So, once Jonathan had woken up from a well-deserved lie-in and we’d had a quick look at the map, we wandered out of the apartment with the plan that we’d find breakfast, buy essentials for the flat, then come back to make a plan for the day.
Actually, it’s not just that district; this city is possibly the gayest place I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some pretty gay places in my time. I’d have thought I’d have been a bit put off by that, but I’m really taken in by it (and I don’t mean up to the elbow scar, despite orgies being more common than chewing gum here) but there’s something about there being so many gay men and women here that makes me realise how my sense of the normality of gay life in London is nothing compared to how up front it all is here.
Yes, there’s a big leather party happening this weekend, but everywhere you go, day or night, there’s guys in full fetish gear, having their lunch in a diner, wandering around a gallery, having a poignant moment by the Wall. It’s surreal and quite liberating; I can understand why to so many guys coming here is like being a kid in a candy store; it would be so easy to disappear into that vortex of hitherto repressed opportunity here and emerge the other side of that wormhole with nipples stretched by gravity wells of dark matter and to have forgotten everything in the world that doesn’t have a gayromeo profile or a hanky code designation.
Still, it’s really, really beautiful to see it all around here; I really like seeing people who are passionate and engaged in what they do in life, so it’s really exciting to see all this, in the same way as it’s a thrill to see people at comics conventions getting excited about dinosaurs.
Anyway, we then worked out that after walking for three hours, everywhere we had been turned out to be within a couple of miles of each other and we’d been meandering in a really nice aimless path that eventually led us back to where we’d started, via a wurst stand. For our shame, we popped back into the American diner for milkshakes and pancakes just so we could get online to look at a map, which was when we realised how far we’d walked in order to cover so little distance and that if we’d taken one different turn we’d have realised that everywhere joined up around a central point we’d been dancing around all day.
That’s kind of the point of being in a new city, though, so it’s hardly like we minded.
We eventually picked up milk and breakfast stuff for the flat and flaked out for a little while before setting off again to walk across the city to meet Frauke, a friend of Lizz’s who’d very kindly said she’d meet us. On the way, we had a bit more of a plan for where to go and we walked through the Tiergarten, had a nose at the Sony Centre, the Berlin Wall, the Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie and then even managed to find the comics shop in Kreuzberg before finding her at the station there.
Frauke is lovely, she took us to a wonderful (and wonderfully cheap!) Turkish restaurant where she told us about her work on film festivals and some really interesting performances she’s been involved in about bringing comics to life, she told us loads about the Berlin arts scene and about what it’s like to live here rather than just visit, then we went along to a bar where Jonathan and I tried not to be too weirded out by people smoking before she had to head back to get ready to see her family for Easter.
Things like that really delight me and make me a little bit ashamed that I’m not more generous with my time in London when people are coming from abroad because the kindness she showed to us in giving us help with simple things like buying a week’s travelcard and talking to us about basic things in the city has made such a difference to the experience we’ll have here and going for dinner and a drink with her has shown us a bit of the city we’d totally have missed if we’d stuck to the obvious tourist options and just kept going to bars in Schönberg and kept wandering aimlessly, so I really hope I can keep up a little bit of good karma beyond just giving her some comics and seeing her when we’re all in Toronto; I really should resolve to do more to help people visiting London.
Of course, after that, we just had to go and have a look at what was happening on the gay scene; it was just too tempting not to have a look – there was a shop that had posters in the window telling you what was happening each night and apparently last night had a Fuck and Fist party going on, but we thought perhaps we were over-dressed for that, so we went to a bar and it was heaving, or maybe creaking, with guys in head-to-toe leather.
What was funny was being the man with the longest hair in the whole bar there and my hair really, really isn’t that long, but it said something about how identikit a lot of the looks that were being rocked there were. It was funny, but after about an hour of people-watching, we figured that unless we were going to be doing what they were doing, it was probably fairer that we headed home for the night.
I love being an outsider in a city, you made such wild assumptions about a place and the people based on such a narrow set of experiences. I’m not going to say that Berlin is like this or that, but what we’ve seen has been quite crazy and wild and exciting and enticing, from the Russian with his sausage TV show to the looped porn in the bar (much the same thing) to the drunk kids wanting to play Frisbee with us at midday when we were lost and when we didn’t, one started shouting something in German about how his friend (who was about thirteen) was pissed and couldn’t throw for shit anyway.
That kind of thing makes a city really quite appealing, so let’s see what we find today.
Also, I love having excuses to get Jonathan to take photos, he gets really good pictures of buildings and places, so I’m going to designate him the camera operator for the week.