Rebecca is in the air right now, on her sad way home.

For her last night in Berlin, we went to a surrealist bar in Friedrichshain (possibly my favorite borough of Berlin precisely because the people there think of things like this) that was around under a different name and illegal in about 2048 different ways when Nathan was here in 2008. Since then it’s been moved out of the squat where it was and into a building where the owners at least appear to pay rent, and the main attraction has been rebuilt to be safer, although I still have my doubts. My brain’s constant refrain throughout the evening was “there’s no way this would be legal in the States.” It has a hard-to-remember name, so it’s locally known as “Vom Arsch zur Seele”, or, for the benefit of more delicate anglophone readers, “From Your Rectum to Your Soul”.

Before I start jabbering, here’s the write-up from Atlas Obscura:

Hidden in the bowels of East Berlin’s Salon Zur Wilden Renate, a dance club in a two story abandoned house, is the Peristal Singum, an immersive theatrical maze evocative of a trip in Alice’s Wonderland.

In exchange for fare, visitors to the labyrinth are given a large gold coin and an arcane set of guidelines: “Rushing can have painful side effects! Take everything with you you want to lose! And… Freshly sponged spatial vectors enable propelling through sensory implosion default!.”

Entry to the maze is by personal invitation from the gatekeeper, so it is advised that one grab a drink and get cozy in the dark granny-parlour atmosphere of the Salon until summoned. By entering the labyrinth in solitude, visitors are granted a unique opportunity to confront hidden fears and to explore the metaphysical self through a plethora of alternate sensory universes.

The Peristal Singum labyrinth is the most recent incarnation of the now defunct Karmanoia maze, which closed in March 2009. The name Peristal Singum derives from the term “peristalsis” – literally, the contractions of the human gastrointestinal tract that enable digestion. From the viewpoint of the creators, this outward movement has led to an excess of waste in the world. As a labyrinth and “landscape of wafting thoughts,” Peristal Singum challenges visitors to look inward and to explore the movement in reverse – “vom Arsch zur Seele.”

Overall a whimsical and awe-inspiring experience, the Peristal Singum labyrinth is best approached with minimal preconceptions, an exploratory frame of mind, and a dash of bravery.

IF YOU PLAN TO GO TO BERLIN, THINK A SURREALIST BAR SOUNDS AWESOME, HAVE GOOD KNEES, AND PLAN TO TRAVEL TO BERLIN BEFORE YOUR KNEES STOP WORKING, THEN I ADVISE YOU NOT TO READ THE DESCRIPTION. I’m looking at you, Erin (although, sadly, a propensity for sprained ankles would probably prevent a sensible Erin from participating).

You’re probably still reading, but at least now you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

When we arrived at about 7:40, there was already a three-hour waiting list. In fact, we wound up being the last people to get tickets that day. So Rebecca and Germain went to a beach bar on his motorcycle, and Nathan and I set off on foot to meet them. But the directions we had weren’t great, so when it became clear that we wouldn’t find them, we explored the East Side Gallery and the neighborhood around the river instead. We met up later back at the bar.

When it was our turn, the gatekeeper came and called us by name, took our bags for safekeeping, and blindfolded and led each of us into the maze in turn. I was second after Nathan. The gatekeeper led me down a hallway and took off my blindfold in front of a wooden door with a found handle. With advice not to find the exit too soon, he shut the door behind me, and I was left in near-darkness; the only light came from a small holographic image of a grotesque elfish head that laughed and beckoned to me. There was a slot for my gold coin to go in (you’d think for 10 euros they’d let you keep it as a souvenir). I dropped it in, and…nothing happened. I panicked for a minute, certain that this was an elaborate scheme to lock me up forever, but after a few seconds the door in front of me finally unlocked, and I stepped through against my better judgement and my own wishes.

Next was a little staircase made of uneven boards that twisted and turned and sometimes weren’t anywhere at all. It was pitch black. At the top of the stairs was a door , which I could feel but not see. When I opened it, something jumped out at me–it turned out to be my reflection in a mirror, which I could scarcely recognize in the dim light coming from a small box set into the wall that illuminated an avian skeleton. Across the small room was another mirror, so I waved to my infinite selves and assumed the position that I would maintain whenever possible throughout the rest of the evening: crouched, with hands stretched outwards and upwards so as to protect my head and nose, peeking cautiously around every opening before entering.

Continuing in total darkness, I and my hands discovered a big problem: in front of me was a round hole. Feeling inside of it, I determined that it was a slide, and I was quite positive that nothing in heaven or hell would convince me to go down it. So I noped out of there, backtracked to the mirror room, and waited like a lame-o for Rebecca, who followed me by about 5 minutes. She went first down the slide (Fearless? Stupid? Who knows?) and assured me that it was fine. Her words weren’t as calming as the brevity of the interval between when she left me and when she reached the bottom. Now confident that I wasn’t embarking on a frictionless descent into Hell, I followed, and from that point on, things got weird.

But that’s a story for another time and place.