Berlin: Until the last basement is found

© Renard Teipelke

by Renard Teipelke

In an ideal setting of a vibrant tourist city, tourists intermingle with residents and thereby experience a place authentically. This ideal balance can easily swing to either side. A great place that only a small number of tourists visit, normally qualifies as an insider’s tip. Where a place is inundated by thousands of tourists, it can become fragmented, and residents build their own sanctuaries, while tourist businesses create an artificial travel brochure setting (sometimes referred to as the Disneyfication of a place). In the current discussion, an overcrowding of Berlin by too many tourists is recognized. Examples range from the Disneyfication of Checkpoint Charlie and endless tourists streams at Unter den Linden to countless groups with trolley bags rushing from A to B and the highly controversial party crowds in a Kiez like Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain.

© Renard Teipelke

One aspect of this touristification in Berlin deals with the world-famous club scene. While a few clubs always make up the top list of mainstream, well-known clubs, it is the sheer endless number of alternative clubs which has proliferated Berlin’s reputation as a (the) party or clubbing city in the world. What is the case for a city as a whole also counts for a particular club: at the very moment when the balance of residents and tourists swings to the latter group, a club can hardly preserve its alternative nature. A club that is inundated by tourists can hardly be an insider’s tip. While some clubs have tried (and already given up) a seemingly arbitrary door policy in order to prevent a concentration of tourists, friends of the club scene have witnessed the seemingly regular closure of old and the opening of new clubs. Thus, finding the currently hippest or most alternative clubs became something like an urban scavenger hunt.

© Dr1fta

Curious as this might be, it is also a sign of the alternative club scene escaping from a too much of tourists. Backyards, rooftops, and especially basements are converted to “hidden” clubs. What supposedly was easier and not as necessary a few years ago has become quite a big challenge: finding these new places that could be used as clubs. Rental prices are rising at an unprecedented rate and more and more tourists are seeking the “Kiez experience.” Since Berlin – at least partly – lives on its reputation as a non-conformist city, preserving the balance between residents and tourists is essential. The city’s alternative club scene is an invaluable treasure and it remains to hope that this still functioning hide-and-seek game does not end.

Further reading: an interesting article about “hidden” clubs, tourists, and inofficial (illegal) parties was published in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in 2007 -> http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/stadtleben/touris-muessen-draussen-bleiben/v_default,1088444.html

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