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Upside down into the night

A night out in Germany’s liveliest metropolis, between techno parties, currywurst stalls and street sweepers – accompanied by the sound of an American V2. Berlin, the city without limits.

Kai Schmid


The deadlock comes around three in the morning. Plush ambience, carpets on the walls, kitschy chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. We stand at the bar of the Kumpelnest 3000, a converted former brothel on Lutzowstrasse, where the atmosphere is anything but animating. It smells of cold smoke, a residue of coffee sticks like resin in the pot, behind the counter the innkeeper listlessly rinses the glasses. A giant mutt has made itself comfortable on a greasy velvet sofa in the back of the room. Mistress or master? that can not be determined so precisely? hangs out at the bar and sips a bottle of beer. The last reasonable sentence was hours ago. Charles Bukowski would have loved it. Where the scene people usually step on their feet, there is now the desolate emptiness of a club that has been orphaned too late. Moments in which our whole project becomes an agonizing farce: to experience Berlin at night, at dawn. Now we stand with heavy lids lost in the last swarmers of the night. The low point has been reached, the motivation to continue is almost zero. But there are still five hours ahead of us before the start of the day. The landlord urges you to pay. We feel empty, somehow out of place. Behind us the door slams shut, the locking bolt grinds into the metal. We’re on the street. Alone. It is unusually cool in July. On the radio, the presenter spoke of night temperatures of eight degrees. A fine drizzle wets our cheeks. A summer night in Berlin. The streets are empty like a ghost town. Neon signs and the interplay of traffic lights are reflected on the wet asphalt. They seem pointless, nobody pays attention to them at this time of the day. In the rearview mirror I can see the Harley’s tire tracks on the wet road. It is the only one. We cruise lonely through the urban canyons of the big city. Hard to imagine the hustle and bustle in the »Tresor« a few hours ago, the current in-techno club in Berlin. Hell Angels as bouncers, enthusiastic ravers on the dance floor, hardly any air to breathe and condensation dripping from the walls – and 140 to 150 beats per minute for accelerated heart rhythms. At some point the gold reserves of the former GDR should have been bunkered in the basement vaults of the old building. Instead, one of the germ cells of the techno movement has now found its way here. A baseball cap wearer with a chin mustache left the techno cave with us. He could hug the whole world. Also me. Good mood from the thumping rhythms and what kind of stimulants I know. He was from Syria, he told me. And that he likes Berlin. Not just because of techno, it seems like a hundred years ago. It was only a few hours ago. I feel like dead. The first thing to appear is the deliverer of the newspaper. Around four. B.Z. and dragging the Berliner Morgenpost in fat bundles in carts. At around five the first street sweeper. While the rest of Berlin is still sleeping peacefully in its springs, the men from the BSR are cleaning up the city. Hermann Radebach is one of them. The Kurfurstendamm from the Memorial Church up to Leibnizstrabe is part of his territory. We meet him at work in front of the respectable Cafe Kranzler. “Every day, even on the weekend, I sweep and nobody notices,” says the orange-colored clean man, “and every morning I start all over again.” Fortunately, he had the Love Parade off. An old sweetheart who knows when to take a vacation. When the biggest techno party of all time raged through the metropolis on the Spree last year, not only were happy faces left behind, but tons of rubbish too. In the bus shelter next to us, blue rubbish bags pile up to form a considerable mountain. In between sits a little heap of people, wrapped in a thick coat like an Eskimo. “This is bag paula. She always sits there, “knows the newspaper seller on the street corner,” always wrapped up thickly, in summer and winter. “Nobody really knows what she lives on. A car stops, he jumps to the window: “A B. Z. ?? please. ”Then he goes on. Paula only takes away the bags with all the clutter every few months, then she starts all over again, collecting cans, bottles, just anything from the trash cans. “Every now and then she sits in the Kranzler and drinks a beer.” That would be like Christmas. A picture newspaper is brought to the man. “Bag paula is simply part of it. They don’t even scare away the police. ”The contours of the houses are barely noticeable. The sky changes from jet black to ink blue, the first birdies in the treetops above the Ku’damm begin to wake up. A seductive scent emanates from the bakery and blends with the cool morning air to create a delicious mixture. The first delivery vans rush through empty streets at excessive speed, and taxis drive the last guests on the night shift. June 17th is almost ours alone. Berlin’s stately east-west axis, which bears its name in honor of the 1953 uprising in the former GDR. The stalls of the largest and most expensive flea market in the city are still closed with tarpaulins and boards. It doesn’t open until eight. But there is love of all stripes for sale on the roadside between the trucks. Howling men, two or three entrenched in the safe car, delight in the slightly cropped women. We would like to take a picture. But the hookers wave them in a friendly, but very firm manner: “No, no,” We ought to leave a bit of privacy. “At dawn, the Brandenburg Gate appears behind the eastern end of the boulevard. Probably no building was the focus of the eventful German history. Incidentally, it was built on the Acropolis in Greece based on the model of the Propylaea. This night is pretty quiet for the historic gate. It poses photogenic in the headlights of the American motorcycle. With increasing brightness, the East Berlin TV tower – disrespectfully called “Telespargel” by Berliners – fights for its place in the perspective between the pillars. The small hour hand on the large clock on the edge of the boulevard is nearing the bottom of the valley. The street lamps still provide more light than the new day. On provisionally patched up streets we bump over the largest construction site in Europe: Potsdamer Platz. This is where the metropolitan center of the city is emerging. With an immense investment volume, the “last wound of the Cold War”, as the Governing Mayor Eberhard Diepgen called the square, will be closed once and for all. To this end, 20 million tons of earth will be moved, entire buildings will be moved and visitors’ thirst for knowledge will be satisfied until the year 2000 with a specially built information center. Work is going on around the clock to create a new center for the city. A forest of cranes billows over gaping construction pits, the reinforcing iron protrudes from the concrete foundations. In the pale light of the first hour, the place looks like a bizarre creature lying helplessly on its back and stretching its limbs upwards. With resounding springs and dampers, we rumble through the gradually lively streets to the east of the city. It has long since stopped stinking of blue two-stroke haze, the Trabbis and Wartburgs have become rare. The past was certainly the quickest to come to terms with in the automotive sector. Meanwhile the day has gained strength. The hands are now at a 180-degree angle: six in the morning. Time to jump to Konnopke’s snack bar. Probably Berlin’s most legendary sausage stand. Founded in 1930 and placed under the elevated railway Dimitroffstrabe / corner of Schonhauser Allee in the middle of a thundering traffic junction. Despite the not very romantic location, the Bude is an institution and has successfully held its own against the surrounding Burgers and Macs. “The sauce is the best that Berlin has to offer in this regard,” two sweeper chauffeurs inform us about breakfast. “Old Jeheim recipe.” The elevated train screeches, cars honk, pigeons flutter over our heads – but the curry sausage has earned at least one Michelin star. Snack meals are part of everyday life in the fast-food metropolis. The palate quickly gets used to it. But kebab, gyros or french fries for breakfast are tough despite everything. The rain has stopped and the first rays of sun are gradually starting to warm through the leather jackets. We are getting closer to Prenzlauer Berg. Since the fall of the Wall, a large part of the scene has shifted from the increasingly business-like Kreuzberg to the former zone. Whole quarters from the turn of the century have remained more or less untouched since the end of the war. Above all Prenzlauer Berg. The rents in the old buildings, some of which are extremely shabby, were and are ridiculously low compared to other cities. Squatting, bars, restaurants, art, culture – within a very short time, »Prenzelberg« replaced Kreuzberg as a synonym for trendy Berlin. Coarse cobblestones on Kathe-Kollwitz-Platz, the center of the old quarter, so to speak. On the Harley we can feel every joint in the intervertebral discs. In front of half of all windows, the cornices and decorations are missing, shot away over 40 years ago and never replaced. Above the entrances of the shops, above which there is not yet a new display, you get a crash course in old trade names: “Soap house”, “Coal.” & Briquettes “or” two-wheeled workshops “. In the meantime, pubs or alternative shops and projects have often moved there. A couple of wobbly beer benches face »Fruit & Vegetables «in Oranienburger Strasse. The wind blows a first breeze of shit in our direction. Beer is only available from the bottle, hand-painted posters announce a performance. No pig is interested in the Harley this early. In any case, it seems that the Simson Schwalbe from Thuringia has a greater cult status in this part of the city than the V2 from Amiland. The nearby »East Side Gallery«, on the other hand, demands respect. A section of the Wall on the Spree that graffiti artists have sprayed into a total work of art. The remnant of the former “imperialist protective wall” is now a listed building. Tourists from all over the world come to marvel at the artifact. Behind it, on the bank of the Spree, a wagon castle. Some people live in old Unimogs, construction trailers, VW buses and other vehicles away from horrific rents. Two boys push a shopping trolley with water canisters from the 24-hour gas station across the street: “Do you have a cigarette?” They ask almost mechanically as they pass and disappear behind the wall. A tramp admires the Harley. “Easy Rider is on TV next week. Then go to the pub and look at me for the fourth time … ”Then he trots over there. The fact that the former Chairman of the State Council, Honecker, kissed the former Supreme Soviet Leonid Brezhnev in one of the paintings in the Gallery, as a well-intentioned “brotherly kiss”, probably only arouses our attention. The boulevards are slowly coming to life. We almost had them alone for eight hours. No traffic jams, few cars, traffic stress is a foreign word. Sights were presented exclusively, the irrelevant suddenly came to the fore. A handful of students hold a vigil on Alexanderplatz. Not exactly professional, with the banners hanging down, but at least in the field of vision of the Red City Hall. They demonstrate against the planned introduction of tuition fees and against a two-tier education. A few kids without a home use the event to sweeten the day with a bottle or two of red wine and philosophize about a fairer world. A Turkish pizza and the last coffee of the night before the hustle and bustle of the day breaks. I could fall over from tiredness and we just want to sleep. A night in Berlin takes its toll. A night like any other here.


Even 24 hours of power in the most active metropolis in Germany is not possible without some information. Here the basic equipment.

Rental motorcycles: Those who do not travel by motorcycle can experience Berlin on a rental Harley, for example. Harley-Davidson Motor Clothes, Lietzenburger Str. 90, 10719 Berlin (near Kurfurstendamm), phone. 030 / 88249-15, Fax -16, has four models to choose from. The deposit of 2000 marks corresponds to the amount of the fully comprehensive deductible. 100 kilometers are free per day, 250 on the weekend. A Sportster 883 costs 140 marks a day and 420 for the weekend. A Super Glide is available for 180 marks a day and 540 for the weekend. A Wide Glide or Softail Custom costs 200 Marks, the weekend 590. Overnight: The Berlin Tourist Office provides the addresses of hotels, guest houses or youth hostels in the Europa Center, Breitscheidplatz 10787 Berlin, phone 030/21234. In addition, shared accommodation centers offer an interesting alternative. They arrange private rooms or apartments for a fee (usually ten percent of the rental price). The rental period ranges from one day to several months. A whole range of addresses can be found in the city newspapers or guides (see literature): For example Berlin Visitor, Ludwigskirchstr. 9, 10719 Berlin, Tel. 030/8818462; Wohnwitz, Holsteinische Strasse 55, 10717 Berlin, phone 030/8618222; MWZ, W. Eisenbach, Yorckstrabe 52, 10965 Berlin, phone 030 / 1943-0. Literature: Anders Reisen Berlin, rororo, 18.90 Marks, provides a very good insight. Written by the staff of a city newspaper, however, it requires a lot of reading commitment. As a guide through the city, you can use the short and precise information from Berlin / Potsdam, from Reise Know-How, 26.80 marks, or the DuMont pocket book Berlin for 19.80 marks. The uBerliner youth scene city guide, Bebra-Verlag, 19.90 Marks, helps with scene contacts. The fortnightly city newspaper Zitty and tip magazine provide information about the current program on site at every kiosk. Who-where-how-what-when: Pubs with no tourist flavor can be found around Kathe-Kollwitz-Platz, Prenzlauer Berg. The Scheuenviertel around Oranienburger Strabe in the Mitte district is a pub area with a tourist flavor (and still worth seeing). Particularly interesting: the Tacheles – art, pub and culture in a demolished ambience that is well worth seeing and »fruit & Vegetables «, opposite the pub in the former grocer. Discos / clubs: The trendy bear is currently dancing on the excursion boat Sanssouci at the Warschauer Brucke in Kreuzberg. The Tresor, Leipzigerstrasse 128a in the Mitte district, is one of the techno temples of the early days. Normalo-Disco: 90 degrees, Kurfurstenstrasse 1, Schoneberg. Trendy pub in a former brothel: Kumpelnest 3000, Lutzowstr. 23, Tiergarten. Breakfast: On the ship: Van Loon, Carl-Herz-Ufer; or on land: Cafe am Ufer, Paul-Lincke-Ufer 42/43, both in Kreuzberg. Must-see cultural program: Wall Museum: House at Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstrasse in Kreuzberg. Exhibitions, performances: Tacheles (see pubs). Art on the remains of the Wall: East-Side-Gallery, Stralauer Allee, Friedrichshain. Motorbike meeting point: Spinner Bridge.

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