Some cities, like Tokyo dazzle. Others, like Delhi sweep you through their cultural undercurrents until you surface back home, gasping and delighted. Berlin, more than any, seduces -- and there is a massive queer ex-pat community to prove it!
The offerings that tempted them are still there, so be warned! Berlin's equally thriving high and underground arts cultures, its unpretentious and easy sexuality, and its openly gay mayor -- a sign of the progressive climate as much as he is a force for it -- are powerfully matched by a cost of living in Euros that miraculously competes with the Dollar.
Tips: Getting Around
About eight times the size of Paris, it's not a terribly good idea to try getting around Berlin entirely on foot. Thankfully, there is a stellar metro system and an intricate, yet intuitive series of buses.
At 7-10 euros a day or 50 euros a week, your feet will thank you for renting a bike from one of the shops populating most corners. If it's more your speed, weekly metro/bus passes are also available for about 27 euros each -- a steal with a ticket each way costing around 2 euros.
Tricks: Darkrooms and Dancing Bears
Like scenes out of Liza Minelli's Weimar-inspired Cabaret, the gay bars Barbie Deinhoff's (Schlesischestrasse 16) and Roses's (Oranienstrasse 187) drip with kitsch accessories like pink shag walls, vinyl couches, and oversized disco balls. A good mix of ex-pats and locals toasts here over powerful drinks every night of the week.
A rite of passage for anyone new to the city, Berghain (Wrietzener Bahnhof, near the Ostbahnhof; Saturdays; 12 euros) is a heavily queer event located on the border between the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain -- hence "Berg + hain" -- neighborhoods in East Berlin. Revelers famously stomp out it to techno and house from midnight on Saturdays until mid-afternoon Sundays at this massive concrete former power plant with couches for naps in the lobby, a labyrinthine darkroom in the back, and breakfast served in its garden.
Wednesdays find bears, otters, and cubs at M?ebel-Olfe (Reichenbergerstrasse 177), and the monthly gay Turkish dance party Gayhane at SO36 (Oranienstrasse 190; 6 Euro) is legendary.
Warning: darkrooms are a common addition in Berlin's gay clubs!
Tips:Ich Bin Ein Berliner
After JFK famously misspoke these words in West Berlin in 1963, the rumor goes, calling himself a local jelly donut instead of saying "I am a Berliner" (Ich bin Berliner), this phrase has become something of a city joke. That said, there is great food in Berlin, even if travelers have to wade past the potatoes-and-cream-laden local cuisine to get there.
A staple in the city's diet, the Imbiss (roughly, fast street food) serves up clean, tasty, inexpensive and, thanks to sizeable Turkish and African immigrant populations, diverse treats all day and night. Fresh, meal-sized d?ner kebabs, pizza, currywurst, and Chinese food can be found on any corner for less than 5 euros.
For a special treat, try Nil (Gr?nbergerstrasse 52; 2-4 euros), which serves up Sudanese falafel and grilled chicken sandwiches laden with fried cheese or dripping with a fresh peanut sauce that is deceptively light for its body.
A few blocks away along Oranienstrasse (one block above the Kottbusser Tor metro stop), Sunday brunch pulls everyone onto sidewalk caf?s for multi-course cheese and meat platters and deep Milchkaffees (like a latte), filling the Kreuzberg street with French, English, Spain, Italian, and German chatter until well past 4 p.m.
For the thoroughly unique experience of eating blind, try the upscale Unsicht-bar (Gormannstrasse 14; 030-24-34-25-00; Closed Mondays, Tuesdays; 40 euros+). Order from six set menus that list impressions, riddles, and metaphors like "recipe of a wheat produce passed down by Japanese monks" or go for the Surprise Menu before dining in pitch darkness with enhanced other senses. You'll discover what you ate after paying the bill. Reservations recommended.
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