People: Katrien

With some tardiness comes this report about the November visit of partner in crime Katrien, who was embarking on her fourth trip to Berlin. During a previous visit together, we had already discovered that a combination of wandering around lesser-known neighbourhoods, exploring nightlife and checklisting some of the final missing elements of the tourist attractions was a winner. The second batch of this winning recipe proved to be a tasty one as well.

In terms of tourist attractions, one major sight had yet to be discovered by the both of us: Schloss Charlottenburg. On a cold November weekday it was delightfully deserted. We first went for a walk through the interiors. Even though what you see are reconstructions of the days of yore, the baroque opulence is definitely impressive and sometimes even brings a smile to your face — the ridiculously lavish china room immediately comes to mind — though the outside terrains are the true gem of the castle. The multicoloured autumn park had a magical feel in the wintertime sunshine and the view of the castle from the ponds is probably the most impressive of all. Oh, and it lends itself well to impromptu photoshoots, but I’ll be kind enough a friend to keep that material in the private collection.

Of the smaller attractions, the DDR museum proved to be a fun run. Small seems to be an odd choice of words, however. Even though the space is rather limited, it hosts an abundance of material, which is presented in an interative way that for once truly enhances the experience instead of Disneyfying it. Look at the television shows, walk through the interior of a typical flat, experience a drive in a Trabant (which proved that we also suck at simulated driving), … before you know it, a couple of hours have flown by. An more frequently overlooked museum which proved yet again to be mighty entertaining is the me Collectors Room aka Wunderkammer, a collection of strange artefacts from various places and eras, which shows 14th-century anatomical models and South-Amerian shrunken heads next to works of Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney and the likes.

A couple more hours flew by during the nightlife section of the trip. One of the first days of Katrien’s visit happened to call for the celebrating / mourning of my 30th birthday and thus the aptly named Chantal’s House Of Shame seemed to be a location fit for the job. Every Thursday, Chantal, a transsexual ex-prostitute, hosts this infamous party at Bassy Club. What at first seemed to be an watered-down party in an uninspired decor, switched to something completely different when Chantal took to the stage to deliver a chaotic speech, after which a performance took place which could only be described as a pornographic take on the Eurovision song contest. Somehow the mood changed afterwards and quite the amusing electro party shifted into gear. What started out as a rather bland happening, ended up being the new must-see of Berlin according to Katrien.

Another concept I had heard about but had yet to check out took place on Friday: Gegen. Once a month, the legendary KitKat fetish Club opens its doors for a broader audience: no dresscode, only an open attitude. We packed our dancing shoes, liberal mind and photographic memory and headed there with Jolien and Tom, two Belgian friends who were also spending some days in Berlin. The club proved to be a lot bigger than expected and could maybe be best described as a fluorescent acid boudoir. It sported a welcoming attitude and the freedom to unleash your inner freak without any sense of pressure. We all agreed that the wide variety of colourful figures proved to be yet another highlight to experience at least once in your lifetime. On our day off from partying, we took to the cosy Babylon cinema for a Stummfilm am Mittnacht — a great initiative that is organised every Saturday and free of charge. The quieter evening recharged the batteries for the club mass of Berghain, which never fails to impress, especially during the Sunday portion of their Klubnacht.

Katrien and Berlin are a match made in heaven. She likes the cosmopolitan mix of people spiced with an extra dash of artistic creativity and its non-conformist yet easygoing spirit. In a nutshell: the European version of New York, without the competitive ideal of the American dream. The cold winters are the only downside that she can list, though I’m sure it will still be warm underneath the lights of Berghain even when it’s minus twenty degrees outside.

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