For the next two days, I was in combination “Jet-lagged Conference Attendee” mode and “Partying Bachelor in Europe” mode. My days would start as I rolled into The Hive at the beautiful Scandic Potsdamer Platz bleary-eyed but ready to go. The Hive nametag proudly displayed, I made myself a quick continental breakfast and coffee, and spent the day attending numerous conferences from giant names like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Lego. Interspersed with these great lectures and Q&A sessions were numerous workshops, with everything from SEO strategies to crafting to social media strategies to building readership as a blogger. One of the most surprisingly inspiring and motivating speakers was a young German fashion designer-turned-blogger who had taken up the cause of environmentally-conscious fashion, and got a standing ovation for her long journey to find a drive and vision, something that I think a lot of us bloggers connected with.
I would have a nice hearty buffet lunch at the Scandic, pressing the flesh and meeting the ridiculously talented attendees and speakers at The Hive, and constantly asking myself how I could reach that next über-talented blogging level. Sure, in the last year I had set up a decent website blog and written a few entries, started two companies (one for my medical group and one for The Traveling Bachelor), developed a burgeoning Facebook and Instagram following, and written a decently popular Oahu travel guide eBook that had been downloaded thousands of times on Amazon. But like a lot of other attendees, I struggled with questions regarding my focus, drive, direction, layout design, social media strategy, brand…You name it, I questioned it. I can tell you, it takes less than 48 hours to be completely humbled and awed by the sheer amount of online creativity and talent that I was around. And this was just one conference in Europe! I ended the conference Sunday night with a combination of complete humility, inspiration, motivation, and determined more than ever to try to get my social media and blogging act together. In some ways, trying to start up a successful blog and social media online presence was way more difficult than medical school had ever been.
My nights were spent combing the underground belly of Berlin’s ridiculous culinary and nightlife scene. Luckily I had a couple of long-lost friends, Couchsurfers, and random connections who were happy to meet me up and showed me the best that Berlin had to offer. I ate crispy roast pork and washed it down with a beer at a Bavarian beer hall (Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt), chowed down shoulder-to-shoulder on Berlin’s #1 favorite street-food: Currywurst (Curry 61, Curry 36), had a budget 5 Euro All-You-Could-Eat breakfast buffet with the broke hostel crowd in Rosenthaler Platz (Circus Hostel), and even had trendy fusion Vietnamese food deep in the heart of Berlin’s up-and-coming Scheunenviertel district (Monsieur Vuong). And of course, I had more than my share of post-drunken durum kebab binges while waiting for the S-Bahn. You could find basically any food you wanted in Berlin, and unlike Scandinavia, it totally wouldn’t break your bank! If you want more information on currywurst stands in Berlin, read my review here.
The nightlife and bars I hit were even more diverse than the food in Berlin. There was the ridiculous riverside bar-swilling and sunbathing after-work crowd, who drank beers while cheering at frightened tourists drifting by on their tourist boats along the Spree river at Capital Beach on Friday around sunset. Saturday was the killer underground “Kill All Hipsters” series back in Kreuzberg, with an insane and irreverently chill groups of Berlin kids in their 20’s who truly danced like nobody was watching to great dance and Eurohop hits at Privatclub. Sunday night, the sprawling ruins of (you guessed it…) Kreuzberg filled with crowds of weekenders enjoying beer, live music, food stands, and even furniture shopping in the truly awesome Neue Heimat space. It completely blew my mind how Berlin was an ever-changing city with such different neighborhoods, lifestyles, music and artistic tastes, and how much it had changed in the two short years since I had last been back.
Unfortunately, I was so excited to be running around Berlin that on one occasion, I flat out ignored buying an all-day ticket as I rushed to catch an S-Bahn at the Bellevue station. “I’ll just make sure I get one at the next stop,” I thought to myself, feeling like a Hawaiian Superman. And, of course, as soon as the S-Bahn doors closed, two random plainclothed S-Bahn “polizei” showed their badges and begin asking for tickets. Epic Traveling Bachelor FAIL!!! It was totally my fault. First, I tried the occasionally-successful “No speakie English!” tactic and tried to speak to them in broken Mandarin Chinese. Which completely didn’t work this time, the S-Bahn “polizei” was too cunning to fall for that. In the end, I sheepishly handed over my 40 Euro fine to the stern-looking ticket-checker, completely embarrassed. “Oh well,” I thought, “I guess it’s a lucky thing the US-Euro exchange rate is so good now!” Yet another lesson to always be prepared, and not be a stupid American when traveling. It made me feel better that I saw 2-3 other local German girls also get ticketed for not having tickets; it wasn’t just the clueless brazen American tourists getting caught! As a word of advice, I HIGHLY suggest that you never get on an S-Bahn in Berlin without a ticket. All told, I saw S-Bahn police spot-check passengers more than once a day during my time traveling around Berlin! Don’t take the chance, trust me, unless you like giving away 40 Euros like it’s candy.
After a couple days of a truly inspirational conference at The Hive and some frenetic running around with the nightlife, food, and fun in Berlin, I had caught up with most of the friends I had meant to see in this urban part of Europe, and was ready to make my triumphant return to Scandinavia and Sweden. But there was one last night of fun to be had in Berlin on a Monday, and I had absolutely no idea what sorta insanity was coming. Now it was a Monday night, which meant that most of my Berlin friends had to work and couldn’t go out. And in general, although Berlin is definitely a nightlife and music paradise, Monday isn’t exactly the night most people go bonkers. However, I had heard through the grapevine (i.e. Lonely Planet Berlin and some friends) that the HOTTEST club on a Monday night was actually a Ladies Night at the fancy schmanzy chi-chi frou-frou Felix club. For $5 entrance to the gentlemen, and free entrance for the ladies, fun times, loads of dancing, and overpriced cocktails could be had at club that was normally impossible to enter, just along Under den Linden on Behrenstraße.
And so it was, that I strolled up to the ropes of Felix on Monday night around midnight, a nightclub in the shadow of the imposing, magnificent Brandenburg Gate and American Embassy, which were all lit up at night and heavily patrolled by menacing looking security personnel. After looking me up and down quickly to make sure I had the appropriate clothing, button-down shirt, and shoes, the guards nicely waved me in, I paid the $5 cover and strolled into the cavernous basement of Felix. My first impression? Meh….Sure the dual grand staircase descending into a chic dance floor surrounded by tables with bottle service and bars was impressive. But the audience was not. There were maybe 15 people at most in this “hot” club, and they could mostly be described as being in the Germanic cougar category. And it was mostly guys anyway, otherwise known as a “bratwurst factory.” But I had forgotten the #2 rule of partying in Berlin. The #1 rule of course is “Don’t talk about Fight Club!” :P, but it’s closely followed by the #2 rule: “Nobody really starts partying in Berlin until at least 1 am…even on a Monday night.”
By the time I had started my second vodka tonic, my jaw was dropping farther and farther to the floor. The stairs became a beehive of activity, with group after group of Berlin’s young female party elite descending to partake in the epic craziness. The DJ ramped the music up, the girls started cheering and doing shots, and all the guys around, expats and Berliners alike, started grinning like idiots. It was turning out to be an excellent Ladies Night. I started dancing and flirting with a cute blond girl named Sandra who kept eyeing me up and down, while making friends with random other guys from Germany who were in town visiting. In the background, two in-shape Channing Tatum-esque guys, dressed in cowboy hats and displaying ripped abs, danced seductively with a scantily clad cowgirl. They looked suspiciously well-rehearsed. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “I hope they aren’t…”
Before I could finish the thought, suddenly Ladies Night at Felix was so very very rudely interrupted by the staff, who came swarming in like shoppers on Black Friday at Walmart, grabbing Every…Single…Girl. Literally every single one. They yelled something to each of the girls, motioned towards a number of chairs that were laid out in a circle up on a side stage, and then hurried them along to sit on the chairs. What the heck was going on? All the girls were now grinning like idiots, and it was now the guys turn to be unhappy looking again. Suddenly the two ab-endowed cowboys ran up to the stage, straddling chairs in between the circle of ladies on stage, waved to the rest of us hapless guys, and the Felix staff drew the curtains of the stage closed with a flourish. “Dammit,” I said to myself, “They ARE strippers! SCHEISSE!” By the way, “Scheisse!” means “Shit!” for anyone who is a little bit rusty with their German. 😛
For the next few agonizing hours (or it could have only been like 15 minutes, but it felt like hours), the frenzied screams of the captive girls on stage rose higher and higher as Hans and Franz danced, shimmied, pelvic thrusted, and likely had their way with about fifty women. From the sounds of it, the girls really really did not seem to mind at all. All of us dumbstruck guys were stuck staring at the drawn curtains on stage longingly, excluded from all the craziness/skankiness/orgiastic insanity. You know what’s worse than seeing the cute girl or girls you’ve been interested in getting seduced by German male strippers? Not being able to see anything going on, and IMAGINING that cute girl or girls getting seduced by German male strippers. Sadly, all too late, the men of Felix had realized the true meaning of “Ladies Night” at Felix: It wasn’t just some place where girls got a small discount to get in…these ladies were truly having their ladies needs met. By German male strippers…if that wasn’t clear yet! Talk about brilliant marketing for Ladies Night!
I decided to make the best of it, and while the rest of the guys were staring in place at the curtains like illiterate apes, I did two more drinks back-to-back and had fun with the music, dancing like nobody was watching. Because truly nobody was: The DJ was watching the turntable, the guys were all watching the curtains, the curtains hid all the girls, and the girls were entranced by Hans’ and Franz’s abs and other male body parts. The great nightclub Circle of Life! Needless to say, by the time the curtains were drawn back, and the girls came stumbling out fanning themselves, the guys were in a very very sour mood. Until most of the men realized that the Ladies Night male strip-a-thon had an unintended effect…The women were all really riled up now! The dancing, grooving, and grinding recommenced, but alas I was too hammered and had an early morning flight to catch to Stockholm. With one last bump-and-grind dance with Sandra, I completely bailed out of the club, shaking my head at the insanity of it all.
In my completely inebriated state, I took a quick glance at my Google maps and decided that the walk home from Brandenburg Gate all the way to Bellevue was a quick one, completely forgetting that my powers of deduction and spatial reasoning were completely obliterated whenever I drank. As I strolled quickly by scowling embassy guards and more scowling Tiergarten Park guards on my interminable stroll back to Bellevue, I furiously scanned every single corner for a kebab stand. Unfortunately, drinking always makes me want to eat unhealthy, and what better way to do it than one more poorly-thought out kebab run! But Tiergarten wasn’t exactly Kreuzberg, and I was doomed to go hungry that night.
As I strolled, head abuzz with vodka sodas, through the brisk Berlin late-night air, I thought of everything I’d seen the last few hectic days. The insanely talented community of European bloggers and trendsetters…The depths of exotic nightlife in Kreuzberg…The weight of history and culture in Mitte…The slow and sure pace of gentrification in Wedding and other Berlin neighborhoods…A proud Berlin culture that can never forget its past but always looks to the future…And of course the numerous kebab and currywurst stands. One long hour later, I arrived home out of the Berlin night-cold, fingers and ears nearly frostbitten, and realized two things: I still didn’t have my kebab, and I really, truly hoped that I wouldn’t find any other male strippers in Sweden.