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In the early years — before the city's tourism boom hit full swing — the club attracted a typically eccentric Berlin crowd: diehard techno fans, leather fetishists, bearded young professionals on drugs.
Shambhu Leroux, a voluble, heavily tattooed blues singer who for eight years was one of the club's bartenders, said "there was a genuine vibe at Berghain in the beginning." She remembers that the crowd welcomed nonconformists, including transgender people like her. “[And that] is a word I apply to myself."In addition to the music, sex and drugs were always a key part of the club's appeal: It's no accident that Berghain offers countless areas for people to sneak away to — there are two darkrooms, small closable cubbies upstairs, and large unisex bathroom stalls which, according to Karsten, were built to "accommodate six people" and also to be capable of resisting cleaning materials "not used outside of the meatpacking industry." The club was also purpose-built not to have any dead ends, even in the bathrooms, so people can cruise each other without running into a wall.
To enter Berghain is, as many people have described it, a religious experience.In the late Nineties, a contact at Deutsche Bahn, the German national railroad, helped them secure a space for their parties in a former railway freight yard, which later became a club called Ostgut, the predecessor to Berghain.Ostgut was in many ways the quintessential gritty, hedonistic Berlin club.Oratory, the gay sex club (Crisco is sold at the bar) that takes up space on the building's ground floor.The club melded Ostgut's underground vibe with a more professional service experience — drinks are shuttled to and from the bar via hidden hallways, and the building was retrofitted so clubbers couldn't easily injure themselves.