Dinner in White. Flashmob. Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt

Dinner in White. Flashmob. Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt

Berlin was my home for 3,3 years. I came there July 2011 after graduation in England and was ready to start a new period of my life. I knew nothing or very little about Germany and Berlin in general, but I was tired of the UK and naively believed this was my chance to start a career.

A year before I moved to Berlin I visited a friend in Berlin. She lived on a vital full of bars, cafes and restaurants Falckensteinstr. and I fell in love with the city immediately. It felt both familiar and new at the same time. It felt like this is the city that never sleeps and this is what I need because I don’t wanna sleep.. I wanted to work hard 5 days a week in a media company and do my own video projects in the spare time. And so I started a German course on my 3rd year of studies, and a year later moved to the German capital with 50kg in my hands, paying a €300 big fine for the overweight in Luton Airport. Honestly, I did not know back then Berlin is such a popular city and that 95% of planes that land here bring whether expats full of hopes or party tourists who won’t even see Brandenburger Gate.

Kreuzberg remained my neighbourhood from the very first to the very last day, even though I moved several times like a proper Berliner, because if you haven’t changed at least three flats within the first half a year, then you are not in Berlin. A typical Berlin flat is located in an old building with wooden floors and a high ceiling, some of them still have coal heating and a stove that takes the 3rd of your 12 square meter room that costs you now €300. When I moved to Berlin, the Neukoelln boom has only started. While some only spoke about it, many others already were moving there, paying €200 for a 25 square meter room.

The first three things you have to get used to are: that Berlin drinkssmokes and parties a lot and everywhere; that friends you had yesterday, might be gone today because it’s a transit city and last, but not least that there is no work. Sitting in a park with a 0,70 cent bottle and a €2,90 kebab is comfortable and cheerful, smoking a joint is legal and relaxing. When there is a party – you don’t have to rush there, because: 1. everything in Berlin starts late 2. if you don’t go there, there are another 105 variants today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. With the friends situation I never figured out what to do – whether not to get attached to anyone and be just “whatever” or simply hope that I leave faster than my new friends.. Anyway, the reason why all the friends/expats/people are leaving is exactly work.

I did a 100 different jobs in Berlin. I worked for a paleo restaurant, film festivals, Berlin Fashion Week, creative agencies, model agencies, tourism agencies, startups, art and film projects, production companies, Rocket Internet + I did various freelance jobs and ran workshops on the internship economy. After a month I moved to Berlin I already had my collages presented at the public exhibition. Seems like a lot going on, but all that does not make you financially stable. There is no minimum wage in Germany (even though this shall change soon) and many places offer you black work, which means that no one pays the taxes, and you end up without a pension scheme and most importantly without a health insurance. Having no health insurance in Germany is a tragedy. Yes, you can come with an EU or whatever insurance from your home country, but it still will cost you money OR will cover only emergency. All in all you gotta love German bureaucracy in order to survive.

Berlin is definitely one of a kind. It’s a city of freedom. You can do here whatever you want. Participate in any kind of activities, climbing walls to check abandoned spaces, going to wild, experimental parties or riots, attending tantric or DMT gatherings, having a dinner with your own table on the underground station, traveling naked etc etc etc. See my The Very Berlin Moments blog post.  Whatever you want to try in your life, you can do it in Berlin and no one ever will ask you anything or give you a judgemental look, because here everything is normal or abnormal, but still acceptable. Berlin is a vegetarian city that stinks of urine, beer and weed. Berlin’s true face is “I work at the party”. Because most of the people work in the bars, cafes, galleries, tattoo salons, festivals, shared spaces etc. Startups work hard, but Friday afternoon you already see boxes of beers in the office. Fashion shops in the city centre open at 11am. And even big international companies will end up sniffing coke, because they are young, because the young rule the city. It’s like a big community and in the end of the day it’s just a big party where everybody knows each other. Not that it does not happen in London or other capitals, but here it’s more public and sexual. It’s more dirty by all the means, like New York in the 80s. Creativity for the creativity’s sake, not for the money. I am a freelancer, I pay my rent, but I can’t pay for anything else.

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Berlin is beautiful in it’s own ugly way. It’s grey on the outside, but it’s the most saturated on the inside. Walking the right streets and entering the right doors open up a completely different view on the city. Berlin is absolutely anti-romantic, rough, but very cosmopolitan. Berlin is the city where you can discover something new every day, I’ve gone to random stations and came across with mind-blowing things. Berlin is a cheap prostitute without a health insurance. And yet it is full of talented and amazing people, important and special places. Berlin is the city to love and hate. With all these wonderful opportunities, there is no industry here and respectively no money. Poor artists’ myth has died with the previous century. An artist is also a job not a style of living. 

Bossa Fakata in Berlin.

Bossa Fataka in Berlin.

There are now mainly three work options in Berlin:

  1. You run your own business, and you earn enough to live in prosperity.
  2. You are a freelancer, who is lucky to have clients who pay enough to live in prosperity.
  3. You do a simple job (example: bartender, sale’s person, call centre) and you are happy with €700 – €1000 a month, because you do not care about the career

All these options are a headache, because there is no money in the city and you are in a constant run for the client who pays. Berlin is NOT the city for those who want to build a career. To register a new company you need €1, to make sure your business gives an income, it has to be international. Same goes for the freelancing – locals won’t pay much for your most wonderful design; often they won’t pay at all. It’s a normal practice – work for nothing. Herz lV is not an option. Living on benefits is not an option, because to move out from this city was the option for me. Because working for free was not something I came for. The experience I gained in Berlin is unbelievable. Nowhere else in the world I would have had a chance to do what I did in Berlin. But you get tired from working for free, because working for free is volunteering.

It’s important to understand that there are job offers in Berlin, but mostly internships, badly paid or unpaid. I’ve gone to interviews to find out they have no money to pay. My friends had high positions, but their payment was delayed. I was also told stories when applying for a cafe job a boss would ask:”Do you want to get paid?” It is also important to understand that there is a high competition absolutely everywhere, especially because us Latvians, Polish, Romanians, Bulgarians etc. don’t want to stay in the home country. We increase the amount of applicants for a good position up to 300 and up. But if other cities have well paid options, Berlin mostly does not.. Even IT specialists are paid much less in Berlin than the rest of Germany.

Berlin is a city of change, Berlin won’t be poor forever. The business centres are being built, the clubs and graffiti being removed, even the Wall leftovers.. More than half of my friends have left Berlin, and a few are planning to move out soon. This blog post is also written for those who plan to move here. My advice is – know exactly what you want from the city. If it is just a year for the experience sake – it is a great place, if you think “career” and “family” – this is a sad place. Not being able to pay for the dentist is sad, not being able to fly for a holiday is sad. Berlin is sad during the day and fun during the night.

A few days before leaving for good I’ve filmed the places I have been cycling through on a regular basis. This is Berlin I will remember.

Goodbye to Berlin from Katja Avant-Hard on Vimeo.

Clarchens Ball House Berlin. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House Berlin. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Exploring Berlin has been truly exciting for all three years. Secret venues, old theatres at midnight, weird parks, abandoned spy stations, life under the ground, inspiring personalities were found and met within this time, but only three summers later I’ve visited Clärchens Ballhaus. Built in 1895, the once-grand building has been through a lot. On September 13th 1913 Fritz Bühler opened the dance hall „Bühlers Ballhaus“
(Bühler’s Ballroom) in the back of Auguststrasse 24/25, which now ended up in the touristic center full of stylish onlookers and happy locals. It became known as Clärchens Ballhaus after Bühler was killed in WWI and his widow, Clara, took over the business.

During the peak, there were some 900 dancing establishments inBerlin, then already known for its nightlife, though just a few have survived. With such fierce competition, Clärchen’s dance hall on Auguststrasse in the city center had to find creative ways to attract customers. After the war ended in 1918, “Aunt Clärchen”, as many called her, held events for widows, who danced with each other because men were scarce. Meanwhile, the opulent upstairs ballroom was rented out for outlawed sword fights that often left the floor covered in blood.

Now the place is still holding the old dancing like: swing, cha-cha-cha, tango etc. And if you’ve never done it before, they will teach you. Ground floor has a bar and a kitchen, the lush gardens are buzzing with people sitting among various bushes and grape trees. Regular concerts and dancing make it the Ball House for what it stands. The famous Mirror Room can be rented for private events, and it’s probably the most impressive open space in the entire building. Quentin Tarantino used Clärchens as a location for his film Inglorious Bastards.

Lona Jakob is the oldest Ball House visitor, informed Spiegel in 2013. At a spry 91 years old, she is the oldest regular guest at Clärchens Ballhaus. It’s where the former ballerina met her late husband in the 1940s, and where she returned late in life after his death to rediscover her love of dancing. Now, she dresses up in sequins and heels (despite breaking her leg not long ago) to come dancing here with friends and her daughter every Sunday. And now, as then, she always waits to be asked to dance.

There are tons of stories in the walls of these building, most of them we will never know, but we can feel the spirit and enjoy it until it lasts. Breath it in.

If you want to have a coffee with me there, feel free to drop a line.

The Mirror Room. Image taken from:

Image taken from:

Clarchens Ball House

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Clarchens Ball House. All rights Reserved by Katja Avant-Hard


Clarchens Ballhaus in 1920s.

Ramones. Image taken from:

The proto-punk band RAMONES was one of the most influential bands in the beginning of the 70s on the emerging music scene of New York. They played one of their first shows at CBGB‘s in 1974. The songs they played were very fast and very short; most clocked in at under two minutes.  Legs McNeil, who cofounded Punk magazine the following year, later described the impact of that performance: “They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song…and it was just this wall of noise…. They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new.” They have influenced such bands as Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.

“All the other singers [in New York] were copying David Johansen [of the New York Dolls], who was copying Mick Jagger…. But Joey was unique, totally unique.”

Dee Dee


[regarding Joey] And all of a sudden, girls were paying attention to him. Girls who weren’t on medication.

And so it happens that there is the RAMONES museum & bar in Berlin on Krausnickstr. 23, 10115. It was opened on the October 8, 2008. 

ramones museum berlin

Ramones Museum Berlin. Image taken from the FB page

Danny Fields was the manager of the Ramones, as well as Iggy and the Stooges; he has worked in various roles with Jim Morrison, the MC5, the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers. Danny was also a technical assistant at Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory. 


Danny Fields will give a lecture on the history of punk book PLEASE, KILL ME at the Ramones Museum,

Berlin, this Sunday 27.04.14. at 20:00

Entrance possibly free

Facebook event


The Ramones. Image taken from:

katerholzig max resdefault

Katerholzig before closing

First there was the Bar 25, it was an internationally recognized techno wonderland on the river Spree, which was opened in 2004 and closed in the year 2010 after a 5 day-long party. Gentrification. Bar 25 itself was a symbol against gentrification (see the image on the bottom), every summer it was closing for a winter break without knowing for sure if it will get reopen next spring.

People who have experienced the Bar 25 say it was the best of the best. “It has changed Berlin’s party landscape, supported and even made the careers of many now famous DJs”. The legend which is now immortalized on film by Britta Mischer and Nana Yuriko.

See the trailer below, and watch the full film HERE.

Not long after the Bar 25 closure, the owners have opened KaterHolzig, a night club with a similar concept in the same area by the river Spree. The yard was also made out of wood with several DIY constructions and little lamps hiding under the stairs. From the outside it looked like a squat, reminding me of KØPI, half-demolished 5 floor building, all in graffiti and posters. On Saturdays they had a market with people selling organic food and self made clothing. This was the only time you could do some snaps of this place, during the night you could have been easily thrown out for just photographing your buddies.

Katerholz just like Barghain and many other clubs in Berlin had a strict and unexplainable face control. “No” meant you are not getting in tonight. People who went to the Bar 25 concluded that KaterHolzig was a hipster version, but I personally don’t like labels. And for someone from Latvia, this was still a pretty damn unique place. Of course, the stories about the famous Bar 25 brought tons of tourists to KaterHolzig, and the atmosphere changed. But it was voted as the 3rd best Berlin nightclub by

The rumors about Katerholzig closure were going around for a long time, until December 2013, when it became clear this Silvester will be the last one for this place.

“I stumbled across this place on a Monday evening after I rode my bike past it and heard the thumping beats and faint flashing lights from the street.  I was drawn in and since I had no idea what this place was, it felt like a night out at Burning Man coming across a party.  There were people out front chatting and smoking and the little shack was ensconced in smoke with beat flowing out and the silhouette of people dancing inside. 

I ended up going in and there was a really good vibe.  Turns out most of the people there were dancing still from Sunday night so a bit cracked out of a crowd, but hey that still reminded me of Burning Man.  Anyhow, I met some awesome fun folks and even got added to the guest list for later in the week when I returned.  That’s when I realized that I was only in the “Kiosk” front shack and that there’s a big old club behind it too.”

Gene X, CA.

“This place is crazy, one room is with techno music the other with a theater show and then you find yourself in the middle of a hot jazzy berlin jam session, it’s exciting!”

Contrabass O., AL

What’s next?  There are rumors about Bar 25 reunification. The time will show, yet you and me who have been there, are a part of a history, and this is pretty good feeling.

Edited Jan 9: “They’ve already started to realise a new project on the other side of the river where bar25 used to be. these people don’t give up that easily. good on them.” – Liyona

Edited Jan 10: “Dirty Doering on air last night, one of the main protagonists behind the now closed Katerholzig and the manager of Katermukke. It doesn’t get more Berlin techno. Enjoy! Tracklist & more here: ” Electronic Beats

Kater Holzig. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Kater Holzig. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard

Image taken from

Kater Holzig. Image taken from

Mogwai: Rave Tapes

The new Mogwai album Rave Tapes will be released January 20th 2014 via Rock Action/Sub Pop. They are on tour in Germany, and in Berlin February the 6th. They have chosen a very special location, called Tempordrom – it’s a white round building with spiky roof ends. I can see this building from my window. And it is one of those times when the support band is almost as exciting as the main act – Forest Swords. It is one producer, Matthew Barnes, from The Wirral/Liverpool, UK. His latest album is a true forest chaos. Get lost in those sounds!

For those who did not know Barry Burns from Mogwai runs a pub in Neukoelln, called Das Gift, it is always the best music in town and a nice drink selection! I suggest to try Andechs beer, my favorite! Just beware the doppelbock.

After this post-rock show Berlin will have another chance to see  a post-punk/shoegaze band The Soft Moon, who are playing on February the 11th in Berghain, often called the best club in Europe. I have been to a gig there before, it’s great acoustics and the beton echo blends with the cold punky waves very well.

See you there!

Typical Berlin. 1st of May. Drugs free zone - Goerli. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard.

Typical Berlin. 1st of May. Drugs free zone – Goerli. All rights reserved by Katja Avant-Hard.

Here is my 2013 in retrospect. I do this yearly just to look back and see what new and exciting or maybe shocking and sad happened within the last 12 months.

Berlin is the most alive city I’ve ever lived in. Everyday something happens. I really should start making a diary like in old days, hand written, with scribbles and one day this can become a book.

Let’s see first, who’s been reading Avant-Hard:

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illustration Darkam

illustration Darkam

Übergang is a cultural and literary magazine in English and German, published twice a year. The publication offers literature with illustrations that reaches out to a liberal audience with features often touching sexual topics through poetry, commentary, interviews and fiction. In Berlin spirit it uses culture to open up minds and promulgate new ways of living.

Launched in September, Übergang comes in convenient pocket size (A5) and has 80 pages in the form of a booklet.

The title is the german word for ‘transition’ as this publication is devoted to documenting the contemporary flux through facts and fiction. The theme of the first issue is the Kottbusser Tor area of Berlin, which is in constant flux and is the target of financial and political speculation. Simultaneously being a sexual and cultural melting pot.

The cover of the magazine

The cover of the magazine

This magazine is relevant today because it strives to create more acceptance with its non­sensationalist approach to sexual texts, in a modern world where intolerance and negativity towards difference persists. And it is unique in being the only bilingual polysexual literary journal of Berlin.

There is social and political critique (e.g. about Wowereit) in the form of poetry and an article on polyamory, and we introduce the Handjerks with his lo­fi tropical song dedicated to Our short stories touch the topics of race and history, art and sex clubs, and doomed romance.

We invited authors and artists whose we admire to work with us, some of them from New York, some of them part of the Poetry Slam scene in Berlin.

From Ubergang "Kottbusser Tor" issue.

From Ubergang “Kottbusser Tor” issue.

Übergang’s manifest:

We live in times of unforeseeable shifts in power. Standards, identities, ideas: they’re all challenged by tediousness, economics and politics.

We want to leave the bourgeois idyll and the stance of irony behind to make way for an optimistic and constructive future. Sex, love, culture, liberation: we go in search of the personalities and phenomena that dare to define the new undercurrent and open up the dialogue.

Stimulus instead of escapism Utopia instead of nostalgia Confrontation and honesty Multiculturalism and polysexuality

Copies are available in Bookshops across Berlin, London, Brussels and Amsterdam. Retail €7.50


All rights reserved by Elena Anna Rieser

All rights reserved by Elena Anna Rieser

Rainbow Arabia is a Los Angeles, CA, USA, arabesque / Asian worldbeat indietronica duo, of Danny Preston (keyboards – also with Future Pigeon and Whisky Biscuit) and wife Tiffany Preston. They débuted with EP “The Basta” (Aug 2008, Manimal Vinyl) and their latest album is “F.M. Sushi” (Apr 2013, Time No Place). Out of the many labels attached to Rainbow Arabia’s globe-trekking, kaleidoscopic dance music, the most concise term yet may be “Fourth World Pop” as they were recently dubbed by The Quietus (UK).

I was crazy about their music 5 years ago, so I guess it’s finally time to experience them live.

Saturday September the 14th

@ Urban Spree

Tickets from €11,50

Kim Gordon. Image taken from:

After Sonic Youth split there is no way Kim Gordon, Thurston More or Lee Ronaldo would stay outside of the music scene. As a result, all of them just continued their solo career.

She has taken part in many  side-projects, notably with DJ Olive and in the -pop girl band Free Kitten. She is currently in a duo called Body/Head. They will play in Berlin on

November the 5th

@ Bi Nuu

Berlin, Germany



Presented by Mindpirates

Film footage, photographs, audio recordings, text and interviews with participants will engage a dialogue about utopias, gatherings, dreams and the profound ambiguity inherent in the relationship between humans and nature. The exhibition and the concurrent two-week program of concerts, musical jams, art performances, readings and talks will reflect on the experiment and its connected themes. Mindpirates humbly invite the participants to revisit the event a year on, and welcome those who weren’t present to get a picture of the odyssey.


The Lovers set out to create a transformational happening: on August 25th and 26th, 2012, 400 participants came together on an idyllic island of perfect nature outside of Berlin for an ambitious musical jam session, uniting 100 international musicians and running non-stop for twenty-four hours.

The artist collective Mindpirates conceptualized and brought to life The Lovers. They conceived it as “a search and experiment to evoke love and human gratitude among each other and towards the universe”.

The invitation to The Lovers promised an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. On site, the event morphed into a cathartic tempest, a caged whirlwind of both love and hate, epiphany and confusion. Many left before it was over, while others wanted for it to never end. A year on, some remember The Lovers with passionate fondness and still struggle to find words to describe it, while for others the dream had turned nightmarish and left a bitter feeling.

Don’t miss this rich flavoured 2 week-long event from Mindpirates, Opening August the 15th, 18:00:

Poetry of the Absurd — Odyssey of the Lovers opening night

Full Programme:

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