A writer seeks out the city’s naughty side at the notoriously exclusive landmark for partiers across Europe.

The third time I visited Berlin was after a breakup, also known as The Time to visit Berlin. A friend had prescribed a trip to Berghain, a nightclub known for Europe’s best electronic music, and I was at its door two hours after landing, practicing my shaky German on a prickly bouncer. I got in. I should mention it was barely noon.

The industrial warehouse did not look unlike a mental ward and, inside, had as many fascinating levels as an Escher drawing. On one, weirdly, you could buy ice cream. Another offered a view of the immense sea of leather, skin, and bobbing heads on the ground floor. Eventually I found the top, ordered a Hefeweizen, and wandering past the caves that lined the dance floor on yet another level, saw men and women doing NC-17 things to each other. (Along with the music, this is another scene Berghain is known for.)

By 8 p.m., the sun had set, the shades had been drawn, and the as-good-as-I-was-told-it-would-be music was thumping harder. I had talked to half a dozen Germans, most memorably Jens. He had “a fiancée named Jutta but also a predilection for men.” We danced for a while until I bumped into Daniel, a part-time DJ from Hamburg. Most weeks, Daniel left his day job Friday afternoon to catch a two-hour train to Berlin. If he made it past the doormen, he left his bag at coat check and didn’t leave the building till Monday at dawn, when he’d clean up for work on the train home. If he didn’t, he hoped for better luck the next day and got a bed at a hostel.

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Stupidly, drunkenly, I asked him if it was worth all the trouble; I guess I kind of liked him. All he said: “Where else in the world can you find this?” I had to agree.

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