Preparing for your first May Day in Berlin can be a slightly daunting experience. Some will tell you the best course of action would be to stay indoors until the whole thing blows over. After hearing that Mauerpark had been cordoned off to prevent anyone from entering, one local even recommended that I perhaps leave the city for a day to avoid any potential violence.
The holiday traditionally sees the entire city fall in line with many others across the world, shutting down for 24 hours, allowing workers to spend the day either partying or protesting. And judging by the intense show of police force across huge parts of the city, the authorities were clearly preparing for the latter, with upwards of 4,000 extra police officers being drafted in from elsewhere in Germany to handle the demonstrations.
But for those out to enjoy the wealth of free parties May Day had to offer? You could easily bide your time aimlessly wandering the streets and getting lost in the crowd. Bars move their business outside to occupy the sidewalks and Görlitzer Park becomes an enormous open-air party sometime after noon, with space becoming so tight that people start scaling walls and occupying roofs for most of the day.
And then there's Berghain. Hidden behind tall, draped fences at the side of the club is the garden, an outdoor spot that only opens in the warmer months when Berlin's seemingly endless winter thaws. Open shipping containers house a covered dance floor, and bodies cover the surrounding grass and concrete structures. Berghain and Panorama Bar residents provided the soundtrack to the first event of the season, moving from jacking Chicago house to a coupe of choice disco selections. It was during a particularly nice set from Tama Sumo that something became clear: by hiding behind the barriers surrounding the outdoor space, tucked away from the street marches and police presence elsewhere in the city, the garden achieved the same level of escapism that Berghain's main room is famous for.