Berlin – Nostalgia for the wall

by Dale Giancono | @dalegiancono

It was a couple hours past midnight when I found myself in one of the many small rooms inside a club, making small talk with a group of Germans and taking in my surroundings. The room was covered in sand – ankle deep – with modular synthesisers lining the room. Turning a knob or flicking a switch altered the buzzing tones coming from speakers scattered throughout the room.

It’s not often you walk in to a club, playing with noise on a fake beach in your white shirt and Docs – and I was having a ball. What peaked my interest the most was the flag above me brandishing the word ‘ANTIFASCISTE‘. After asking my friend what it meant and why it was there she replied, “I don’t know, this is a left wing club. It’s like a scene.” Suffice to say left wing clubs haven’t exactly hit Australian shores yet, and this left me a little confused.

Earlier, as we were entered, a man at the door was telling me how they have to be careful as the party may be shut down. “The police hate us,” he said. I thought it was all a little odd, until I saw the venue littered with stickers showing bullet holes over policemen with text reading “follow the cops back home”. Despite the rhetoric, all I saw was a bunch of kids high on MD. The police would probably find it all a little amusing.

It seems places like this are looking for some kind of struggle; a meaning for existence which may have existed in the past – evading police and fighting fascists.

While chatting to a French girl who had lived in Berlin for a number of years she told me, “I used to love going out in Berlin, but I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to”.

“Years ago there was a meaning to the clubbing. People were standing for something. But now I am not so sure,” she said.

Once while catching a taxi, a friend of mine spoke German with the driver. She told me the driver preferred the days when the Berlin Wall still divided the city.

“There was more work on the West side back then,” he told her. It wasn’t the first time I sensed people having some kind of weird nostalgia for the Wall in amongst its universal criticism.

It could be said Berlin is currently in a form of existential crisis, trying hard to remain true to its recent history while being one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Venues still shed expensive aesthetics and reside in old dilapidated buildings. There’s more emphasis on the environment, less on the expensive drinks. It’s still a place where you don’t get let in to clubs for dressing up; the superficial are kept at bay. It’s a place where not saying ‘thank you’ when being served your drink may earn you a stern warning. However others have already proclaimed “Berlin is over”. The secret is out and the vibe is ruined.

As an outsider I disagree. Berlin is still a special place without compare. I have fond memories of crawling through abandoned buildings and laying on dimly lit beds wedged between dance floors. Spending nights in spaces devoid of stigma and doing whatever I wanted. Learning about the world and its history, and sipping on ‘Club-Mate‘ while dancing to good music.


Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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