My Folsom Berlin weekend

My work meeting was over by Thursday lunch-time and I was on the Tube to Heathrow. I met Dave at Baron’s Court – an easy crossover from District to Piccadilly lines on the same platform. I travelled light to work, and he came along with my bag and his much bigger bag. I never am totally sure why he always takes so much away. I used to think the journey to Heathrow was long and dull. Now it feels perfectly fine and a lot less hassle (plus cheaper) than the Gatwick Express. We were flying BA so to Terminal 5 which does have some of the easiest check in arrangements I have ever come across. Once you get through security though it is always manically busy but I now know of a nice hidden little cafe to go and chill at. I used my 45 mins of free wi-fi – how stingy is that? I got tweeted to say I could have another 45 mins if I applied for a Heathrow loyalty card, or some crap like that. It’s one of the world’s major airports – free unrestricted wi-fi should be provided.

The flight itself was fine. We left a bit late but made up some time in the air. A packed flight, me and Dave had two seats right at the back. And because it was BA, I got my free drink – I always have wine and this goes some way to make the journey feel slightly old fashioned and luxurious. Tegel is a well designed little airport where coming off, or boarding, a plane is all done in one easy manoeuvre without loads of walking about or being bussed. It was built to serve West Berlin. I have flown to the East Berlin airport (Schonefeld) as well which is OK though not so central and does feel like an old Russian military base tarted up. The Germans have been building a new Berlin airport at Brandenberg. This is a long way out of the city and has gone severely over schedule in both time and budget. An amazing example of German inefficiency. God knows what went wrong, it’s not like airports are not built frequently. Indeed the (gay) mayor has had to leave office two years early due to his part in the debacle.

Taxi to our hotel cost 20 Euros – compare that to a taxi from Heathrow, Gatwick or Stanstead to central London. A nice hotel, we booked it ages ago so we had plenty of time to pay for it. And the gay bit of Berlin was buzzing. Lots of leather men around including at our hotel which provided an interesting clash with the interior. Dave and I went for a walk and dinner. All the good restaurants were busy so we ended up at a tacky Italian with one of the most dizzy waiters I have ever met. This was shown when the meals came for the two people next to us and it seemed such a coincidence that they were having the same as us – of course, it was our meal. This got us chatting to them – a couple from Sheffield who were on a genuine cultural tour across Germany. Dave and I then went to the great bar Prinzknecht which this year seems to be allowed to have people drinking outside without any restrictions; last year we were all pushed into an already cramped interior at 10.30. Dave decided to stay out but I was knackered as usual. So I went back to the hotel bar for a couple of glasses of rose wine. I do like hotel bars, there is something both comforting and alienating about them at the same time. I never feel guilty reading a book in a hotel bar. My new reading book is ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ by Patricia Highsmith. My work colleague Vic recommended her and she was right – it is a great book. It is quite contemporary despite being written in 1955. Similar to the very good film but with subtle differences.

So my first night in Berlin, I was in bed by 11.30 and woke up around 9 on Friday morning. A great night’s sleep. Up and round to the gay cafe that used to be a gay bar through most of the twentieth century apart from when the Nazis took it over and made it into an election office; I have seen some amazing historical pictures of it with swastikas all over the very familiar frontage now covered in rainbow flags. Totally unsurprisingly I was basically the only gay man there as all the rest were sleeping off the night before. A walk down to see the main gay area being prepared for later. Another coffee, more reading then slowly back to the hotel to sit in the bar watching the world go by and abusing the free wi-fi. Dave and I did a big meal at the gay cafe ‘More’. It has that totally predictable modern gay-feel, the food is good, but the service is crap unless they fancy you. I had a big protein dinner of scrambled eggs and salmon accompanied by a salad. The streets were busier with some guys looking like a million dollars especially in their leathers. I dipped my toe in the water and wore leather trousers along with my old army boots. Topped with a black t-shirt, I fitted in with the uniform.

Back to the hotel for a naughty afternoon power nap one can only ever do on holiday without feeling totally guilty. Dave had gone for a walk and as he came in for his nap, I got up and went for a wander. More coffee and reading as well as a big ‘weisbeer’ which came in a litre glass and felt a bit overwhelming. More people watching including from the main bar Prinzknecht. I returned to the hotel to collect Dave for coffee with cake. Then to get ready and out for my first big night. I had tickets to go to a club night especially for positive people – it just makes it so relaxing to be able to mix with people where we all know the situation and can share experiences. Doors opened at ten so checked out a couple of smaller bars beforehand – Woof and Dreizehn. I got chatted up at Woof by a really fat guy who suggested we hook up later if his date did not turn up, definitely not the most flattering chat up I have ever had. I waited in the queue for the club to open at ten but they were late as usual and I did wonder if to the rest of the world we looked like a queue of lepers. A great night with lots more weisbeer and some very interesting people to talk with. Indeed, I met people from London, Germany, Australia, Ireland, and Texas. My sleeps had set me up for a good late night and I left the club at 2am to carry on the party at a 24 hour bar called Bull. A great chill-out bar full of people who want to carry on the party after the club has ended, I bumped into a guy I had chatted to at the positive party – a nice guy called Nils from Hanover. It was one of those surreal late night party scenes with some people asleep on their seats and, I swear, someone wandering around who looked like a fat Iggy Pop.

Bed around 3am, I slept through till 9 again. No major hangover as I drank a lot of water before going to sleep. In tune with being a morning person who does like to get up early, I went to the gay cafe again for coffee and, as yesterday, few gays around as most were still asleep – like my partner. Back to the hotel to write my blog but Dave was not there. I was slightly concerned at first but then convinced myself he must have gone shopping. I went for another wander to absorb the atmosphere and by the time I arrived back at the hotel Dave was also there. We went off for a stroll into the street fair which was fairly quiet having only opened at 12 noon. Lunch – big ┬áburger and fries at Zsa Zsa Burgers. Another walk around the street fair which was far busier with some amazing outfits including police of nearly every nation, fully kitted soldiers, lots of kilts, dog outfits, motorcyclists with mohicans on their crash helmets, morph suits, and a mountie. One of the biggest ironies of the whole weekend came with David mentioning how there were people around who he had seen on the scene for the last twenty years but they now looked a lot older and fatter – he did not seem to realise that was us. I was a bit alcoholed out after yesterday so back to the hotel for another energy snooze / disco nap. Dave had gone to Ka Da We, a very stylish department store, but eventually came back for nap as well. I went out for a glass of rose (definitely my favourite type of wine) then coffee and reading. I was tempted by the shops but resisted although lots of gays were living up to stereotypes and walking around with expensive purchases from gay ‘lifestyle’ shops. A separate story but linked – in the UK through shopping at Prowler I got one of their carrier bags with a big paw print on it that my mum regularly used many times after thinking it was advertising a pet shop.

Evening came and me and Dave went out separately as we often do. To me the joy of a relationship is that both partners know it is an elastic band that can stretch without snapping. Though this ability to not be tied to each other but still be in love can be taken for granted and pushed to the extreme as has happened before in relationships I have known. I had a further read of Mr Ripley. I had made good progress with it this weekend and the book is very good though I would question how realistic it can be for the same person to keep changing their identity backwards and forwards including in front of the same people. I dressed up again in my leather trousers, boots, and black vest. Out to one of the local gay clubs Mutschmann. This is a very impressive club on three floors including chill out areas done up like living rooms in someone’s flat. But the club itself felt too serious and unfriendly – often a problem of Saturday night clubs where people feel they have to enjoy themselves. It was interesting to note that a number of the guys at the club must have eaten at the 24 hour kebab shop nearby as they stunk of it. Back to the hotel for a glass of rose in the bar before going out to Bull again round the corner. I really felt an affinity for this place because it reminded me of the times I used to do serious clubbing with the inevitable chill outs. People were wankered in general but fun to talk to; it is good that they had somewhere safe and comfortable to carry the party on. A couple of weisbeers and several chats then back to the hotel for around 2am.

I woke around 9am on Sunday morning to the sound of heavy rain. I wanted to make the most of my time so out with my umbrella to the gay coffee shop. I wore my Yellow Biohazard T-shirt with black leather boots and trousers that definitely got noticed during the day. It was quiet out not unsurprisingly as the gays would still be in recovery. And whilst having my morning coffee, I had a Facebook conversation with my friend Jamie in London whose play ‘A Fight at the Opera’ is being performed shortly. Back to the hotel to type up my blog. Dave got home after me but was gradually returning to the land of the living. Sad to say that there were several people I spotted who were leaving with their bags and everyday wear to return home. However there were also a lot of people looking rough the morning after and a number of guys on their mobiles seeking a last minute hitch up or re-connecting with people they met last night. Dave and me went for a wander but he wanted to go out of the gay village today whereas I was far happier just to absorb as much of the atmosphere of the gay party as I could on this our last day. So Dave went off to explore and I checked out the shops succumbing to buying myself a chunky neck chain but particularly looking at the latest fashions and books. I phoned up and checked mum was doing alright then bumped into Dave who had decided we should meet up again already. A really nice noodle lunch at a street Chinese followed by ice cream.

Dave by now was really flagging and went back to the hotel for a sleep. I continued to wander around the┬ámore busier streets of the gay area continuing to soak up the atmosphere and read The Talented Mr Ripley. Back to the hotel to have a shower as I like my showers once I’ve been up for a bit rather than first thing in the morning. Then out to have a drink on the street before going to an afternoon club at Connection. I was not sure whether to go or not but then thought ‘sod it, why not?’ And what a great afternoon I had. I knocked back about a half dozen bottles of weisbeer including one bought for me by a barman who knocked over one of the bottles which meant I lost a bit of the beer but basically got another bottle free. Lots of good chats again, I love finding out people’s stories and had some great catch ups with people from Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm, and Birmingham. I arrived around 5 and left about 8 quite sozzled. I tracked down Dave to the hotel who was being slightly judgemental with me. I was hungry and so was he so we headed out to our coffee shop that was closed. So we ended up at the corner kebab shop so popular with the gays eating out on the street – dead classy. Back to the hotel where I had a farewell drink in the bar before going upstairs and crashing out on the bed. Dave popped out for a drink but did not stay out late – well that is what he told me, I was too far gone to notice he was not even there.

That is it – the end of my Folsom Berlin weekend blog. Overall, a fantastic if slightly crazy very gay weekend. Already looking forward to next year.

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