I won’t deny it: I’m a Tame Impala-loving, cassette tape-buying, fishnet-wearing hipster. Although I don’t think my artsy tendencies make me a typewriter junkie, I accept the blanket term and redefine it on my own terms. I don’t adore Starbucks or only wear black jeans; however, I will choose a museum over a sporting event and take blurry shots on my Canon for the sake of aesthetic. In Berlin, I’ve explored and photographed hipster locations—namely, places that are “underground” and different than the typical Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall dives. Three places stand out to me: Teufelsberg, Raw Tempel, and Dr.Pong bar.
A WWII Spy Tower turned into a squatter’s commune defines Teufelsberg. Grungy, underground, and dripping with strange noises, it was a refreshing outing from the inner city. I expected Teufelsberg to be different: sterile and museum-like. I didn’t expect it to be so open and interactive, much less covered in controversial art. After hiking a few miles to the entrance, we walked up the main Spy Tower–a glorified EPCOT Ball with jagged fabric covering the holes. Every level was an onslaught of colors, spray paint, strange art installations, and wind rustling through the gaps. It could’ve been sketchy, but I was too much of an alternative art enthusiast to care. Each “ball” of the Spy Tower echoed in a Gregorian chant way; I swung from a beam on one of the them, feeling like an out-of-place zipliner. Eerie is the best word to describe this feeling, this sky-high experience.
Walking through the abandoned mess hall and climbing up blackened stairs was bizarre–the only light came from neon graffiti or the filtered clouds. I was out of body, living in some artist apocalypse governed by Squatters. The top level of the Spy Tower reminded me of the cave scene from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Cold, cavernous, and clammy, giant murals were painted on the curves of the dome. Every sound was magnified 1000x over, whispers sounding like hollow screams and footsteps becoming aggressive pangs. A man stepped onto the central stage, tapping his drum and humming a soft, cultish tune. Chills—not from the dampness—raised my hairs, although the illusion was broken after Mr. Freeman talked to the man and discovered he used to live in Miami.
Raw Tempel: a place I will never be cool enough for. I first visited this punk complex on the Fat Tire bike tour—it was littered with glass and skinheads, although the murals were rad as hell. Snaking designs, severed fingers, and triangle-teethed monsters….in short, much better than a temperature controlled museum. I’m all for classical and baroque art, but sometimes ditching the wooden floors for dirt ones is more fulfilling. The indoor skate park, rock climbing, and exclusive clubs make this place a skater’s paradise. Even the dumpsters were covered in scrawls. Raw Tempel is a much grungier Wynwood, a Saturday night that doesn’t end until 7 am the next day. Although it was dreary and misted when I visited, the hipster essence was in the art and the people, not the weather. Raw Tempel has freestyle rap on Tuesday nights, and I plan on attending that bomb diggity.
Raw Tempel is tame compared to the insanity of DR. PONG. Professors jigging, older men flirting, mouth smoke furling—it was the epitome of a tipsy Weekday night that is both chill and exhilarating. The group and I spent a pretty minute playing Never Have I Ever; I’m a medium wild, so my drink was only half finished. The ping pong table was a conveyor belt of 30 year olds and Forrest Gump wannabes. They swung, they run, and they knocked a few Beck’s back, managing to be dorky and suave simultaneously. I tried a few swings at the ball, but I only lasted until a Round Three of tipsy mishitting and laughter. However, the darling of the evening was the music. Since my Spotify doesn’t work without Wi-Fi, I’ve been starved of my playlists and list of songs. My hipster music is my lifeline, so living with this “normal” sound and empty silence is repressive. It felt like the Dr. Pong DJ had dived into my Spotify account and handpicked my favorite songs: The Less I Know The Better, 500 Miles, A Certain Romance, and Feels Like I Only Go Backwards. I was that screaming American Girl in the corner, but I didn’t care. My TA started dancing to this Irish Jig, and my professor slipped out to buy cheaper beers at a Kiosk around the corner. We laughed. We snorted beer. We had conversations that were silly and forgettable, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I haven’t written a Buzzfeed post called “Top 10 Moments Of My Life,” but this night would sneak its way onto the list.
I’m a hipster to the hilt with my sparkling water and mom’s record player—and this lifestyle translated to the urban/historical/grittiness of Berlin. The former East was the hub of this seedy culture; I’m not “seedy” per say, but I know enough about art, music, and German culture to pretend I fit in. Other hipster places I’ve visited include Templehof Airport and the Piano Salon, a revamped warehouse where Amit Peled performed cello for us. Can I never leave Berlin?