By Matthew Breen
Unter den Linder pedestrian mall in Mitte
Each of Berlin’s neighborhoods has a distinct personality and caters to a different crowd. Mitte is the center of the city and is composed of parts of the former East and West. That which wasn’t destroyed in World War II abuts new high-rise buildings, including those that fill the former no-man’s-land that surrounded the wall. Mitte is the site of the city’s most familiar monuments: UNESCO Heritage site Museum Island, the Brandenburg Gate, and Alexanderplatz, where the Sputnik-inspired Fernsehturm (“TV tower”) remains the symbol of the city and the tallest structure in Germany. The infamous KitKatClub (KitKatClub.org), location of the HustlaBall Berlin (HustlaBall.de), is in the Mitte district, and is a trance and techno dance club where anything goes and sexual activity (straight and gay, though it’s more gay on the weekends) is encouraged. The only thing strict is the door mistress and her dress code—woe to you if you try to enter in jeans and a T-shirt. In the summer months, Gay Beach (GayBeachBerlin.com) is an outdoor nightclub and beach party right near the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), with sandy stretches, beach chairs, a dance floor, and cabana beds.
Nearby Tiergarten is the new site of the Schwules Museum (SchwulesMuseum.de), dedicated to Germany’s gay art, prominent figures, and red letter dates. The museum has rotating exhibitions and archival holdings, and since its beginnings in 1985 has grown into one of the world’s largest and most significant institutions for archiving, researching, and communicating queer history.
Schöneberg has been the traditionally gay district since well before the reunification—and before the Wall. Motzstraße is the site of the city’s Gay Pride celebrations, and was known as a gay-popular avenue as far back as century ago (Christopher Isherwood and David Bowie lived there). The street is now host to bars, cafés, sex clubs, leather couturiers, and purveyors of skimpy underwear, much of which caters to the more fetish-oriented crowd. Though younger gays tend to spend more time in the Kreuzberg district, many establishments here are veritable institutions: Bruno Gmünder, the publisher of erotica for men, has its flagship shop, Bruno’s, (Brunos.de) there; Tom’s Bar (TomsBar.de) is a classic cruising club with mazes; Butcherei Lindiger (Butcherei-Lindinger.de) makes kinky custom leather clothing; Heile Welt (Motzstraße 5) is a tightly packed but polite cocktail bar for meeting friends; Green Door’s (GreenDoor.de) unimpressive exterior belies the craft cocktail bar’s slyly quaint gingham interior; and Begine (Begine.de) is an arts and culture meeting point for queer women that hosts dance parties.