Berlin falls in love again - at 120bpm

A MILLION people, their bodies writhing to the hypnotic beat of techno, crammed into the centre of Berlin yesterday for the world's biggest annual rave.

Since its humble beginnings 10 years ago, when a group of 150 techno fans marched down the Ku'damm, the Love Parade has become an annual ritual, almost always blessed with hot, sunny weather and a good-natured, if somewhat spaced out, crowd. There is a relaxed dress code - as little as possible - you can test your ecstasy tablets at one of the stalls, and dance until you drop. If the three-hour procession, involving 50 sound-pumping floats, is not enough, revellers can adjourn to the clubs where the music will go on through to tomorrow morning.

Also part of the choreography, however, are the rows that precede the event, culminating in threats to take the Love Parade to Paris. This year was no different. The DJ known as Dr Motte, who dreamt up the idea 10 years ago and continues to be in charge, had been refused liquor concessions along the route. That decision, by a local council, was itself the latest twist in the long-running dispute about who should pay for the disposal of the mountains of rubbish left behind.

A few years ago, when the Parade was beginning to get seriously big, Dr Motte had the foresight to register it as a "political demonstration". That means he does not need to pay for waste disposal - nor clean on his vast earnings. The council footing the bill would be quite happy to see the Love Parade somewhere else, say Paris.

But Berlin's mayor, Eberhard Diepgen, is a fan, and saves the day every time. The event draws lots of tourists and, more importantly, helps to re-establish Berlin as one of the coolest places on the planet. "More people in New York have heard of the Love Parade than of Adolf Hitler," an organiser claims.

By the time the procession set off on the road which cuts across the Tiergarten towards the Brandeburg Gate, peace had been restored: the sponsors had been lumbered with the clean-up bill.

It's not only the council that fails to greet the event with total enthusiasm. On the eastern side of the Gate, the annual "Hate Parade", this year rechristened the "F--- Parade", was under way, organised by techno fans who think both the music and the main event have become too commercialised. "When we began 10 years ago, we made music of the kind that others should have," said dissident DJ Wolle Neugebauer "Today the same kind of electronic sauce pours out of every radio station."

But for Hans Pikkemmant, a 44-year-old club owner atop one of the floats, it is still "the greatest event on Earth - the girls take off all their clothes." He had shelled out DM50,000 (pounds 17,000) on his lorry, sound system and 12 bodyguards, and the right to drive all this gear in the parade.

Annika Mayer, aged 19, her body painted and "Music is the key" sprayed across her breasts, had come from the small town of Cochem in the Rhineland for two days of concentrated fun. It was her first time in Berlin, and she tried to store up lots of sleep so as to be ready. "This place is just wild," she said, wriggling her bottom furiously.

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