Inside world's most exclusive, debaucherous nightclub
AS UPSTANDING Christians across Europe prepare for Sunday morning mass, leather-clad partygoers are queuing silently outside the world's most exclusive nightclub.
If Berlin is Europe's atheist capital, Berghain is its holy temple of worship. The Stalinist-style power-plant-turned-party-warehouse is notorious for its long and ruthlessly ambiguous screening process (with many waiting up to three hours only to be rejected at the door), and the seriously hedonistic happenings inside.
Lucky for me, my name was on the guest list, enabling this filthy little tourist to stroll straight past the 400-metre queue to the door.
With that humble brag behind us, kindly enjoy this account of every deliciously disgusting deed I witnessed during my 24 hours inside Europe's infamous house of debauchery.
If Satan owned his own "adult playroom", this is the kind of music you'd hear inside. Dark, trippy and minimal, with speakers so heavy they make your stomach bleed, the world-famous sound system is for neither the drunk nor sober.
The downstairs dance floor is pitch black and smothered in smoke, yet there's no mistaking the drug zombies who've likely been jerking their arms and legs on a loop since the previous night.
Some people arrive with toothbrushes and changes of clothes late on Friday, and won't leave till Monday morning. Troopers.
I stumble towards the bathroom, my vision struggling to adjust. In the light, the first person I make eye contact with is an earnest German man in his 30s, who stands obediently by the men's urinal wearing nothing but a leather dog collar.
When nature calls, his job is to answer the phone, y'know? Y'don't know? All right, fine - he crouches down beside you and drinks your urine. While you zip up, he breathes a satisfied "Danke" and returns to his position - until the next walking bladder comes along. Stage fright? Don't worry, he'll be there all day.
During the afternoon, the party is relatively calm. It's almost the end of summer, and most people have congregated on the outdoor dance floor.
While the techno heads on the main floor dance in solitude, the vibe out here is friendly, social and upbeat, with the DJ playing amped-up remixes of everything from the original '70s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) to Kylie's Can't Get You Out Of My Head.
People of all ages and skin colours are rolling their diverse little faces off in harmony, from the young Turkish guy in a head-to-toe white lace wedding dress, to the 60-something, seemingly genderless Chinese person donning a shiny pinstripe suit.
The outdoor bar closes after sunset, and everyone moves inside. The sense of timelessness is integral to Berghain's character, with the sunless interior designed to keep you from knowing whether it's day or night (you can thank Steve Jobs for my cute little time-stamps).
By now everything - the hard acid techno, the stench of sweat and urine, the onslaught of swaying zombies - is completely saturated in drugs.
Near the bar, a young girl staggers up to me. As I open my mouth to ask if she's OK, she abruptly projectile vomits. I jump aside at the last second, but a thick glob of her orange-red spew hits my arm. It's like a super unappealing Heinz Chunky Soup commercial.
The most popular hangout spot is the upstairs bathroom, which is gender-neutral and jam-packed with people lining up for free cubicles. Underneath the stalls, you'll rarely see less than four or five pairs of shoes at a time.
Cocaine, ketamine and ecstasy are the most popular drugs available, and thick clouds of weed smoke permeate the entire venue. Even GHB - a colourless liquid depressant said to be loathed by the bouncers - is offered to me for free on four different occasions.
You'd think people could openly conduct their business dealings in a place like this, but security is actually vaguely strict on illicit substances - hence the curious abundance of full-bowled clubbers.
While I only received a quick pat-down at the entrance, I've been told the staff do inspect shoes and socks at random. If they catch you with anything illegal, you have two options: leave and take them with you, or dump 'em in the bin and slide on through.
But nobody is having trouble scoring. Well, almost nobody. At the urinal, a tall, serious Swiss guy with a deadpan voice casually asks if I'm selling ecstasy, explaining he's been unable to purchase anything because everyone assumes he's an undercover cop. I shake my head and crack a joke about my deceptively shady resting face.
He doesn't smile back.
By now, the club has fully descended into its trademark decor of shameless hedonism. Men and women dance completely naked, their pupils so dilated you could push a screaming ten-pound baby out of them. Sexual acts take place in every nook and cranny.
Modest lovers disappear into dark alcoves removed from the centre, but many embrace their inner exhibitionist and bang away right there on the dance floor.
At one point, I see a girl penetrating a guy with a strap-on penis. Not far off, an uncanny "Human Centipede" re-enactment expands before my delicate eyes.
Up near the DJ, two guys take turns spewing into the swaying crowd. No one seems super fussed.
Meanwhile, a large "dark room" located just off the dance floor - pitch black with narrow hallways and a leather sling - has accumulated an orgy of thrusting, grunting silhouettes.
"They brought condoms, right?" I ask the nearby resident dealer.
I've never looked worse in my life, but as the club is devoid of mirrors, I'm the only person who can't tell. My shirt is lost on the floor somewhere, never to be seen again. Hundreds of people remain glued to the dance floor, still going strong. But I'm done.
As I finally step outside, the greeting of midmorning sunlight makes me feel twice as dirty. Sven Marquardt, Berghain's most famous bouncer, stares in silence as I stroll past him to begin my shameful, shirtless walk home.
While I'm in no rush to return, I finally appreciate the hype surrounding this place - the pretentious line, the outlandish stories, the mass of tourists, the holier-than-thou bouncers.
It's a decadent haven for the alternative, a transgressive techno mecca, a figurative and literal all-out wank-fest. But it's also a little corner of the world - equal parts reclusive, exclusive and inclusive - where the everyday rules by which we govern ourselves momentarily cease to exist.
Oh, and don't worry about the hangover. Walking away, you realise nothing will ever compare to what you've just experienced.
And really, that's the most sobering feeling of all.