*** Please note: as of April 2014, the Peristal Signum is no longer open ***
It finally looks like spring has arrived in Berlin! Which means it’s time for some beer gardens and good ol’ fashioned outdoor drinking. Last year I visited Berlin’s most surrealist bar and now that the weather’s good, I think you should too!
Peristal Signum: Berlin’s Labyrinth Bar
Berlin’s most surrealist bar experience is right where you’d expect it to be—in the trendy Friedrichshain borough where all the American hipsters and drunk tourists hang out. Just a few blocks from some of Berlin’s most legendary nightclubs, the club Wilde Renate is a mismatched collection of buildings surrounding a small beer garden. An easy place to get lost in—even more so because there’s a purposely built labyrinth underneath the club.
The labyrinth, Peristal Signum, isn’t just an art installation but a full-on experience for the mind. It was designed haphazardly by three artists over nine months in 2010. The maze was built completely out of found scrap materials (kind of like everything else in Berlin) and includes everything from glass bottles to car parts.
I visited the labyrinth for the first time on a cool summer evening last year. It took over an hour before we could enter (there’s a queue—find the person taking down names, usually under the tree with the canoe). When I visited last year it was a Bosnian woman wearing a white headband.
She took mine and my friends’ money, handed us each a surprisingly heavy gold-painted coin and told us she’d find us when it was our time to enter. In the meantime: beer.
When my time to enter the labyrinth finally arrived, I was blindfolded and escorted to a small chamber beside a stairwell and told to simply “follow the instructions.” You enter the labyrinth one at a time—it helps to keep the mystery, I suppose. The world outside, all those people drinking beers and enjoying the summer evening, quickly disappeared from my mind. I was alone in a dark room. I can still remember the strange quietness that overcame me in the blindfolded walk to the dark room. It’s amazing what you hear when you can’t see.
With the blindfold removed, everything from then on just got…weird.
The purpose of the labyrinth is to drive people forward (developmentally, emotionally, physically) through a unique and truly one-of-a-kind experience. Everyone has a different experience inside because the labyrinth itself is so strange and bizarre. One person might find something another didn’t, and though there are a few parts of the maze that are impossible to avoid, everyone seems to come out of it in a different state of mind. Inside you might feel lost and alone, but then the labyrinth changes and suddenly you’re no longer alone, no longer scared, but ready. Ready to get out. Ready to move forward.
My recommendation: visit Peristal Signum with a friend. And be prepared for a night you won’t forget anytime soon. Please note: photos aren’t technically allowed inside. Here’s a sample of some of the weird stuff you’ll see in there, but be prepared for much, much more extreme environments.
Persistal Signum is open Wednesday to Saturday, from 6pm to 10pm, at Salon zur wilden Renate, Alt-Strahlau 70, Berlin. Expect a wait to get inside. The cost when I visited was 10€.