Berlin is known for being a cool city. It’s one of those cities where being uncool is the new cool, and if you’re not from Berlin, you’re not cool, and if you act cool you’re uncool. And don’t try so hard because that’s uncool too. Smoking cigarettes and not caring is cool.
I am not cool. I had 24 hours to explore Berlin, which is really not enough time to study the art of being cool. I’d say I barely got to read the syllabus to the Cool School.
Upon arrival to Berlin, I immediately noticed an abundance of graffiti walls, men in leather jackets, and people who stayed out late because that’s cool.
Why I Chose to Go To Berghain | Sven Marquadt
Even though I had to catch a bus in the morning, it was my only night in Berlin and I was determined to experience a nightclub. The list of recommendations was endless. I considered Kit Kat, a pornographic nightclub that prides itself on nudity and leather. Since it was freezing outside and I didn’t own any leather, I crossed that one off the list (leather pants are so hard to travel with.) Then there was Sisophys, another popular nightclub highly recommended to me for the techno music and the late night hours, but it was a little far from my location.
Then another club caught my attention. Berghain. What a name. Even the pronunciation sounds too cool for me to say (Berg-HINE). Berghain is a nightclub well known not only for it’s techno, but also it’s strict door policy enforced by their intimidating bouncers (and also the chance to see a naked bum or five, but let’s not get our hopes up.)
The main security guard, Sven Marquardt, is all over the internet. He has grown to recognition for being the guy that decides if your cool enough to enter, and trains the rest of the security to decide the same. Such a power like that, mixed with his intense face tattoos, makes him the coolest guy in Berlin. Or the most hated guy.
There is no criteria for being accepted into Berghain. You either are or you aren’t. You either make it or you don’t. You’re either cool or you’re not cool. It all depends on which bouncer you encounter, but each one is just trying to maintain the image of Berghain. According to Sven Marquadt in an interview with GQ, “I feel like I have a responsibility to make Berghain a safe place for people who come purely to enjoy the music and celebrate… If we were just a club full of… pretty people all dressed in black, it would be nice to look at for a half an hour, but god, that would be boring.”
The Criteria for Getting into Berghain
I was sold. A club that’s difficult to get into? Challenge accepted.
The internet has come up with several different theories of how to enter, and while sometimes these theories seemed to work, other times, you could have checked off all the boxes and still not been accepted into Berghain.
Here were a few of the tips:
- Only speak German
- Don’t wear clubbing clothes
- Wear all black
- Don’t go in a big group (especially if you are a group of men)
- Don’t talk too much
- Don’t seem eager to get in (in other words, act like you don’t care)
- But also be excited to see the DJ
- Know what DJ or event is going on that night (in depth)
- Know how to pronounce the DJs name
- Don’t take pictures or selfies on the outside of the club (they cover the camera on your phone once you enter)
That night I wore all black. I went with one other friend, who also wore all black. This would be his second attempt. The first attempt being with a female German who spoke German and had previously entered Berghain. They did not get in.
My lack of German would have to be hidden behind nods and pursed lips. Maybe the German girl’s mistake was actually speaking to show that she spoke German. Not cool.
Before heading out I perused the website to find that two DJs were playing that night, both whom I had never heard of. I listened to their top songs, I learned how to pronounce their names correctly, and where they were originally from. I felt ready to take on the coolness test by the cool bouncers.
How Not To Get into Berghain
The first challenge was finding the place. If you have to ask how to get there, then you’re obviously not cool enough to get in. It’s located in East Berlin off the train tracks of Berlin Ostbanhof in a former power plant, secluded from the rest of Berlin. At least it seemed so at 1 am, the time that it opened.
As we walked up, I could immediately see the bouncers standing at the front door, and a line zigzagging up to the door. The bouncers were on a raised platform which made it easier for them to judge eager patrons standing in line.
I felt cool just looking at the nightclub, but I resisted the temptation to take a photo because that’s so uncool and the bouncers would see that.
The excitement that we would be judged by these bouncers made me smirk, but I held it back for fear of being spotted as an overeager, wannabe cool person. My friend and I kept our conversation at a minimum.
The line moved quickly because many people were being denied entrance. I saw two people were granted entry, but I only saw their backs as they swiftly made their way inside before the bouncers could change their mind.
As we approached the front of the line I could see more clearly that there were 4 bouncers. Two standing on either side of the door, and two more inside the door, hidden by the shadows. I couldn’t be sure, but I think Sven Marquadt was the one inside the doorway, watching from the shadows.
The security guard on the right spoke to the people in line, informing them whether they were accepted or denied. The bouncer on the left, stood up straight against the wall and eyed the crowds. He scanned each and every person and the guy on the right waited to deliver the verdict.
A couple of girls ahead of us were completely dolled up, and were immediately denied access. As soon as they reached the front of the line, the bouncer on the right waved them along.
Then it was the guys in front of us. One of them wore a dark blue t-shirt and jeans with sneakers. He wasn’t German and didn’t speak German, but the bouncer didn’t even give him a chance to try as he immediately said, “No,” and indicated for the guys to move on.
“Why?” the guy asked. I held my breath because cool people don’t talk back to the bouncers.
“Excuse me?” the bouncer cautioned.
“What is wrong?” the guy in front of us said.
Without missing a beat, the bouncer responded, “What’s wrong? What isn’t wrong? Look at you.”
“But why are you saying, no? What should we do different?” I was shocked that this guy would even bother to speak to the bouncers. I could barely look at them.
At this point, the bouncer started listing off the horrible qualities of the guy in front of us, but these were in no way some hints to help the guy get in for next time. They were pure insults to offend the guy that dares question the bouncer.
The guy in front was not pleased and stormed off.
Then it was my turn. The bouncer raised two fingers and said something in German, and although I don’t speak German, I didn’t want to show it so I nodded to a question that I imagined was, “Two people?”
Everyone before me who had been denied entry were waved along as if the bouncer were directing traffic away from the club. The bouncers had already scanned and determined before each patron had gotten to the front of the line whether they were a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. They were barely given a chance.
After I had nodded to a question I didn’t understand, they made me wait. No one else had waited, but there I was, waiting in front of these large bouncers, a mouse amongst lions. My friend still stood behind me in the front of the line, but I stood in front of the bouncers as if I were on trial. The single bouncer that had asked me the question that I didn’t understand still held his two fingers up, paused, waiting for the verdict. I tried to be confident, but also cool, and who cares if I even get into this club? But I don’t know what that looks like, so I’m sure I just stood there looking constipated.
Suddenly, I see the slightest movement from the other bouncer as he moves his head. It’s a no. The bouncer waves me and my friend along.
How to Deal with Rejection
Rejection is tough. I’ve been rejected by a lot of men, pushed aside for something “better”. I’ve been rejected by colleges, jobs, and heck, I’ve been rejected by clubs for being too drunk (turning 21 does things to you). But man, this was the first time I was rejected by the coolest bouncers in Berlin, possibly the world. And man, did I feel cool.
Not only did I get rejected, but I was scanned more thoroughly than everyone else and I was still rejected. Story of my life, I swear.
Does that mean that I’m never going back to that club? Nope. I will definitely try again, but in the meantime, I had a feeling I would be rejected so I had a backup plan to go to a local bar and drink beer and have great conversations until 5 am. That’s the beauty of rejection– there’s always an alternative.
So if you don’t get into Berghain, don’t sweat it and go somewhere else.
Have you been rejected by the bouncers at Berghain?