EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Berlin Part Three

4.29.2008

By Joe Okonkwo | AN OUTTRAVELER.COM EXCLUSIVE

Day Two: Achtung, Baby!
A little cappuccino will cure that pounding headache you got from last night's festivities. Go easy on the culture today and stroll over to the famous shopping and caf? district along Kurfurstendamm, where stunning designer boutiques rub elbows with falafel joints and T-shirt shacks. The centerpiece of this shopping megaplex is KaDeWe (Tauentzienstrasse 21-24), the largest department store on the European continent, famous above all for its gourmet food department on the 6th floor. Everything you'd expect in a major store, only in quantities and varieties to make the Queen of Sheba green with envy. For edible gifts and a bite to eat, don't miss their 6th floor gourmet shop.

For a little insight (but not too much -- you had a rough night, girl), cross the street to visit the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Lietzenburger Strasse 39; +49-30-218-5023; free), located just south of the Zoological Garden and Aquarium (Hardenbergplatz 8; +49-30-254-010; EUR11 each, EUR16 combination ticket). The cathedral's immense, bombed-out shell is preserved as a solemn reminder of the tragedy of war -- and the tragedy of souvenir hawkers, the vultures of commerce, who can degrade just about any memorial.

Sashay off chic shopping street Kurfurstendamm to Caf? am LiteraturHaus (Fasanenstr. 23; EUR10-19), an elegant stop for lunch, with white linen and a charming conservatory area. After you've got your strength up, visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (1 Cora-Berliner-Strasse; +49-30-740-729-29). Little can prepare you for the impact of this powerful memorial designed by American architect Peter Eisenman and opened in May 2005. Intentionally situated in the heart of Berlin, this grid of 2,711 concrete slabs powerfully evokes emotion as it references the horror of the Holocaust and the interplay between the living and the dead, the past and the present. The excellent underground Information Center (located beneath the southeast corner of the Memorial) surveys the Nazis' extermination policy and tells the story of the Holocaust through a powerful focus on the victims, the places of extermination and today's memorial sites worldwide. Leave yourself time to experience the Memorial in an unhurried manner.

For a rather different take on the aftermath of war, a short trip on the S-bahn to Oranienburger Strasse brings you to an exciting stretch of hip stores, cafes and eateries and to Tacheles (Oranienburger Strasse 54-56; +49-30-282-6185, fax +49-30/282-3130), a bombed (and only semi-restored) Jewish department store turned caf?/arts center. Ogle industrial art over coffee. The impressive New Synagogue (Oranienburger Strasse 28-30; +49-30-8802-8300) stands nearly opposite. Turn about and walk back up Oranienburger Strasse to Friedrichstrasse. Do some more shopping at the big name stores that line this 1920's theater district.

Before heading out to sample some more of the city's nightlife, get your fill of substantial German fare at Zur letzten Instanz (Waisenstrasse 14-16, Mitte; +49-30-242-5528; EUR12-15). Berlin's oldest restaurant, established in 1621, serves up a limited but tasty selection of traditional Berlin fare. German leaders have accompanied a succession of heads of state here to sample specialties such as Eisbein. This old East eatery is overlooked by tourists in otherwise often overcrowded Mitte. Luminaries who have graced its tables and toasted themselves by the stove include Mikhail Gorbachev, Gerhard Schroder, Jacques Chirac and, allegedly, Napoleon.

Those with a yen for musical theater might want to try and score tickets for one of Berlin's many theater and opera venues. Check the listings in Siegessaule, a comprehensive Berlin gay magazine that also has a good web site, albeit in German, at www.siegessaeule.de. Their annual Out in Berlin guide is as comprehensive as it is indispensable. Another great source for local info is the small pocket guide that came with your WelcomeCard; included is a list of theaters, operas and offbeat stage productions.

In gay district Sch?neberg, call into gay information center, Mann-O-Meter (Bulowstrasse 106: +49-30-216-8008), then scamper in Marlene Dietrich's footsteps for an evening stroll down Motzstrasse, the area's rainbow flag-adorned drag, to lovely Viktoria-Luise-Platz. Bars are scattered along Motzstrasse and nearby Fuggerstrasse. Swing by Tom's (19 Motz Strasse; +49-30-213-4570), a catchall name for a number of gay bars in Europe, and this dark bar is no exception. Not as leather as it wishes, but with a video room and darkroom. Other options include the venerable Hafen (Motzstrasse 19; +49-30-211-4118), caf? Berio (Maassentrasse 7; +49-30-216-1946), stylish lounge Heile Welt (Motzstrasse 5; +49-30-2191-7507) and Prinzknecht (Fuggerstrasse 33; +49-30-2362-7444) with its darkroom and beer garden. Prinzknecht opens up its hard hitting techno dance club, Connection, on Friday and Saturday nights.

Women should head for 30-year-old Pour Elle or "pe-BAR" (Kalckreuthstre. 10; +49-30-218-7533) or Begine (Potsdamer Str. 139; +49-30-215-1414), where exhibitions line the walls of this friendly, elegant space.

Day Three: Queen's Meadow or Bust
For a little R&R, start your last day in the beautiful Tiergarten, the lovely park at the center of the city. In warm weather be sure to check out Tunten Wiese or "Queen's Meadow," where many gays nude sunbathe (as Germans often do in public places). The meadow is just southwest of the golden, angelic Victory Column, made famous in Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire."

Berlin offers over 100 other museums, including institutions devoted to dogs, sugar and hairdressing! One unique addition near Kreuzberg is the tiny Schwules Museum (Mehringdamm 61; +49-30-693-1172), Germany's only gay museum with temporary exhibits of famous gay Germans and local gay artists. The only drawback is the lack of English translations. Before getting back on the culture grind, get a coffee hit from Caf? Sundstrom (Mehringdamm 61; +49-30-693-4414), a warm caf? bar popular with lesbians and local gay men to the front of the gay museum. Good coffees and tantalizing cakes tempt passers-by in off the busy street.

For those requiring more substantial -- or savory -- sustenance, stylish SUMO (Bergmanstrasse 89; +49-30-6900-4963; EUR 7-10) is just round the corner on colorful Bergmanstrasse. Second-hand clothes stores, eclectic junk outlets, bookstores and funky gift emporia line the street. SUMO, a haven of Ikea minimalism with cool d?cor, matching sounds and delicious modern Japanese fare such as crispy duck on spicy curry, lurks calmly amidst the street's color, characters and chaos.

Culture vultures should also pay a visit to as many of the following as your weary legs can carry you: the Egyptian (Aegyptisches) Museum (Schlossstrasse 70; +49-30-2090-5555) featuring the bust of Queen Nefertiti; the enormous classical collection in the Charlottenburg Palace (Luisenplatz 1; +49-30-320-911); the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery; Museumsinsel Bodesstrasse 1-3; +49-30-2090-5555) housing 19th century masters; the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery; Potsdamer Strasse 50; +49-30-2090-5555), a stunning modernist glass block with 20th-century art; and the world-famous Pergamon Museum (Bodestrasse 1-3; +49-30-2090-5555) with its unsurpassed collection of European antiquities and Islamic and Near-Eastern art. Most of these museums are part of the vast Museum Island complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the above museums share a Web site at www.smb.spk-berlin.de. Day tickets, valid for all state museums cost EUR12, three day tickets are only EUR15. For those planning on more extensive museum visits over a lengthier stay, an annual pass costs EUR44. None of these passes is valid for temporary exhibitions.

For a final reminder of what this city was like during some of its darker days, Checkpoint Charlie (Friedrichstrasse 43-45; +49-30-253-7250), once a gate between East and West Berlin, is where people were shot attempting to cross the wall.

If you're feeling peckish about now, you're in luck -- just around the corner in Kreuzberg is Caf? Orange (Oranienburger Strasse 32; +49-30-283-85-242; EUR8-15), a good stop for informal but well-executed German and Mediterranean cuisine. Crowds flock for the vast portions served at Amrit (Oranienstrasse 200; +49-30-612-5550; EUR12-23) one of the best Indian restaurants in Berlin. Food, service and prices are good so reserve your table in advance. An eclectic mix of exuberant Berliners take over tables and devour delicious East Indian dishes. Das ist gut.

In Kreuzberg, Schwuz (Mehringdamm 61; +49-30-6290-8819) is one of the city's most fun club venues. Last Fridays of the month are L-Tunes, a weekly "lesbische party" for the girls. Depending on the night, join an upbeat, easy-going crowd for everythfrom elo to cheese to uno 5sgrage sounds. Berlin -- it's got it all.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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