When a Brit conjures up images of Germany they more than likely imagine men in lederhosen drinking beer and eating grilled sausages after a hard day’s work inventing scarily efficient motoring technology. Not the place for a hen weekend some may say. Or is it? A weekend away in Germany’s largest city will leave you with an altogether different lasting impression. Possibly one of the hipster-hairstyled, squat-living punk artist unwinding in one of Berlin’s techno clubs after a hard week being unemployed (because having a job is just too kapitalist.)
10 years ago the mayor of Berlin himself, Klaus Wowereit, proved himself to be as trendy and minimal as the rest of them as he shrugged his shoulders and declared: “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy.” (poor but sexy) in order to attract young trendies to their creative industries. Having heard Shangri-La-like accounts of Berlin’s party scene, it was the perfect destination for us. We were five girls out for a weekend of serious raving. I flew alone on the Wednesday to do some sight-seeing beforehand and, you know, see some daylight.
After arriving at Tegel airport, I leapt onto the U-Bahn just before the doors slid shut. A man with a blue mohican asked me to watch his expensive camera while he got off the train to check something with the guard and I was taken aback by his boundless trust. We then got talking about photography and journalism and have since become great friends. There’s something liberating about travelling alone. With a few days to go until my friends arrived, I had time to go on Ally’s Underground Arts Tour. Guests at the Circus Hostel, Mitte, can go on the tour for free and pay for just a day ticket on the U-Bahn. I was surprised that we came across only one Banksy and a small one at that. The work of another artist, Blue, caught my eye like no other; his huge, politically minded murals adorn abandoned Brutalist buildings across the city.
My fellow hens eventually caught up with me. I privately braced myself for the oncoming onslaught. Local shopkeepers were left bemused as unbearably loud English women made excessively big alcohol and crisp purchases.
For those who require a hen do devoid of girliness or luxury; Berlin is the place. No willy-shaped straws or pink L plates, thank you very much. All we wanted was straight up techno – and we wanted it hard. To our dismay the Germans have an irrational desire for minimal techno and house, we had to dig deeper to find the relentless beats.
Friedrichschain seemed to be the coolest place to get an apartment, stationed next to part of the wall, which has been transformed into an open air art gallery. In the distance a ferris wheel, no doubt covered in moss, stood majestic and mischievous on the horizon. ‘Spreepark’ is an abandoned theme park akin to mecca for those with a penchant for urban exploration; although unauthorized entry is strictly verboten (banned).
Gorlitzer Park has gained a reputation for being the tourists’ drug supermarket. On any day anyone can stroll into the green space and score as many narcotics as they desire despite the park being a spot for family strolls. Passing through the park on our way to dinner we were accosted by roughly 50 young men. ‘Coke? Speed? Pills?’ The situation is, however, a deeper underlying social problem made visible. Displaced Gambians are forced to rely on illegal activity to survive.
When one wants to put the Happy Mondays to shame and become 48-hour party people instead of an amateur 24, they would do worse than to head to Tresor. A 22,000 square foot disused power plant containing a labyrinth of dance floors, bars, cubby holes and cages. Walk for an hour in Tresor and you will still have more to discover. The harder music was found to be downstairs. Friends dancing a foot away became invisible as German smoke machines turned out to be as scarily efficient as their vehicles.
A different breed of people are present in Berlin to, say, London or Paris. A long history of oppression and unemployment has driven many young radicals to adopt anti-capitalist or anarcho stances. Anarchism doesn’t always have to be offensive we found out. Ogling the merchandise stand at Tresor, the bride-to-be and I were bear-hugged by one glittery merch guy. After some very loved up discussions about the upcoming wedding and whether we were enjoying our first trip to Berlin he gave us Tresor records and key-rings free of charge. “I get into trouble for doing this.” Sebastian said. “But it’s my principle that friendship and love is more important than money.”
Not cheap at €14 entry but the Berghain is frequently called the ‘best club in the world’ by everybody from New York Times to DJ Mag. Great but how do we get in? Its notorious door policy is implemented by the world’s scariest bouncers who will turn you away if they don’t like the look of you or if you go in groups of three, or is it four? We’ve heard you should go on a Sunday morning for the best chance of entry.
Hen/stag rumours back at home can be pretty scandalous. Anything from ‘the hen snogged a stripper’ to ‘the stag had two pints and fell asleep at 9pm.’ This rumour will be pretty hard to beat. Sat back in our local pub talking about the great weekend we’d had someone we went to school with said: “I heard the bride went to Hitler’s bunker dressed as Jimmy Savile. Was that true?”
I’m afraid not. We did, however, have a beyond-special hen do that brought us closer as a group of friends and memories none of us are likely to forget for a lifetime. A standard hen do down the local would have paled in comparison… And not a willy straw in sight.