Doner Party @ Octagon
For me this has been THE nightlife highlight of the last 3 weeks and represents what Berlin is all about. I was invited out to this by my flatmate Karin's lovely friend Benjamin who I'd met the night before. I'd been hearing a bit about these 'kebab parties' that are basically discos that take place either in or around actual kebab shops. SERIOUSLY. There's a kebab restaurant/take away on the same street as my work called Bagdad, which is very atypical of all the kebab places I've frequented over the years: plastic chairs, travel agent style posters of Turkey, brass nick knacks, religious icons etc. I eat there about once a week (and can highly recommend the chicken durum doner). Apparently though every couple of months on a Saturday night they just move the tables to the side, close the window shades and throw these parties which from all reports are some of the best Berlin has to offer. The other place I've heard of is called Oktagon, which is where I ended up a couple of Saturdays ago. OK so picture this: you cross the bridge over the Spree and the U-bahn lines from Kreuzberg to Friedrichshain. Just on the other side of the bridge is a tiny little kebab shop called Oktagon. Yes it has 8 walls. Now if you just want to grab a beer, a doner, some pommes (chips) or anything else slightly kebabby you're more than welcome to do so. Every now and then though (have not been able to determine exactly how often) you will find people walking into Oktagon, through the shop, through the back door, down the stairs, into the courtyard, through the courtyard, round the corner, round another corner to a massive derelict building.
Its 2 floors, most rooms are without doors, and there's portaloos (ick) outside. Almost every surface inside is covered in layer upon layer graffiti. The cloak room looks like an old broom cupboard and the bar must have been some kind of communal shower thing in its previous life. At first I thought it was some kind of squat party (which was fine by me) but then started noticing a few things... the random graffiti would in the most random places evolve into a really beautiful nature-themed art piece (grass, trees, birds etc), the random white paint splatters on the stair case are actually intricately painted bugs, the portaloos are really really clean and don't smell, and the downstairs soundsystem is one of the best i've heard in all the clubs i've been to. The upstairs room is my favourite: blood red walls with a pattern of ants stencilled in gold film all over it, with a big ostentatious chandelier - it's amazing and really beautiful. So it's not a squat party at all it's a legitimate venue. I love love love love love this about Berlin, it is so straightforward and unfussy and unfrivolous and professional, but that coexists perfectly with a really loose, organic, open minded attitude. It just fits me, you know?