From the outside there is nothing special about Eberswalder Strasse 21. The wall size windows facing the street on the ground floor have been covered with plastic tarp from the inside so there is nothing for the casual passersby to see. Once you work up the courage to step across the graffiti covered threshold however and slide open the front door you will behold a strange spectacle indeed. The first thing to catch the eye is the professional green ping pong table in the center of the high ceilinged room surrounded on all sides by decidedly unprofessional looking kids. Their ages vary from early 20’s to mid-thirties and there is always a veritable smorgasbord of nationalities represented. The walls of the room are unpainted and lined with second hand chairs. The sound of good natured laughter sprinkled with hurried chatter and music greet the ear like an old friend. The next thing you will notice is everyone is playing a very strange variation of the traditional game of ping pong.
It has many names, some call it Jungle Pong, Speed Pong, or Around the World to name just a few. In this version all the players line up in a row around the table with each player only allowed one hit before then moving onto stand behind the player in front who was previously at bat. If the player misses or does not manage to make the ball over the net then he or she is out and sits on one of the many chairs surrounding the tables. This continues until there are only two players left who then play a semi traditional game of ping pong, the first one to five points wins. One of the highlights of the game, both as spectator and player, is the chaos that ensues when only three or four players remain. At this point in the game each player still gets one hit but must then run frantically to the other side to return the ball of the player before him. The mix of athleticism and frenzied competitiveness is truly a sight to behold.
As one wanders further into the bar known as Dr Pong the DJ booth, a sitting area with couches and the bar itself are to be seen. The selection at the bar ranges from quality Mezcal imported from Mexico to a beer with a simple white label with only the word Beer printed in bold black letters on it. The owner of this unique establishment is Oliver, an American architect who has been in Berlin for over a decade. Dr. Pong is one of two bars he owns in Berlin, the other being the Kim Bar, an equally minimalist and hip hangout in the trendy art quarter of Mitte, north of the river Spree. One thing both bars have in common is the passion for music that Oliver has instilled at both locations. At Dr. Pong there is a different DJ every night spinning tunes ranging from the eclectic to the popular. At Kim Bar they have a monthly party called 900 seconds which offers the party goer the opportunity to be DJ for 900 seconds, or 15 minutes.
The way this works is the event organizers, Tom and Martina, have a sign up list with 15 minute slots starting at 10:00 PM and going until roughly 3 or 4 AM. The guests then all have a chance to sign up and spin music from a variety of equipment, ranging from ipod, cell phone, vinyl, or even a cassette tape. The clock on the wall counts down the second and when the 15 minutes are up the next DJ begins his or her set to a smattering of applause as the name of the DJ is announced. Both locations have become cult in Berlin and even if you choose to abstain from playing pong or sitting out the opportunity to achieve 15 minutes of fame at the KIM bar both venues offer a truly unique Berlin nightclub experience.