Folsom Berlin

Poster for Berlin Folsom

‘Folsom’ and ‘Folsom Berlin’ are two of the main searches that bring people to my blog. But if you’ve come here looking for salacious stories then you will be disappointed. That’s not my thing. My advice to people going to Folsom in Berlin is simply enjoy the wonderful city that is Berlin and the amazing event that is Folsom: tolerance, history, wacky costumes, beautiful people. Seriously, take a break from just rushing from fetish event to fetish event or to the next shag on Grinder. You are more than just your sex drive and don’t get so wankered on drink and drugs that you don’t know what you are doing. Appreciate the city and the event as one of those fun and unique things that will happen during your lifetime.

The uniqueness of Berlin

Berlin Here is a city where the last 100 years of human history has played out. Where all the extremes have been covered including Nazism, Stalinism, genocide, decadence and imperial greatness. Perhaps going through such extremes is why we’ve ended up with such a cool city. A city that’s been to Hell, seen what it is like, and decided instead to try to just be as relaxed and tolerant a place as is possible. My partner’s mum asks why we keep going back – ‘haven’t you seen everything?’ Some places you don’t visit just to see things, some places you go (back) in order to feel it.

So what is Folsom?

poster of folsom

Folsom itself is a bit like Pride but on a smaller scale and about fetish – of which there are many varied types. In the States there is a massive Folsom fair in San Francisco every year that raises big amounts of money for charity. People (men and women) get seriously dressed up for that. And many dress down – they have had to ban total nudity on the streets. In Berlin, it is primarily men and lots of older men. That’s nice because the scene in London feels increasingly focused on fit, young guys. Some people take the fetish angle very seriously dressing in leather outfits looking amazing, like something from Tom of Finland. Other people don’t quite carry it off. But such gear (leather and rubber for instance) can cost a fortune. Thus cheaprer alternatives have arisen like sportswear and amalgams of different fetishes. Overall it’s a bit of harmless dressing up. But you aren’t obliged to dress up. You can just enjoy the spectacle. I’ve got leather trousers and boots but, to be honest, I never feel that comfortable in them.

Pace yourself

Always a danger in events like this that you get sucked into a feeling of needing to be everywhere and experience everything. Accompanied by the constant fear that you are missing out. I have really worked hard not to let those feelings take control this year. And it works being a regular at Berlin Folsom each year. For me this is a holiday – time to create peace with myself. And that means time on the pooter, coffee and wine in cafes, reading, and afternoon snoozing as much as going out boozing. Folsom can be like a load of strutting peacocks looking to see but also demanding to be seen. Indeed, it’s a bit like Twitter and other social media – great fun to dip into and have full-on blasts every so often but awful if you dwell there eternally. Have a big night(s) out if you want but don’t worry if you don’t.

What a scorcher

sunshine logoMain memory of this year will be the heat. Ridiculously hot, hitting nearly 30 degrees on some days (I think it’s global warming and we’re fucked). Too hot for much of the fetish gear many were wearing. My very vanilla leather trousers and boots didn’t get an airing because of the heat. Stuck to sportswear as did lots of people. Good thing with sun is some sexy men in shorts. Also interesting how many people have beards – definitely in. Really wish I could grow one. And it’s (local) election time in Berlin. Fascinating to see all the election posters strung up on the lamp-posts. Faces of politicians from many different parties and the obligatory requirement for them to be grafittied on – Berlin’s irreverence is wonderful. Apparently Hitler hated ‘Red Berlin’ so it was a city doing something right even then.

Romeo und Romeo

Romeo und Romeo Arrived on Thursday via the wonderfully sixties airport that is Tegel. Built to serve West Berlin and now too small and old-fashioned. The Germans did try to build a replacement airport at Brandenburg but that hasn’t worked out. Not sure why, doesn’t China build a new airport every week?  Already lots of people on the street clearly there for the festival. It’s getting bigger every year with people coming from across Europe and also from the USA. Indeed the big pub Prinznecht was already busy that evening with drinkers spilling out into the street. Didn’t actually go there during Folsom because it was always so busy. Instead my main base was Romeo und Romeo. The gay cafe that was previously a dodgy rent-boy gay bar and before that an office for the Nazi party in the 30s. And the fantastic news was that on Fri and Sat night, Romeo stayed open until midnight. Great just to sit in the cooler night air and watch the streets busy with people going past.

It all kicks off

Crowd outside PrinznechtEverything really started from Friday. The gay area near Nollendorfplatz was busy and lively with some beautiful men in beautiful costumes. But don’t think this is just for beautiful people. Otherwise Folsom becomes just as prissy and concentrated on youth, beauty and muscle as any other part of the gay scene. Yeah there’s attitude but ‘straight back at ya!’. One of the nice things about Berlin and Folsom is the range of shapes and ages. Long may it last despite Folsom growing every year.

Night-time culture

Bio-hazard symbol Loads of late night events including many special ‘parties’. I gave them all a miss. I didn’t even go to BioHazard this year, the special night for HIV positive people. It’s pretty much always the same and I just wasn’t totally in the mood. I much preferred sitting with a glass of wine on one of the many cafes and bars (kniepes) to watch the world go by and relax. I have been to Folsoms in the past when it has been pouring down or quite chilly – both of which mitigated against chilling and watching the world go by. Couple of times I ended up at the mad party pub ‘Bull’. If you want a raunchy late night drink where the party never ends then this is it. Lots of very sozzled people and some real casualties of the scene but a fascinating place to absorb and have a laugh (though watch your wallet). Amusing to bump into and catch up with a German guy (Nils) there on Sat night who I previously met at Folsom two years ago.

Folsom Street Fair

Folsom Street FairSaturday was the day of the Folsom Street Fair itself. A space for all the expected mobile bars and food stalls to set up. Plus also various merchandisers including those with some very unique specialities. You can have anything you want made in rubber. And this was the event people really dress up for with some very strange costumes including Mounties, SWAT teams, and metal jock-straps. The place to see and be seen and get your photo taken. The sort of photos that straight people can all show to their friends saying ‘My God, you should have seen it!’ No total nudity though. Also lots of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence which seems to be a real thing in Germany – never became a big thing in the UK. I have two main gripes about the Street Fair. First, prissy Americans (‘oh my God!’) – so shockable and neurotic. Second, the current obsession with dressing up as and pretending to be a dog. Once was entertaining, now it’s just bloody annoying.

Eating well

Lots of nice food as well. Elephant on Thur night with its traditional German cuisine. A crazy Mexican (Frida und Diego) on Fri night. Really great whisky sours and a waiter who was completely flying but very amusing. He made a comment about Dave’s Pina Colada that was funny but annoyed Dave. Zsa Zsa Burgers on Sat and on Sun street food – Chinese and Doner. The latter is de rigeur in Berlin being linked to the large Turkish community living there. If you want to be authentic then also do try the delicious currywurst eaten on the street – sausage covered in curry sauce with fries. Mon and Tues we went to the nice Italian by Prinznecht as it’s Dave’s fave. Also some very good breakfasts for those recovering from the night before. Had a really good chat with a Finnish guy at a cafe whilst he was eating his brekkie on Sunday. Great to hear about his travels around Europe and what life is like in Helsinki. Apparently the gay scene has gone downhill as none of the gay Russians can afford to go there any more.

Kultur und Kunst (culture and art)

Street plaques in BerlinDefinitely worth visiting some of the excellent museums and galleries that Berlin offers including the Schwules (Gay) Museum. The history of being gay in Germany. Both sad and inspiring. Only thing is such museums and galleries aren’t free like London. Expect a charge of about 8 Euros. If you want to be equally inspired then just keep your eyes on the ground. Outside many residential buildings there are small metal plaques built into the pavement. These name people who the Nazis murdered. Usually their date of birth, the date of their arrest and then the date of their death including the name of the concentration camp they died in. Someone tells me on social media that they have the same in Rome.

TierGarten und KaDeWe

Monument of Prussian victoriesA great place to go to just to be is TierGarten. This is a favourite for me and Dave. A huge park in the centre of Berlin. So big it is criss-crossed with roads. And not a civilised park but almost a mini-woodland with lakes. A fantastic place just to wander around finding little cafes here and there that provide sustenance. And one of the Dave’s favourite places is the department store KaDeWe by Wittenbergplatz. A real nice old-fashioned dept store though throroughly modern. You can find anything for sale and spend hours just experiencing the luxury. Lots of nice coffee stops as well.

Speaking German

Finally, regular blog readers will know one of my big aims in life is to be a lot better at speaking foreign languages. I didn’t do any DuoLingo whilst in Berlin, instead I concentrated on improving my German by being in an all-German environment. Not sure this really works as it’s a very passive process. Although my mind was pushed back to recalling things I have learnt in the past and forgotten (vergessen). I admit I did keep on top of my personal and work emails so not to feel overwhelmed on my return. Though the latter was about observing but not interfering (replying). Did do some great reading whilst in Berlin – details in a separate blog.


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