After a few days in the city, ich bin ein Berliner too, declares Eli Orzessek
It's the middle of the day, but people are dancing like it's 3am. I'm in a park, but techno music is blaring and crowds of youngsters looking slightly the worse for wear are throwing their limbs around like they're still in the club. That's Berlin for you — if nothing else, they know how to party. And it's not just a Friday and Saturday night thing here — many of the biggest clubs open Thursday night and stay open until Tuesday. Wednesday, I presume, is the day to rejuvenate yourself, brush your teeth and change your clothes before it all starts up again.
I'm told by an artist friend who moved here a few months ago that there are many interesting visas that travellers can apply for to extend their party. She tells me I should apply for a DJ visa — which is apparently a thing here — and by the end of my short time in this fabulous city, I'm seriously considering it.
We've started our Saturday night out in Kreuzberg, at a nightspot called Mobel-Olfe. Near the Kottsbusser Tor station, there's a sprawling 1960s housing estate that's home to many Turkish families, as well as this often rowdy queer "trinkhalle", or drinking hall.
Once a furniture store, it's now sparse but interestingly furnished, with satellites as lampshades.
The beers are cheap and easy to drink and before I know it, we've missed the concert we'd planned to attend. The Mobel-Olfe is getting to its usual level of crowded, so we head around the corner to a bar so small I couldn't even tell you its name, with a staircase leading to an even smaller room downstairs where the music pumps and people dance accordingly.
Down there, I run into another old friend from my art school years — it's like that in Berlin. Before I know it, it's 6.30am and I'm on the U-Bahn, heading back to my Airbnb with a pounding head. It all feels very authentic. Time really is different in Berlin.
Despite worries that I might have wasted one of my precious few days of travel with a hangover, I wake in the late morning with surprising clarity. I'm staying in Prenzlauer Berg, a suburb in what used to be East Berlin, complete with the classic Ampelmann traffic lights. Once rundown, it's since been highly gentrified, the Ponsonby of Berlin. But this is Berlin, so it's still fairly gritty — in the local parks, the statues come with a heavy coating of graffiti.
The famous Mauerpark Flea Market is a five-minute walk away. That's where I encounter the daytime dancers, flailing in a field through the gusts of charcoal barbecue smoke. After a while, this strange performance is getting a little too Berlin for me, so I head to the main market area in search of food and a cold bottle of Club Mate to wake me up.
Soon I realise this is the holy grail of flea markets — records for sale everywhere, a huge variety of food and drinks and the absolute best people-spotting you can imagine.
There's truly something for everyone here. At one stall, I spot a large taxidermied poodle with a piercing glassy-eyed stare, propped up between a typewriter, a statue of the Virgin Mary and child and a sign that reads "impragnierungs-nachweis" — or "impregnation-proof". I settle my stomach with a traditional serving of currywurst and chips, before washing it down with a wild-boar burger and a large waffle on a stick.
I continue to circle around the stalls, searching for that one rare record I might have missed. Hours have passed, I realise, so I decide to head back to the Airbnb and drop off my purchases. I pass the party in the grass again and it's since quadrupled in size, as well as in intensity.
I can't stay away for long though and after a quick rest, I'm back to grab a beer and chill out in the big karaoke amphitheatre next to the market, where punters from all over the world get their turn on the mic in front of a huge, responsive audience.
I find a rare bit of space and settle on the grass, remnants of the Berlin Wall behind me. A scruffy pair take the stage down below and the familiar strains of Don't Dream It's Over fill the air. Suddenly, home seems very close and very far away at the same time.
Getting there: Qatar Airways flies from Auckland to Berlin, via Doha.