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3 days in Berlin or: how I got into Berghain

3 days in Berlin or: how I got into Berghain

Old Aug 4th, 2023, 12:45 PM
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3 days in Berlin or: how I got into Berghain

I play a rare Indian musical instrument (an esraj) and Jens from India Instruments in Berlin (I buy all my instruments from him) had invited me for an esraj clinic in Berlin where Alexandre Jurain would come to teach. I jumped at the chance, also because I love Berlin and had been there in July together with my son for a few days but I just couldn't pass up this opportunity.

Getting there.
I took the train, which meant that I took an ICE to Duisburg from Utrecht and then the Duisburg-Berlin ICE. International train connections are still a bit sketchy and you need to choose your options wisely, so it took me 7 hours to get from Utrecht to Berlin HBF. Going back I again ended up in Duisburg and had to take a regional train to Viersen, then one to Venlo, and it was only there that I started to miss connections. On my earlier visit German train punctuality had been awful, but now everything went smoothly.

Accommodation and location
I booked Seminarhaus S1516, on Schönholzer Straße, one of the streets that was half demolished in the course of extending the Wall system to extend the deathstrip. The Seminarhaus was built to fill the gap and so you more or less stay INSIDE the Berlin wall. It's around the corner from the Bernauer Straße memorial (or rather in it: you can see the Kolonnenweg path from the window). The Seminarhaus will not be for everyone on this forum, because it only offered shared bathrooms and showers. The rooms are one person, and very stylishly done with hard wood floor, a desk even and very comfortable beds. There's a communal kitchen are for making coffee and breakfast.

The architecture both outside and inside makes for beautiful spaces and a very clever layout. For instance the building length loggia that every room has access to. Schönholzer Straße is very quiet, although the M10 tram is clearly audible, as are the bells of the Zion church. Getting to S1516 was very easy: walk out the HBF door, take the M10, get off at Bernauer Straße. The U8 from Bernauer Straße gives excellent access to the rest of the city. Formerly Prenzlauer Berg and Kastanienallee are around the corner. The Mauerkiosk Späti just across S1516 is very good, kind and helpful owners and a good selection.

I know Berlin pretty well, and I had a list of things I needed to accomplish (buy new machine heads formy playing strings, score a Velobande t-shirt at Velobande etc. And I had booked a concert to go watch on thursday and on friday a performance/art installation/forum discussion on the dangers but also possibilities of generative AI. Meanwhile I had to content with a pretty intense clinic and teacher.

Things I did
I only had the afternoons off after 2 and the evenings of course. However, I did go places:

Wednesday.
The only good day of the week weather-wise, I did an excursion to Wannsee and took the ferry across the lake to Alt Kladow, a lovely village where rich people live with a small marina, the ferry landing and two wonderful beer gardens. I sat in one and had a Weizen and a brezel and enjoyed the view. Afterwards I walked to the Gutshaus Alt Kladow (restored and with a cute cafe) and then the German-British yachtclub to have lunch in their clubhouse. A very good lunch too with a lovely view over the Wannsee. The clubhouse is open to anyone and the club and its marina are a poignant remember of the small stroke of British service personnel West Germany that was Alt Kladow. Many British service personnel kept boats here and British expats still do. Back to Berlin proper at the end of the afternoon by means of the X34 bus that ends up at Alexanderplatz. Had an amazing dinner at the always fully booked Indique.

Thursday
Exceedingly rainy, and I spend the morning practicing "meend" and the afternoon to see the Asia museum at the new Humboldt Forum and then the Neues Museum to look at an exhibit about the archeaology of central Asia, most notably the many Gandhara sculpture pieces they have. Well laid out and very insightful. Pergamon museum was sold out for the day. In between heavy rain showers I made my way back to Prenzlauer Berg and the Prater Biergarten for a Helles and Flammkuchen. I had booked a Love Your Artists double bill of two acts, Love 'n Joy and Chillera, as a benefit concert for the Ukranian artists fund. I had been following Chillera on Youtube for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity to see them live plus the event was in Berghain Kantine.

For those who don't know, Berghain is the mothership of all techno clubs and notoriously hard to get into, yet coveted by a lot of people. Lots of peope stand in line only to be refused. Its smaller stage, Berghain Kantine (and yes, Berghain too has a beer garden) has great live music, and very fresh programming. It was an excellent evening, a very diverse audience and great music. So finally, technically, I "got into Berghain", The rain was pouring down hard, so I more or less swam back to Ostbahnhof from the industrial zone where Berghain is, despite my umbrella. It was easy getting back to Bernauer Str. and there, a warm shower and tea and listening to the rain through the open patio door and then sleep.

Friday.
Slightly better weather and another full morning of raga and chalan, but I did have Lunch at Feinbergs in Fuggerstr. (because of many Israeli exiles in Berlin it's a great city for upmarket Israeli food like you would eat in a hip restaurant in Tel Aviv Between rain showers I walked a lot, to Boxhagener Platz, around Volkspark Friedrichshain, coffee and cake from a kiosk. My evening entertainment was a performance/conference/art installation extravaganza at "Trauma Bar und Kino", and it was all excellent and thought provoking and also slightly exhausting and unsettling. My last night! Back in Bernauer Str. I had a late curry wurst with fries at Konnopke and took home a bottle of beer from the Späti to drink on my loggia balcony.

Saturday morning: Berlin HBF and home by train

Very intense days, I packed a lot into it, perhaps not the most typical Berlin trip (didn't visit Brandenburg gate etc). In Berlin I most of all love the different neighbourhoods, each "Kiez" distinct and special. Usually I go more for the Kiez and its character than for a location relative to major sites. Public transport is so good in Berlin that you can get anywhere with ease. It helped (and I picked S1516 because of this) if you are near a major tramline and/or U and S bahn. Also, if you are over 60, look into buying an Inter/Eurail pass. In my case it was cheaper than buying a point to point return with the flexibility I wanted. S1516 was an excellent choice it turned out and it came at a very good price: €325 for 4 nights.

Last edited by menachem; Aug 4th, 2023 at 12:52 PM.
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Old Aug 4th, 2023, 03:48 PM
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Wow! Menachem! You packed so much in. Was it all planned, or did you wing any of it? I don't know if I could emulate your travel style. My daughter, who has some mild sensory issues and ADHD, doesn't like planned events, she likes what she thinks is spontaneity (which if I know the lie of the land, is not entirely spontaneous ). So we bumble from sight to sight. It's not great for trip reports but it makes her happy. But I liked what you did in Berlin. How did you ever start with the esraj? Is it also rare in India?

Lavandula
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Old Aug 4th, 2023, 04:04 PM
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I’m from India and had never heard of the esraj until menachem mentioned it. Appears to be a relatively new instrument, only about 300 years old.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esraj

Your Berlin museum visits sound most interesting, our last trip was quite some years back, in 2015. Need to go back, will probably club it with Warsaw, Krakow and Budapest…
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Old Aug 4th, 2023, 04:23 PM
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New? OK, new is relative

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Old Aug 5th, 2023, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by lavandula
Wow! Menachem! You packed so much in. Was it all planned, or did you wing any of it? I don't know if I could emulate your travel style. My daughter, who has some mild sensory issues and ADHD, doesn't like planned events, she likes what she thinks is spontaneity (which if I know the lie of the land, is not entirely spontaneous ). So we bumble from sight to sight. It's not great for trip reports but it makes her happy. But I liked what you did in Berlin. How did you ever start with the esraj? Is it also rare in India?

Lavandula
I researched a lot on google and pre-booked my dinner at Indique (I could see from their reservations page how insanely busy they are), I booked the Berghain Kantine thing and I knew about Trauma Kino and paid at the door. I built in time for walking around places that I find interesting but didn't know well (Boxhagener Platz for example) And I had excellent connections. Being on both the M10 and U8 was a godsend. Humboldt Forum and Neues Museum were spontaneous decisions, because it was raining. HF is great, because large sections of it are free: both ethnographic museums are (saw the Asia museum and was a bit underwhelmed). Having Prenzlauer Berg around the corner was super convenient and excellent for "spontaneous discovery". Konnopke and Prater are institutions of course

Last edited by menachem; Aug 5th, 2023 at 10:05 AM.
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Old Aug 5th, 2023, 10:01 AM
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I heard the esraj and I was immediately drawn to it. I already play mridanga and have studied some singing. It has a cousin called "dilruba", or "heart thief", so you could say my heart was stolen. As a birthday present to myself I gave myself the opportunity to really start learning with a teacher, also the musical vocabulary of Indian classical music, and its application. I think esraj had its heyday in Bengal in the late 19th, early 20th century and was mostly used as a "salonfähig" accompaniment to "Rabindra Sangeet", the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. As a sidenote: bowed instruments like Sarangi used to be associated with the brothel and so are unacceptable in polite Bhadra lok company and a more easily playable bowed instrument had to be adopted.

In the 1980s there was a renaissance with innovations by musicians like the incomparable Ranadhir Roy, who also developed a 3 octave esraj so as to properly play classical music. Then the esraj declined again and was nearly forgotten, but sinde the mid 2010s, again there is a revival going on, also of Rabindra Sangeet.

In Sikhi circles, the dilruba, a similar instrument, has always been used by the Namdhari sikhs in kirtan. My teacher is a dilruba teacher in fact.

This workshop was such an opportunity and Alexandre Jurain is a wonderful and wise teacher.

Last edited by menachem; Aug 5th, 2023 at 10:13 AM.
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Old Aug 5th, 2023, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by geetika
I’m from India and had never heard of the esraj until menachem mentioned it. Appears to be a relatively new instrument, only about 300 years old.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esraj

Your Berlin museum visits sound most interesting, our last trip was quite some years back, in 2015. Need to go back, will probably club it with Warsaw, Krakow and Budapest…
It turned into something like: see the entire Berlin Gandhara collection spread over 2 museums, because the Asia museum in Humboldt Forum also has many Gandhara pieces. I find it a fascinating period

If you buy an Eurail pass, you can do a little tour, coming back to Berlin.

Last edited by menachem; Aug 5th, 2023 at 10:06 AM.
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Old Aug 5th, 2023, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by menachem
It turned into something like: see the entire Berlin Gandhara collection spread over 2 museums, because the Asia museum in Humboldt Forum also has many Gandhara pieces. I find it a fascinating period

If you buy an Eurail pass, you can do a little tour, coming back to Berlin.
Sounds like something straight up my street!

We’ll definitely take the train, though probably fly into Warsaw and out if Berlin. Though not for another year or two as we have Galapagos and Chile for next year and perhaps Australia/NZ for 2025.
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Old Aug 5th, 2023, 04:09 PM
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How fascinating, not just the esraj but also your plans in Berlin. Whenever I am in Berlin I feel like I go back over old territory. It's been a while since I was last there, perhaps I need another visit. I am in libraries a fair bit when I travel (also to Berlin), with the consequence that my husband and daughter have visited a lot of many cities and I have only seen the bit that I could sandwich in around my research. But I think a visit to Alt Kladow might be in order, it sounds idyllic.

When we lived in Germany we were asked to show around the acquaintance of one of my husband's work colleagues. She was an advanced french horn player from Brisbane and she was in Germany to buy an instrument and to receive masterclass lessons from a local french horn teacher. She was already playing in orchestras in Brisbane, but discovered when this expert met her that she had been holding her mouth all wrong for all these years and she had to re-learn how to place her lips on the mouthpiece. Even professionals have something to learn from the world's best! So I get why you were prepared to travel for some expert tuition, worth travelling for!

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Old Aug 6th, 2023, 03:46 AM
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One of my plans for next year or even this autumn is to go for a short cycle tour around the Havel lakes or Spreewald. Jens lives in Zehlendorf near Krumme Lanke, also a beautiful area near the water. The advantage of such an eccentric is that you have excellent, frequent and fast public transport into the city, yet you're in an idyllic village, near the forest, lakes, beautiful Wannsee etc. A lot of holidaying going on there. I saw entire families on bike tour take the ferry across Wannsee. At Velobande I found out that they rent out gravelbikes and bikepacking kit, so I wouldn't even have to bring my own bicycle. Berlin is so immense, and there are so many different and interesting areas and aspects to the city. One shudder though as I was on the ferry and realized that the boat landing and roof edge I could see on the other shore belonged to the villa where the Wannsee conference was held.
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Old Aug 6th, 2023, 03:47 AM
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Originally Posted by geetika
Sounds like something straight up my street!

We’ll definitely take the train, though probably fly into Warsaw and out if Berlin. Though not for another year or two as we have Galapagos and Chile for next year and perhaps Australia/NZ for 2025.
Yes that would be excellent too, and it takes in so much of Central Europe too. Krakow is also a good bet.
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Old Aug 6th, 2023, 05:00 AM
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a great trip and a nice tidy write up, thank you
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