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klunk
lost in a forest
amw
For fuck's sake. Do not arrive in Berlin before 10am. After getting through passport check i jumped on a bus to the most touristy place i know in Berlin - Alexanderplatz. Bad idea. My prepaid SIM from May was out of credit, so i figured somewhere filled with foreigners would mean an ATM, phone credit, food and a place to kill time till i could check into my hotel. Wrong-o. Although i had a nice scenic ride past the Brandenburg Gate and some old buildings, much like in Indiana, i can't relax till i have a phone. I don't even know why i need it - i've got 4 hours to kill before i can check in anyway, but it's some kind of security blanket or something. In retrospect, i probably should've stopped at the Hauptbahnhof instead, but oh well. I got a day ticket, so i can always go back if this fucking 10am-opening place doesn't have refills.

I did a fun detour on the way to JFK yesterday morning. There was a coffee shop in Brooklyn i stopped into back in April just to use their wi-fi to find our hotel. They had an amazing-looking apple pie and i promised to come back to try it, but i never did. (Yes, another fruitless chapter in my search for birthday pie.) I thought it'd be a nice sense of closure to visit before leaving North America, so i did. And of course apple pie was out of season. But their rhubarb and blackberry pie rocked ass.

Ha! I just got asked in German where to find the Brandenburg Gate. And i knew, since i just took the bus past it. I feel like the blind leading the blind, but somehow i guess i must look a little less blind than the other tourists. Perhaps being all cranky and jaded and writing in a journal at an obnoxious hour of the morning makes me look like a Berliner. At least i'm not completely embarrassing myself like i was in Mexico. Who knew that a few years of highschool German would stick so well? My French sure as hell didn't.

Okay, 10am. Let's see if these boys can help me.

* * *

I had a ridiculous walk yesterday after refilling my phone. I started walking toward Charlottenberg, where my hotel was, with the intent of jumping on a train once i got tired. I ended up walking 6+ miles with my big pack and little pack, collapsing into a chair at an Indian restaurant for lunch a bit after 1. After lunch i checked into the hotel and promptly fell asleep.

My alarm was set at 7pm; i woke up at 8. My intent was to check out an open-air at Lichtpark that ended at 10 - that way i could get the Berlin clubbing experience without getting too tired or screwing up Saturday. So, yeah, that didn't happen. By the time i got back to Mitte, it was 9pm and i still hadn't eaten, so i skipped the open-air and searched for a restaurant instead.

After a quick schnitzel und frites in a more residential area, i wandered back toward the industrial buildings along the Spree where all the night clubs are and stopped into a delightful little outdoor bar for some pre-drinks. Being jet-lagged and just pretty much exhausted, i slumped back on a bench and looked up at the fairy lights and Japanese lanterns hanging from the trees above me. It was so nice to be able to simply soak in the vibes without worrying about getting kicked out for looking wasted. I didn't speak to a single person at the bar, but had a wonderful time. Somewhere along the way i noticed it seemed tailor-made for someone like me, with lots of little private corners and sightseeing spots for one. It felt like a psytrance party, with all the art in the trees and a converted double-decker bus and swings and hammocks and deck chairs, except the music was an eclectic mix of German hip-hop and dubby house and miscellaneous stuff.

I almost lost myself there, but figured since i'd made it to midnight by this point i should at least attempt to visit KaterHolzig, the successor to infamous Bar25, and the club which has most influenced the labels and artists i love. Holy motherfuck. I did lose myself there, completely and utterly. It is an absolute feast for the eyes the moment you round the first corner. Most of the club is outside along the Spree, but it's not like any other indoor/outdoor club i can describe. The deck goes up and down haphazardly, with giant steps and tiny steps and steps that lead nowhere and slopes and ropes and port-holes and spirals. One of the old factory walls is graffitied up 5 or 6 stories, another is covered in giant mice, there's a cat in a top hat and a flag on the chimney and disco balls in the trees and armchairs strewn about and burn barrels and art installations and that's not even getting into the indoors yet.

Inside one building there is a more traditional-looking room that plays more traditional-sounding music, but built into the deck there's the Hütte. Oh my fucking God. It's like someone reached into my brain and pulled out everything that would make my favorite bar in the world and then built it right here in Berlin. You enter through a corridor under vines and disco balls into something somewhere between a tiki bar and a roadside saloon, except with windows that make it feel like it's a diner, or a train, or an aircraft hangar for some 1930s-era explorer. Or something. There are rope ladders and lamp shades and signs and graffiti and beams and subway-style hand straps you can lean your whole weight on when the room stops and you don't. And the music, oh the music!

When the morning sun came shining in through the windows and they threw open the door i realized i'd stayed somewhat longer than i expected. And i was very drunk. So i walked out to a random armchair on a turret overlooking the Spree and passed out. Woke up to a couple of guys who had taken off their shirts and were tucking me in - "you looked cold". Woke up again to the same guys saying they wanted to dance for a few minutes and would i be okay. I told them i should dance too, so i got up. Two hours had passed. The bartender remembered my drink, but i switched to water because fuck. Some random guy hugged me, and i swapped my lighter for a cigarette (somehow an entire packet had disappeared overnight), snatches of laughter and odd conversations. I felt like i was high, but it was just a hangover and jet-lag and a magical playground for the soul.

I forced myself out around 9am, walked to the train station, got on a train, and passed out on the floor. Fuck. I woke up with people stepping over me at the last stop. Fuck. Berlin 1, Me 0. Once i finally did get back to my hotel i had to ask for a later checkout time, seeing as i still needed to have a shower and change. She offered an even-later checkout for an additional 15 euro, but i declined, saying i'd probably fall asleep and not be able to get up. Instead i showered then stumbled to a local cafe and ate a delicious German breakfast of cheese and salami and bread. Then stumbled to the airport, checked my backpack, stumbled to my gate, plugged in my cellphone, and passed out in peace. I know i've been looking like the dirtiest rave tourist all day - and i didn't even have a multi-day extravaganza like most people do here - but i don't fucking care. I still have that KaterHolzig stamp on my arm and nothing will take the beauty of those moments away.
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