The Berghain started out as a gay club in Berlin in 2004. Today it’s incredibly famous for its subculture as well as techno music . Here is my take after a weekend adventure in Berlin.
Preparations, black pants and practicing a bored ennoyed look
The Berghain is not a club people come to have fun in, it is a place of worship with strict entry rules. The general idea is to maintain its unique environment by keeping mainstream tourists away. If you want to get in you have to look like someone who has already been there. Dressing in black and looking unhappy is a good start. I came with a friend, a regular known to the guards so there wasn’t any problems. We still came sunday morning to avoid the que. I got stamped and returned in the evening, when the ‘returners’ line was ‘just’ 20 min. She was there for over 22 hours straight. If you get through the door prepare to be searched and pat down, a sticker will be put on your cell phone camera. Put the money on the counter, do not attempt to hand it to the worker. Why? Don’t ask why, like any other religion this is about power, you are the low level worshiper they are the druids.
The club is situated in an industrial maze of a building spread over 3 floors. The top floor, called panorama is relatively mild if you take out the little cubicles were people sometimes have sex in. There actually isn’t that much sex going on, but it does happen.
The bottom most floor where you enter has some chill spaces including an out door space with a statue of a giant penis.
On the mid level, you will find the actual Berghain. The Berghain doesn’t play music, it plays techno war drums. People there do not dance, they put on their war face and go to battle, stomping and elbowing their fists beating the air. Hour after hour in a sweaty frenzy they will release their anger in a strange sublimation ceremony. Be it anger at patriarchy, frustration with social norms or just personal hardship, the clubbers will battle their way until monday morning. For those who last until the end I was told there is a type of catharsis, an addictive release. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t connect to this for more than a few minutes at a time. Due to my martial arts training I release anger in short sprouts against opponents or a punching bag. With out the feeling of impact my anger goes no where.
Like many other clubs the bathroom is also a type of kitchen were people go to consume. If your looking for nourishment I was told you should find the most Italian looking guy standing in or near the bathroom and ask.
For those of you that actually need to pee and can’t use the urinals there is a bathroom with out a door on the second floor that has almost no line. If you are shy bring a friend to stand in front of it or ask someone around otherwise you might have to wait for half an hour or longer.
I lost the tiny wallet I brought with me that had 50 euros and this mettle numbered card to the gardiova, where my coat and cell phone were hanging. I was dreading trying to get them back but they had an amazing efficient procedure. Fill in forms, describe your stuff, be able to provide proof that it’s yours, for instance be able to unlock the phone. Then go through the lines of hanging coats one by one with a worker. Luckley my friend remembered the general vicinity the coat was taken to so after a few min of going through black leather jackets,(some one say needle in a hay stack?) I found it. Just as I did, someone returned my metal card saying they found it on the floor. The wallet with 50 euro wasn’t with it. This was still nice as it saved me paying 10 euro for the lost card.
Early on I took off my shirt and was dancing topless. This was a non issue even though only a small minority of women were doing the same. Despite the overwhelming crowded environment people stayed civil and there were no aggressive pushers or potential sexual predators to be weary of. The only harassment came from a friend of a friend, who decided it was ok to slap my butt while dancing. He was quickly corrected by me going berserk on him, although as a friend of a friend I didn’t break his nose. It ended with lots of apologises on his side and gifted ice cream. I hope he will never do that again. There was also a strange scene in the bar in Panorama. There was a ridiculously hot women who I literally gave my place in line to so I could start a conversation with. The female bartender brought over some ice and told this women she would like to put some ice in her cleavage. We all laughed, then the male bartender just stuck a straw in the womans cleavage which was totally inappropriate. She got comped free chasers but was still irritated. Maybe she went down to the Berghain to stump her rage out at idiot men who have 0 ability to take other people’s perspective and act on their first impulse.
An activity packed weekend is making me reconsider the title I gave Nijmegen, as the most suburban boring town. Read on to hear about a queer festival, psi-trance party, and sex and relationship meetup that all happened this weekend.
Beyond binary bathroms
I’ve finally started to makes some interesting connections and through them I got invited to these three events. The queer festival, called beyond binary was an all-day event with lectures and workshops organized by a transgender group. I tried choosing the more activity related workshops to avoid the language barrier since I was the only one of the hundred or so people that didn’t speak any Dutch. So I went to a fake ‘Tantra’ class, I say fake because it had nothing to do with Tantra but was still amusing. We took turns in a four hand tickle/massage with lots of strange toys and fabrics, while we were sprayed by water, and strange smells and food shoved into our mouth.
A Bondage show
Next I tried a queer tango, were we took turns switching leader and follower. I know some of you really like tango, but for the life of me I don’t see the point in dancing something that resembles a military march more than anything else. There are too many rules and regulations for me! You can only move about the room in one direction, can’t over pass people, and try not to twirl or have too much fun, were the instructions we got.
I also joined a Polyamorous group discussion, and discovered I wasn’t the only poly person in town, there were at least 5 other people in my age group that were all part of a poly family. And finally I joined a bondage workshop and learnt how to tie some cool knots!
All in all it was really well organized and a lot of fun. And they also had many information based lectures for instance on transsexual health issues.
That same night I dragged myself to an old factory at the edge of town to a really big party that was actually quite good. The sound system was decent and the lighting and art were really cool.
Then somehow, and really don’t ask me how, the next morning I dragged myself to a sex and relationship, meetup group that included the most amazing vegan brunch for 5 euros. I think I was the only new comer in that small group of maybe 10 people. After eating and chatting one of the women read a beautiful piece about how hard it is to be honest and open when you like someone and that was an opening for a very intimate honest talk about everything, from insecurities, inability to give/receive compliments, social norms, gender issues, raising children, shaving body hair and the brain (yes that latter was mostly me spreading my brain memes). It was an extremely healthy discussion, the type of which should be held in schools and social groups everywhere… and it’s going to happen again every second Sunday of the month (8th of nov is next) so if you are around you should join: check out their website or Facebook.
So basically come visit me in Nijmegen it’s not all that boring (sometimes).
If you are going to lose your wallet in Bogota you might as well do it after you’ve taken some e. It’s been a crazy few days in this city… read on.
Graffiti is legal in large parts of the city.
There are more Maria’s than Jesus statues
It took me some time to realize why Bogota felt familiar. Finally I realized there is a big similarity to Manila. There are a massive amount of people, the public transport is in total chaos, the colorfulness and of course Jeusus everywhere. It is less of a surprise if you realize the Spanish screwed both these countries over and influenced them a lot.
Bogota has a long history of violence, from fighting for independence from the Spanish, to a civil war that was caused because the two ruling parties tried to kick out the communists. For the past few years thing have been quiet but a massive amount of police hang out at every corner of the city.
What I did like about the city is that it’s built very close to beautiful green mountains, so whenever the smog or masses of people get too overwhelming I can always look to the distance and soak in some green. It’s also really fun to discover lots of exotic fruit that I haven’t seen even in Asia, as well as lots of interesting new foods.
Tamal rice and chicken rapped in palm tree leaves.
Bogota is also known for its drug culture. Although use of drugs in public is illegal there are some known parks where the distinctive smell of weed carries to a great distance. The police keeps their distance perhaps because the smokers are rich students.
I also visited an alternative techno music festival called Radikal and despite the heavy searching at the entrance I can say most everyone was on some type of drug or another. There were even people sniffing glue! I found some e from a very respectable source and for the first time in my life I took half a pill. An hour later just as I was thinking this wouldn’t affect me, the music started being much better and I started to really enjoy myself, really. I was completely clear headed, I could even do math. The one thing I couldn’t do was be angry, or sad or violent.
Agua de Panela, a sweet hot drink that you dip cheese into!
Even when I lost my wallet I could only think positive things about the situation. I thought it would be a good idea to put a small wallet on a necklace so I don’t lose it. The necklace broke while I was dancing and I didn’t notice the wallet fell down. Usually I would never be able to dance in such crowded conditions and would feel really violent every time someone would stepped on me or bumped into me but while on e it didn’t bother me at all.
So basically this could be a great solution to bring world peace!
Colorful streets of old town Bogota.
I was worried I’d feel depressed the next day as e uses one’s serotonin deposits but I wasn’t. I only felt really tired but I slept only 4 hours so that made sense. Drugs are a certain doorway into hacking your own brain and what I find interesting is finding ways to teach your own brain to go through those doorways even without drugs. Even now, days later I feel that just by ‘remembering’ the feelings I had while on e I can increase my ‘happiness’ by around 20% which for someone like me who isn’t really good with this whole ‘happy’ thing is quite a lot.
After 6 days at Kiwiburn, the regional burning man even in new Zealand, I could tell you about how the libertarian idea of self-reliance wins over the communist one, when comparing a burn to a rainbow gathering. Or I could describe the acceptance of ‘different’ body ‘images’ along with sexual and gender orientations as being taken for granted. I could tell you about the amazing women heading construction crews and leading different camps like the fire spinning/eating camp and the body painting camps, without the need of using the word feminism. Or I could delve into the role of nudism in the community or the obsession with burning, but instead I’ll try to provide an account of my 27 hour trip down the rabbit hole.
THE MAN He crashed when they tried to stand him up but it was still awesome
After the highest night of my life I awoke with 7 sentences I wrote down on myself in fear of forgetting. As I’m not sure how to even start describing that night I guess I’ll trust my drugged self and start with that.
Memento I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie with the guy with short term memory loss. Well I was smarter than he was. As reality started warping around me I realized this was an experiment like no other so I turned on my video camera and started filming and recording myself. It was so hard to keep track of a single thought I was sure I wouldn’t remember anything in the morning but I was wrong, I remember that night just as I do any other. But back then the memory of an action was out of phase with the action itself reaching me ‘too late’ causing disorientation and the feeling of ‘how the hell did I get here?’
Trying to check if my pupils are dilated
I knew my camera had a limited battery and memory and I was afraid to lose it throughout the night so I set myself on a mission to find a pen from the PostArt exhibition and scribble the word Memento on my hand. Then, if I woke up remembering nothing, at least I’d know shit happened.
Cliché ≠ Untrue All throughout the night I was highly aware that what I was experiencing was a cliché. That it was indeed pathetic that a chemical reaction was behind all this. It made me sad that through all of my martial arts training I could only reach glimpses of this while here all I needed was to swallow two ‘all natural’ space cookies and bang the door was finally open and there was ‘no spoon’.
Yet the fact that I was living through a cliché also helped me calm down and not freak out. When I felt extremely paranoid just by someone walking behind me, or doubted if I would ever return to ‘normality’ I knew it was ‘natural’. In fact, I could finally truly understand some of my friends I had baby sat through a similar ‘trip’.
KiwiBurn Is a real ‘trip’ even without any additives. pic by Raúl Fragoso
It was a cultural cliché in the widest meaning as my knowledge and memory tried to make sense of the present. Ramachandran’s brain ‘map’ and his work on synaesthesia came to mind when light, sound, gravity, emotions, pain, words and body movement all manifested as one (although for the life of me I couldn’t remember his name when I was high). The sound of a car passing by was manifested by me being crushed to the floor, my head throbbing everything darkening. The word religion had black smoking fangs coming from it stabbing me. Music literally did lift me up or take me down. People passing me by would manifest in me rubbing my hands together. I could see my thoughts as light threads bouncing off from one area in my head to another, (the girl with me said I was tracing a round halo over my head even though it didn’t feel round to me).
I tried to apply Turing’s test to people when I wasn’t sure if they were figments of my imagination or not by asking them to teach me stuff I didn’t know (I finally believed the girl was real when she apologised for something my selfish self would never in a million years think about apologising for).
I thought about Jill’s stroke of insight (without remembering her name again), in the way she, as a brain scientist, reacted to a stroke in her left, ‘rational’, hemisphere. With her ‘serial processor’ gone, her right hemisphere took control and gave her the feeling of interconnectedness and bliss in ‘the now’. My left hemisphere was working, although perhaps not at full capacity, but it wasn’t shutting up my right side.
As I was ‘coming down’ for hours and hours thinking I had finally reached the ground, just to discover another shell was being peeled away, one of the best star trek episodes floated into being, Riker is mentally tortured by aliens, awaking from one delusion just to discover ‘reality’ is another delusion.
When I felt each of my limbs move separately without asking ‘me’, as I moved through the dancing crowd, I thought about the book I am reading now. The Rainbow and the Worm, a prominent biologist gives proof of a proto-network of communication between cells. She claims this network is our ‘body conciseness’ and is enabled by quantum coherence, as the cell is actually a liquid crystal allowing quantum coherence on larger scales.
As I could feel each separate thought fighting to gain control over the others Meme theory became a reality.
When I described these things to N, the Israeli girl who had to convince me she was real (well, what are the chances of meeting one of the two people I came with to the festival, and the one person I could speak to in my native language, just as I made it to my PostArt exhibit and was the most lost I have ever been?) told me, “Just because something is a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true,” which I ferociously wrote on my arm.
Slaughterhouse five I haven’t read this sci fi book byKurt Vonnegut but as I was describing my sense of time to N she said it sounded like this book so I wrote it on my hand to make sure I remember to read it.
‘Outside’ time slowed down while ‘inner’ time became faster. I looked at people dancing and it seemed as if they were dancing in slow motion. To test this I tried walking between them without crashing into them. It was almost too easy it was the Spiderman fighting scene where the world slows down.
The pirate ship at the lake pic by Raúl Fragoso
I would think a million thoughts and one minute would go by. After 3 minutes of talking to the camera it felt like two hours had gone by.
Time became a series of elongated beads threaded on a line. At the end of each bead there was a cutoff point after which there was a nothing ness I could slip into until the next bead arrived yet all the beads were still treaded together continuously. The ‘paradox’ of oneness vs. separateness was so strong yet so un-paradoxical. Time was one endless moment stretching forever filled with little black holes that sliced and diced it or was it actually a series of still images that were almost, but not quite, glued together into a movie? Well, it was both. This is being god I thought and laughed at my overdramatic reaction.
Guess which bottle in this art project is mine? Yep, even when I was high as a kite I had to be different
All is Yes and No
It is the ‘mystical’ cliché which I have been rambling on about for most of my life yet I still was compelled to write it because it is yes… and it is no. Because when people were talking to me, half the time I didn’t understand one word they were saying but I understood it all! Because a circle doesn’t have a beginning or an end yet it has both… because I could keep on spewing this new age shit forever.
A volume of dimension As this whole trip began I felt the volume go up. But it didn’t go up linearly or even exponentially it blew up in all dimensions, and there are way more than 3! (or even 4 if you count time).
Everything went to extreme. If I had to say something I HAD to. If someone didn’t understand me or someone was worrying about me it was the WORST.
My ‘survival’ instinct went up to the maximum, keeping me away from the edge of hills and electrical fences (yep they had those on the grounds), forcing me to limp slowly on my aching ankle as not to hurt it and warning me of people that were not ‘good’ for me, even if they were just ‘draining’ me. I suddenly understood an artist I had talked to a few hours before this all began. He had been ‘high’ and I had drained him by not ‘going in’ to his world. I felt the GUILTIEST I had felt in my life. But not only did the volume go up separately in each dimension but the interconnectivity between these dimensions went up causing synesthesia (as I have explained above).
The burning of the ‘Temple’ pic by Raúl Fragoso
Yet as the volume went up the energy and information available to me went down.
My body only needed minimum movements to cross the dancing floor and there was a very high potential barrier that wouldn’t allow me to do anything more than the minimum. When I needed something, like standing up, all facilities of myself would focus and gather together to allow me to do what I wanted but in general everything was delocalized.
I didn’t know anything except what I needed to know. That’s how I made my way from the dancing area to my tent, one step at a time, having no idea where the actual tent was just where my next step needed to land. I didn’t even know if I could speak English until I spoke it.
My dad’s idea that the whole Quantum uncertainty principle is a computer programmer’s way of saving processing power stuck to me. This was true efficiency, why waste time/power/worries on what is so far away. The next step is the only thing that matters.
Remembering one memory:
Remembering 1 Memory!
Each thought was a wave in an ocean filled with thoughts and memories all connected to each other and spreading out to infinity – one memory! Once I got on a wave all others were forgotten in the sea underneath me but it was so easy to fall off a wave and crash in the ocean since other waves were trying to reach me and pull me in. I had to try and surf the specific thought to reach its completion and arrival to shore.
I told myself this is how Alzheimer’s feels and wrote ‘Alzhemer’s is fun’. I kept on thinking maybe Alzhimer’s patients aren’t forgetting things, they are remembering one thing so strongly that that memory takes over all others.
The formula for solving square root problems has always been my way to prove I wasn’t ‘drunk’ or too out of it. So once I started doubting my sanity I tried to write it down on my hand to prove I could still think logically. But I couldn’t! I knew what I wrote down was wrong but for the life of me I didn’t know how to fix it. I tried checking it by trying to give myself examples to solve but the process was too long. I couldn’t stay focused long enough and the more I looked at the equation the wronger it seemed, the letters began losing their meaning.
No worries I did this after returning to ‘earth’
I knew doubting my sanity was a good start at proving I was still o.k. but I needed proof. Then it dawned on me that I didn’t have to ‘remember’ I just had to solve this problem. I could cheat! So I started asking the people around me. But they had no idea so then I asked GOD for help, and in GOD I mean the real one, GOOGLE. I don’t think I’ll be exaggerating when I say this was the hardest and most complex task of my life. Turning the internet on in my phone, typing in search words, all when everything had so much meaning most things had lost their meaning. My thoughts were leaking all over the place. And GOD was messing with me, sending me to Wikipedia pages filled with proofs and equations that made the world go round and round. I was so close to giving up but I knew I couldn’t. So I invented a story in my head. There is a girl; her mother is head of the earth defense systems. Aliens have attacked the earth with psychic warfare and the mother is incapable of turning on the defense system. The girls is the only one who knows her mother’s password which was specifically designed to check if one is ‘rational’ enough to turn on the defense system. The girl knows it is the square root equation but she can’t remember it because she is under attack too. She can’t remember it but she manages to solve the problem by using a computer that isn’t under attack. I was that girl, I had to save the world, to save myself.
Once I succeeded in finding the equations I realized it wasn’t enough, I had to prove to the world that I was sane, not only to myself… so I did the only rational thing and posted the equation on Facebook 🙂
I painted some of the back of the green women on the left. pic by Raúl Fragoso
For my first visit over the Israeli separation fence to Ramallah I decided to write my first blog post in English and since on the first of January I’ll be starting a grand tour from New Zealand I think it’s a good idea to get back to practicing my English, so read on.
the fence from the Palestinian side
How do I even start describing the strangeness of it all? As a born and bred Jerusalemite I have never been to one of the largest cities near Jerusalem, which is only 15 minutes away from my house. As a Couch Surfer I have hosted many tourists and it was always such an absurdity that they were traveling so close to my house in a place I have never been too. Fear (based on images from the lynch of 2 Israeli soldiers that got lost in Ramallah in 2000) and the fact that it isn’t exactly legal for Israeli’s to go beyond the fence have always kept me away.
Famous graffiti on the fence
I don’t want to go into a political debates on whether the fence is needed for Israel security or the details of the geography of the wall which did annex 8.5% of the west bank and made some of the village’s life extremely difficult. It is an important debate but my blog is meant for anthropological experiences so I just want to try and describe the feeling of falling through the looking glass.
Almost but not Jerusalem…
I thought I’d feel scared but I wasn’t. Maybe because I was with friends or maybe because it was so close and seemed so familiar. You see, Ramallah all is built with the same type of ‘Jerusalem’ stone, as we call it here in Jerusalem, which immediately makes everything feel familiar. It almost looks like some new and expensive neighborhood in Jerusalem with all the white gleaming houses. Except then, you notice the houses seem to be ‘planted’ with little or no order, the Roads and sidewalks are sort of a mess and there are not signs in Hebrew only Arabic and English.Another thing I noticed was that a lot of the houses were empty. It turns out that while the fence was being built a lot of those that had a choice preferred to stay on the Israeli side of the fence and a lot of investors suffered a great loss as new houses were left empty.
They even have a lion like the Jerusalem city symbol
Ramallah, historically created by Christians (although now the majority is Muslim), seemed ready for Christmas with huge decorated trees which for me gave added an extra twist.
They don’t give a DAM
The trigger for my visit was a concert by DAM an Israeili/Palastinian band which I love and are brave enough to sing against so called “honer killings” of arab women. My cover story if asked where I was from was to say “From all over” and smile. It seemed to work but I did find myself ‘slipping’ a few times and starting to speak to my friends in Hebrew or saying Israel instead of Palestine. My blending in skills seem to need some practice.
Look at all those buttons!
Both Israeli’s and Palestinians seem to share at least one trait, tardiness! The show started an hour and a half after the supposed time but it was worth it. The music was great and the energy in the club, which was super modern, was amazing.
A lot people at the event were internationals. In fact, even the most touristic places in Jerusalem don’t get so many tourists. Strangely enough (or not), even some of the Arabs I spoke to were eager to say they too weren’t from Palestine or that they were leaving soon. It seems the good people on both sides just want to get away!
where’s the no smoking sign?
The only real downside of this little trip was that nobody is even considering a ‘no smoking indoors’ law. I came out smelling like an ash tray my eyes tearing. Is it possible that their eyes are somehow hardened by the tear gas at demonstrations?
Some unrelated stuff:
Israel seems bent on becoming the most unfriendly country for Jews as they have once again arrested Jewish women wanting to pray with a prayer scarf at the western wall. This time it was enough to have a scarf in your bag. Please support women of the western wall even if you are an atheist like me.
There are two groups calling themselves the pirate party in Israel. Just a heads up that the one that is running for the upcoming elections is a fraud. Some of them are nice guys but they are led by Ohad Shem Tov who is coming off more and more as a typical megalomaniac politician. They have contacted Facebook and have closed the other groups FB page that was in existence a long time before they were… and to think that for some time I had admin rights to their page and resisted the temptation to erase it. Anyway if you are interested in joining the pirate party in Israel make sure you choose the right one: http://www.facebook.com/israelipirates
So like I said at the beginning on the 29th of December I’m off to do the ‘big trip’ I never thought I wanted to do. You are welcome to drop on by to say good bye before that…