bothering you, find one of us. Enjoy.”
That was easy.
Our admittance-high led us to the club’s first dance room, a concrete hall bursting with beats and bodies. Weaving our way through the crowd, we found the DJ.
A middle-aged man with plastic-red lips, only outdone by his high-hung balloon breasts. As the beat dropped, he lifted his lips to take a shot with his own.
We let loose. Letting our limbs levitate and knees bend with the bass.
But we were thirsty for drinks and further adventure. So with linked arms, we followed glowing signs to the basement. A round of Vodka Red Bull’s gave us the energy to rejoin the dance floor.
This set was darker. Foggy air clouded the DJ’s stage, rendering them a swirl of smoke behind the beat. The only colors breaking the darkness blinking lasers, and me- it was perfect.
I lost myself in the music, in the swarm of humanity, all pounding with the same rhythm of the night. The flashing lights took me away as I dissipated with the whirling smoke of the fog machine.
I closed my eyes, and let the euphoria of the moment vibrate its way through my body, grounded only by the brush of friendly arms on either side.
An infinity I will never forget, though the details I’ll hardly remember. What is burned in my brain is this feeling, the pulsing lights and foggy exhale doing my seeing and breathing for me.
The remixed music felt familiar and foreign, a medley of pop culture and German techno, all mastered by the bad-ass blonde we glimpsed through breaks in smoke. Her fingers twirled over dark disks, and we let her lead the way.
We drank the electro-pulses that kept time, felt the build she pushed with metallic sliders, and drowned ourselves in the beat’s fever break.
Sweating and stomping on Aussie toes, our boots and bodies found respite in a dimly-lit corner bar.
Dismal and dark, it had everything we needed. Wooden slab bench and two round tables, black paint holding impending splinters at bay. Across from our noir nook was a lightly populated bar, the bartender winked at me from his liquor-lined stage, and I used the cheat code.
Ordering a bottle of sparkling water and three Jameson Gingers, I layed the groundwork. Between long looks, I asked him when the club closed, “noon” was his answer. I expressed my sympathy and slinked back to my friends in the corner.
Voices labored, and backs pressed hard against the concrete wall, we caught up with our breath and eachother.
The bartender wasted no time joining us, bringing a flight of tequila and a smile. We cheers’d and made second-language small talk before ditching him for the top floor.
Climbing up the heavy stairs two flights, we walked into a wide room. Music played for a relaxed crowd, spaced out, partnered up, and slow at this hour.
My eyes traced the scene to the left and found an open alcove of spring bed benches and metal medley curbs. At the center was the square outline of a bar, quiet and minimal. The three bartenders worked in near silence amid the swell of low voices.
We stalked the perimeter and joined the sway to sound. My hands found the purchase of another’s and I let him twirl me in time to a coupled tempo. My view over his shoulder filled with the faces of my friends. I gave them a quick thumbs up before they faded away.
Leaving him to the leading, I felt nothing but the music build and break against my skin.
It could have been five minutes or five hours, but eventually, I broke the spell, asking for the time. 7:30, he told me, and turning, my gaze met that of my friends. We nodded.
I sent him on his way, blown kiss to the darkness, and linked arms with my trio as we made our way to the main floor.
Gifting our goodbyes to the temporary friends re-encountered on our exit from the club, 8:30 faced us with its bright eyes and the joint ringing of birds and bass in our ears. The sky hit us with the vibrance of a matinee movie, thankful for the sunglasses’ utility.
Arms tied and tired, we stepped our way back to the Bikini Berlin, joining the bustle of well-rested commuters as we walked over the still-beating hearts of dark clubs just below.