The Hedonist: Berlin
By Tremayne Carew-Pole from Hg2 luxury city guides
Saturday 03 April 2010
It's 8am, the start of a new day, the sun is streaming into my blurry eyes and I'm feeling dehydrated. As I shade my eyes I can see the entrance queue moving slowly forward and clubbers who don't look the part being turned away. The tall man next to me, clad from head-to-toe in leather, certainly looks the part; I begin to fret about my attire and especially the polo shirts of my new German friends. We've torn the city apart, moving slowly further east in a celebration of dawn – and now all I can think about is sheltering my eyes from the glare of the sun.
This is our eighth club of the night and there's a need for one last dance, clinging to the last vestiges of consciousness before stumbling back to the quiet of my hotel for two days' worth of recuperation.
To keep time ticking over as I wait, I mentally retrace my steps from the previous 24 hours. Life started in Berlin when I arrived at my deliciously comfortable hotel, Rocco Forte's Hotel de Rome (00 49 30 460 6090; hotelderome.com). The former home of Dresdner Bank, it is now a super-stylish five-star edifice perfectly located in Mitte – the centre of Berlin.
The elegant décor, discreet service and comfortable rooms prove ideal for a decadent weekend.
Instead of dining at the hotel's well-regarded Italian Paroli restaurant I decide to step outside the door and into the real, edgy world of Berlin and head for dinner at Grill Royal (00 49 30 2887 9288; grillroyal.com) – one of the city's hot destinations that mixes glamour with absurdity, sex with humour; a collaboration between a nightclub impresario and an art dealer. The juicy steaks and the plump oysters recharge my flagging body and prepare me for the tumult to come.
Eschewing after-dinner drinks, I head out of the door and hit Greenwich Bar (00 49 30 2809 5566; greenwichbar.com) – a New York-style cocktail bar with elongated linear fish tanks and padded lime-green walls where the bar staff sort me out with a few of their more potent cocktails. The glamorous, laid-back clientele is as good to look at as the cocktails are to drink. But I must move on deeper into the dark German night and on to some serious seediness.
I stop off at Clarchens Ballroom (00 49 30 282 9295; ballhaus.de) for a drink and warm up for the night with some cheesy dancing. I feel as if I have stumbled in on a cheap wedding: silver tassels line the walls and a crowd of all ages are dancing to some thigh-slapping classics. Nearby, a "cougar" seems to be dancing, rather inappropriately, with a younger man, while a group of his friends look on giggling. The ballroom has seen better times, in fact the upstairs function room still displays shrapnel and bullet damage from the Second World War.
Finding it all a little too surreal, I am guided by my German friend with the smart polo shirt to a dark metal gate. After satisfying a burly man lurking in the shadows about our cool credentials, we gain access to the Rodeo Club (00 49 163 162 0168; rodeo-berlin.de). Perched above a post office, it boasts a cupola-domed restaurant/dance hall, hidden VIP rooms and the rather shabby and sweaty techno room.
This is the Berlin I am really looking for – underground, undercover and a little too cool for school.
By now it's 2am and I've only really been to three bars. I'd made some bold statements earlier about hitting the city with a vengeance and have some boasts to live up to. The next five hours blur into a mix of student bars down by the river, the largest outdoor club in Berlin (which seems to be having a quiet night), and a club that is far too important to even consider letting me in.
We end up outside Berghain/Panorama Bar (00 49 30 2900 0597; berghain.de), a temple to hardcore industrial techno. God knows how, but we're let in. What was once a factory is now a huge industrial club space on three levels – the first floor is home to the hardest repetitive beats I've ever heard and I see the tall man in leather dancing like a man possessed. The second floor seems a little more melodic and we join the crowd shuffling our feet and hiding from the sun pressing against the blacked-out panels of the window for succour.
Finally, I can do no more – it's 10am and time for bed.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city-guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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