Party from dusk to dawn in a grown-ups' playground
“Berlin in summer is Disneyland for adults,” noted my wise friend as she sipped on the dregs of her pink Vodka-Rababa, which is vodka with rhubarb juice.
Her observation came at 3.15am on a Tuesday morning as we sat in Silver Future, a predominantly gay bar along the insomniacal Weserstrasse in Neukolln. At this hour the bar was still packed and showed little sign of slowing down. The midsummer rain did not seem to bother anyone.
Do these people have jobs? I wondered.
Most were of the age that so many Berliners seem to be — somewhere between 24 and 36, sort of studying, sort of working, never committed.
Berlin is a creative hub and even in the most Sandtonesque area, Friedrichstrasse, home of the Reichstag, there is not a suit in sight. It is okay to wear flip-flops to the office (or co-working space, more likely) or order a tequila and caffeinated Club Mate at breakfast with the boy with whom you are in an open relationship, because “this is Berlin”.
I even came across a man in his Y-fronts on the underground at midday, a sight at which no one batted an eyelid.
Summer in Berlin really does make you feel like you’re in a grown-ups’ playground. Ping-pong tables are scattered on grassy patches along the city where people hold impromptu tournaments until the wee hours.
The sun is out until 10pm in mid-summer and, rather than going to a bar after the working day, Berliners head to the late-shop, affectionately known as the spättie, which can be found on every second corner, to buy a selection of local beers and cherries and head to one of the cobbled bridges along the canal.
A favourite with the young trendoids is the Admiralsbrugge on the border of Kreuzberg and Neukolln, a free outdoor party on any given balmy evening.
For those nearer to the centre of the city there is the famous Monbijoupark with its deckchairs to accompany the view of the passing boats.
And, after a few drinks, there is one of the many holes in the wall selling falafel or shwarma (or doner, depending on whether the owners are Turkish or Arab) to snack on what has become to Berlin what korma is to London.
After dark, the options are near endless. Be careful of going to Berlin if you suffer from fomo (fear of missing out). Depending on your genre of choice, there are several parties within each scene that will keep you hopping from suburb to suburb through the night, unless you can settle on one. On weekends the trains run through the night, which means you can hop all you like.
The punk scene in Berlin has not died. Wild at Heart, Kopi and SO36 in Kreuzberg still showcase well- known international and local acts almost every night of the week, and making friends in a squathouse will ensure regular soirees with people who party as though every night is the beginning of the revolution.
For breaks, drum ’n bass and dubstep, Gretchen at Mehringdam has taken off where the legendary Icon left off, and in the space of two weeks I paid €10 to see Bonobo, Benga and Araab Muzik at a club so small that I high-fived the artists and knocked my head on the DJ box.
Of course, Berlin is also home to proper, hard, dirty techno. Highly necessary is a trip to the Berghain, though beware: the bouncer with dragon tattoos on his face is notorious for bouncing people for no particular reason. Speaking English is a fault — they hate tourists here. So stick with a local in the queue and act nonchalant.
But inside it is a treat. Aside from the rather grungy sex booths and blown-up pictures of anuses on the walls, the sound system is a killer and the DJs of a high calibre.
The party starts on Friday night and ends on Sunday night and many people stay the weekend, living off beer and ice cream.
There are also numerous clubs in the industrial area of Ostkreuz — my favourite was about://blank, where I saw Points and Peaches and fell asleep in a caravan in a beautiful garden.
Sunday mornings are usually spent at a breakfast picnic in one of the parks. Each suburb, even the “rougher” ones, have at least two parks. The difference between the parks in grungier Kreuzberg or Neukolln and posh Mitte or Tiergarten can be seen by the frequency of graffiti along the walls and on the pathways and, of course, the price of the ice cream.
Then there are options: you can either head to Kater Holzig or one of the other well-known converted power stations to dance alongside the river in the sun, or you can find an illegal open-air party, which can run from one hour to all night, depending on how quickly the police come.
It helps to be invited to private Facebook groups, through which Berliners try to maintain some semblance of “underground”, so be friendly.
For more wholesome unwinding there are the lakes. Wannsee and Schlachtensee are popular, but my favourite was Krumme Lanke, just at the end of one of the train lines and then a 10-minute walk to a beautiful warm lake surrounded by forest and lots of naked Germans.
When you go to Berlin, go hungry, thirsty and ready to play. What you will find is a city that allows, and even encourages, you to be a naughty child again.