To enter Berghain is, as many people have described it, a religious experience.
On Facebook, Sunday trips to the club are referred to as "Sunday Mass," and techno blogs are littered with references to the "church" of Berghain.
Many of these revelers have been in the club for more than 24 hours, a feat of stamina likely attributable to some combination of MDMA, speed and ketamine.
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"There's something almost spiritual about the atmosphere." Most of the building has retained its original industrial architecture — the décor is spare, the walls are mostly empty and a slightly less Dante's Inferno-esque upstairs space, called Panorama Bar, makes use of cages that formerly housed electrical equipment.
As a result, the club, which was opened by two media-averse German men, Norbert Thormann and Michael Teufele (who, in keeping with the club's no-media policy, refused an interview request), still has the look and feel of an abandoned building.
Religious imagery is nothing new to the electronic music scene — Frankie Knuckles compared the Warehouse, the Chicago club which gave birth to house music, to a "church for people who have fallen from grace" — but in the case of Berghain, the sacred comparison is especially apt. The main Berghain dance floor, which focuses on hard techno, has 60-foot ceilings supported by massive pillars made of unpainted concrete.
"The construction is similar to that of a cathedral of the Middle Ages," says Thomas Karsten, one of the two architects responsible for the 2004 renovations of the building, which was originally constructed in 1953 as part of East Germany's postwar reconstruction process and abandoned in the late 1980s.
As Karsten puts it, "When you're in the building on a Sunday afternoon, there's this feeling that this is exactly right, that the club Berghain and the building Berghain are part of the intensification of this minimal music, and you can't imagine anything different." The story of Berghain begins 20 years ago, when Thormann and Teufele threw their first Snax sex party, a fetish gathering that was held in various different locations around Berlin.