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Griessmuehle in Berlin. But real estate investors and infrastructure projects have put many venues at risk. The new decade in ushered in a new era where war debt and economic crises triggered the horrors of hyperinflation. Within hours, newly-printed money had lost all its value, offering an opening for political extremists. As the pressure began to build, extremes of wealth and poverty in the interwar capital made living for the moment — even the hour — the order of the day in a city that was dynamic, desperate and drugged-up to the gills. Today, a cottage industry has grown up in Berlin to memorialise — and monetise — the fascination with the so-called Weimar era.
There are Weimar concerts, exhibitions, parties and tours. A new bar, Moka Efti, is a nod to a vanished interwar nightclub featured in the television series Babylon Berlin, which returned on January 24th for a third series. The question, though, is: for how much longer? The queue to get into KitKat snakes around the block as doors open at 11pm.
Just after 3am the group ahead of me in the queue, Italian something men in parkas and jeans, are dismissed at the door. KitKat is housed in a sprawling complex near the former deathstrip and has several dance floors, half a dozen lounges, and a dark room. In the illuminated pool, a naked couple splashes as I arrive, ignored by partygoers lazing in the tiki-themed poolside area. First-timers can easily be distracted in KitKat. Distracted by the open sexual intercourse in all corners. Distracted by the exposed bottoms, from pert to sagging. Distracted by the black woman channelling Josephine Baker as she dances on an illuminated platform in a tight catsuit and Louboutin platform pumps.
Distracted by creative costumes that run the gamut from dominatrix to birthday suits, the latter often combined with strategically-placed stick-on sequins or transparent chastity devices. But as a self-professed hedonist heaven, none of that is the point of KitKat. Regular clubber Karsten — latex shorts and a Spartanesque six pack — says that just as important is the music, and the relaxed, uninhibited, inclusive atmosphere. The strict phone ban means a lack of distraction, an absence of selfies and several hundred people living in the moment, not for Instagram.
Drinks are moderately priced, drugs are in circulation and even smoking is encouraged, the vapours vanishing quickly into air ducts. Its new owner has promised to reopen after renovations, but regulars are sceptical. In the s, he recalls how anyone with a sound system and a crate of beer could open a club in a derelict building in the former East Berlin. Today the property investors have moved in looking for profit and, with them, 40, new Berliners a year looking for somewhere to live. Now the Club Commission, an industry lobby group, is determined not to let KitKat go without a fight.
As talks continue with the Munich owner, a campaign is under way to change the legal definition of clubs from amusement venues to cultural institutions, which would loosen noise regulations and other legal requirements. About half of club guests are visitors to the city. Preserving this club culture would appear self-evident, a matter of economic self-interest. Pressing for ed-up thinking, the Club Commission has called for a round table of all actors.
To slow down club evictions, it has proposed rent ceilings for cultural institutions, as well as tax and planning breaks for landlords who retain clubs instead of evicting them for the highest bidder.
Since the fall of the wall, the reunited German capital has been riding a party wave three times longer and just as frenetic as in the Weimar era. For Berlin clubbers, the city has a choice. The collapse of Kaiser-era morals and rampant inflation created a stiff cocktail of desperate decadence, part-time prostitution with an opportunistic atmosphere. Nearly 1, pubs, clubs and restaurants were registered in Berlin before the Nazis rose to power in Though diverse, they were united in their focus: either on modern technical innovations — hydraulic stages, massive fountains, escalators and lifts — or on good old-fashioned sex, drinking, drugs and jazz.
The Moka Efti bar — which features in the Babylon Berlin television series — existed, in several forms and locations, but was nothing like the fictional version. Named after its Greek-Italian coffee roaster owner Giovanni Eftimiades, it offered visitors Moorish interiors, a barber shop, a billiard hall, a secretarial service, an in-house confectioner with an Orient Express interior and a claim to serve 25, cups of the house blend coffee daily. It made a final move to the Tiergarten in but was closed by the Nazis, the building being eventually bombed out of existence.
While Moka Efti was for locals, the six-storey Haus Vaterland pleasure palace on nearby Potsdamer Platz was for tourists: dozens of themed bars and dance floors, a cafe seating 2, a Bavarian beer garden with room for 1, and a third-floor Rhine wine terrace, complete with artificial river and — once an hour — a simulated "storm on the Rhein", where the room darkened and guests were showered with rain and then a sunburst from artificial lights. Many international tourists were lured to the inter-war capital by hyperfinaltion, which turned them into big spenders with their dollars or sterling.
One such visitor was British writer Christopher Isherwood, whose semi-autobiographical writings on s Berlin spawned Cabaret. Perhaps the most famous gay bar was the Eldorado. Long before Tinder, Berlin clubs pioneered flirting by table phone between strangers. The Resi club offered a live band, a dance floor that could hold 1, and a spectacular fountain where the water rose and fall with music. But the real attraction was an elaborate system of table phones and pneumatic tubes, allowing people speak with or send written messages to each other. Others used the tubes for transporting perfume, directions, or cocaine.
They were also known for defecating on the tables.
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