Berliners Need Never Go Thirsty Again With Durst

By David Knight |

Having to scour the streets for a late-night shop to procure some more beer or a snack or two is a problem which occurs sooner or later to most people after they move to Berlin. The city is full of such shops, which are known as Spätis – short for Spätkauf, literally ‘late buy’ – but you can never find one when you need to.

That, however, has all changed thanks to a simple yet useful app. Called Durst, German for thirst, it shows you all the Spätis close to where you are, allowing you to grab some booze and get to that late-night party with a minimum of effort.

Strangely enough, Durst is actually just a side project for a web company called Ape Unit, based in the Charlottenburg district of the German capital. Started by three friends who grew up together across the city in Kreuzberg, Ape Unit specialises in video production, web development and online film technology. The Durst app, then, was just something they felt people would find useful.

“It was a fun project. We just liked the idea,” said Alex Peschel, CEO of Ape Unit. “There are not that many apps out there with a different idea or something really worth doing. I think it is a pretty unique idea.”

The app may not sound all that amazing, but ask anyone who lives in Berlin and they will tell you it’s a great idea. “To find a Späti at the right time can save the whole night,” said Paul Lunow, chief developer of the app. “That is why the app is like a compass for the Berlin nightlife.”

And Alex believes the German capital is perfect for such a service: “Berlin is not the only city in Germany where it would work – Cologne, for example – but it wouldn’t work in places like Munich where there isn’t the same kind of Späti culture. Berlin is special; Spätis are so important to the people round here. It’s a lot about partying in Berlin, meeting people outside, drinking, having a good time. It’s more extreme than in other German cities,” Alex added.

“Maybe it’s because Berlin in general is a poor city compared to places like Hamburg. So people here are more into going to Spätis, sitting there, meeting people there. At least more so than in richer cities. Berlin is so young, and everyone here has an iPhone.”

Developing Durst was certainly a move away from the kind of project Ape Unit usually takes on. Alex said: “We are not really big in the app business, but things like geo-location are pretty important for us.” When they started, they used a web application which allowed them to tag places on Google Maps. Soon they had around 150 Spätis down, but most of them were in the same areas or along the same routes – going to work, for example. So they decided to add more the hard way.

“We would just take a bike and cycle around for a couple of hours and tag everything we saw. Now we have more than 320. We would have to go to some places where there were big gaps and really look hard for one or two, just so that we had something in that area.”

The nature of Spätis means Durst is both useful and hard to keep up to date. “The important thing with the app is that you don’t get Spätis labelled on Google Maps. But Spätis are opening and closing all the time, and there is the problem with opening times in that there aren’t really any.”

The app – which was launched in August and is available in iTunes for 79 euro cents – will only become increasingly accurate, however, as users can add their own Späti to the database. You need never go thirsty on a night out again!