On the wall of the Panoramabar office is a quote from German philosopher Goethe that reads "Be hardworking during the day and swine-like at night. This is how the world is best." It's as apt a motto as any for Berlin, where people partying hard in the club at midnight on a Monday will be making it to work the next day.
Of course, that work is likely running a record label, doing freelance graphic design, promoting clubs, producing records–or probably some combination of all these things. Even before the Wall toppled on November 9, 1989, Berlin had emerged as a haven for artists and freaks; it is rapidly gentrifying, but it remains one of the cheapest and most liberated European capitals. If you follow electronic music, you've already heard Berlin's charms being touted by the techno expats who have flocked to the city's Eastside from London, New York, Chile, and points further afield. Yes, they're annoying–people in the first flush of love usually are–but they're generating an influx of ideas and inspirations, and in the process further enhancing this international city, which is constantly morphing into something new.
Don't listen to Berliners when they sound jaded–just chalk it up to their sarcastic, dark sense of humor (a German rarity). The city is massive, with a million tiny niches–minimal techno fiends engaged in a constant transatlantic circle jerk with Detroit have no idea what's going at outdoor reggae spot Yaam, French free tekno kids partying at a breakcore gathering in the Supamolly squat wouldn't dream of setting foot in the rather upscale electro-house club Week12end.
And it's not because they wouldn't be allowed in. On the contrary, Berlin is one of the most freedom-oriented places on the planet–you can dress how you want, kiss who you want, and drink in the street (as long as you're not being a dick to someone else). Panoramabar is one of the only clubs with a door policy–it's nothing to do with trainers, more along the lines of "no douchebags allowed."
Berlin is one of the most dynamic cities on the planet. History is really fresh in the minds of its people, and they're determined to do things differently. The architecture doesn't hide things–you're likely to see a bomb-scarred church next to a modern office building, a decaying Communist-era factory in the middle of a beautiful green park–and the people usually don't either. They tend to be blunt and stick up for what they believe in, which–combined with the translation of the much-less-flowery German language into English–sometimes makes them seem very imposing indeed.
Berliners hole up in dark winters, hunched over computers, sewing machines, and samplers, and emerge in spring into a modern Babylon of their own making, where there's a special surprise waiting down every tagged-up stairwell, gravel driveway, and unmarked doorway. And at the rate things are going, the Berlin you see today will probably be completely different than the Berlin five years from now, or five minutes from now. One thing's certain: When the apocalypse comes, Berliners will be ready.