TMC’s Lesbian Guide to Berlin
by Petit Fours, photos by Anja Schaffner
Berlin is chill wave. After a few days acclimatising you wonder why you ever thought email push notifications were necessary and realise just why everyone in london is so mental. Because milling around like a human ant on the northern line every morning with a coffee that costs too much of your salary makes you mad. And there’s no reason for it.
In Berlin the streets are wide, people pause before they talk, and rarely see any reason to leave kreuzberg/neukolln, or travel for more than 10 minutes really.
It can be a little too relaxed for the highly strung Londoner… turning up to a club at 10.30pm will get you a baffled look and “oh we’re still eating dinner”. Mooching around is a part of the daily routine, stretching on for hours and including cafes, parks, galleries, queer squats, abandoned airfields, beer, milchkaffee, cigarettes.
But if you stick around enough you’ll find a mordant side to this chilling out: Berliner Schnauze – a combination of German forthrightness and some Berlin penchant for cutting humour. It is described this way: “a mixture of humor, creative expression, and aggressiveness, sometimes offensive to some outsiders and possibly even misunderstood.”
Someone will cut you a little line like: “Oh you’re leaving? [at 4am] the party is not even started.”
Or “your blog is on wordpress? I only look at tumblr”
I suppose hipsters are the same everywhere, though Berlin does have an edge – is it the war memorials? This isn’t New York honey.
All the snarky scene Berliners speak English. The only advantage you have being a native English speaker is that you may be able to translate some rap lyrics they don’t fully understand.
Treasure the real Germans if you find them, you’re most likely to meet Americans on postgrad degrees or your neighbour from Clapton. The Schonenfeld- Shoreditch express (via Stansted airport) is crammed with people from east London.
The girls? There are lots. Add a really large queer population to the all-over hipster trend to the German dress sense (so gender neutral, it’s really relaxing) and you kind of feel like you’re in a large great gay town. Well, you are when you’re in Kreuzberg anyway.
Back to the scene: There are more sex clubs (ie they exist), there’s more of a queer trans scene, nights out are more likely to involve video art, and even more than London, the gays are from all over – Sweden, America, Italy. The scene is more dressed down than London, as Germans are generally. It’s more jeans and punks. Though if you want tranny parades, directional fashion or even just nudity, you can probably find that too.
There’s lots of techno, lots of hiphop and a baffling selection of 60s tracks. Long late nights are fuelled by an addictive high-caffeine south American tea drink that tastes like old cigarettes called Club Mate, enabled by late-running subway system and lifestyles that do not involve 7am monday morning starts.
At its hipster end, the scene is possibly even more cliquey than London. people go up to the Dj and request that they *don’t play Beyonce. But also more mixed in the age and cheaper, and kind of more DIY and offbeat and surprising.
And yes Germans are better organized so you can both get in and get home afterwards.
Do: chill out
Do say: “I’m going to the tranny olympics dressed as a cricketer, because I hate cricket”
Don’t say: “isn’t that where Hitler…?”
Amazing club with Wolfgang Tilman’s artwork upstairs and no mirrors.
Full of skinny boys, sometimes they won’t let you in if you’re not dressed up.
Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243 Berlin
A fun karaoke bar with booths, often full of straight tourists but plays host to a swathe of drag and tranny nights. Check out what’s on. There is a queer night on Thursday called Mixed Nuts.
Warschauer Straße 34, 10243 Berlin
Tucked up the street from Hermanplatz, this is the ultimate Berlin queerbar. As a scruffy lesbian, I never feel like the normal one in a bar. I did here.
Weserstraße 206, 12047 Berlin
CafeBar Marianne, Mariannenbar
One of the oldest lesbian bars in Berlin, small but relaxed – older couples, people drinking beer, fun nights.
Mariannenstrasse 6, 10997 Berlin
Haven’t been, but a German tells us: “Very trashy gay bar, where you should only go in a wasted state late at night.”
Oranienstraße 187, 10999 Berlin
Cool gay bar, chilled out. This is what G-A-Y would be like if it was nice. Can be hard to find, but just off Kottbusser Tor behind some buildings with pro-Palestinian graffiti scrawled on them. Mädchendisco (girl’s disco) on Thursdays.
Reichenberger Straße 177, 10999 Berlin
Queer music venue also on the throbbing queer-nightlife roundabout that is Kottbusser Tor, with a really great Sunday brunch. Hosts a bunch of lesbi-queer nights.
Admiralstraße 1-2 10999 Berlin
A roaming series of queer-art club nights, video art shows, T-shirt sales – these guys are worth checking out. The arty end of the scene.
Facebook group here
A Berliner tells us: “Gay bar with lots of drag queens. Pretty tacky but fun.”
Schlesische Straße 16 10997 Berlin
Other queerish places
Former Airport – now a park! Vast, brilliant derilect control tower, great cross section of Berlin life with a wide open field for all sorts of sports and leisure, kite-flying, rollerblading, things that need huge spaces. There’s also a community garden, barbeque areas and a safe bird breeding area in spring. Beautiful wild plants too.
A dinky little Portuguese hipster café near Schlesisches Tor.
Schlesische Straße 35a, 10997 Berlin
A German tells us: “Antifascist/ turkish bar, directly at Kotti (next to Möbel Olfe), very different to the usual hip bar in Berlin. One of my favourites.” Arty, arguably a little threatening.
Adalbertstraße 96 10999 Berlin, Germany
Artspace, bar, cinema, restaurant Housed in the former Hungarian cultural center (hence the initials, HBC) – nice socialist charme! website
Other nature queer sex shop
With vegan handcuffs, a fine selection of dildos and assistants with almost perfect English- “The pelvic floor muscles contract when a women is arisen”.
Mehringdamm 79, 10965 Berlin
An abandoned aural surveillance tower. Now a hipster picnicking spot. You have to climb under a fence and there’s broken glass everywhere.
Pictures by Berlin photographer Anja Schaffner. Prints available – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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