This past Sunday, after Mark and I visited Steinstücken and Potsdam, we took the U- and S-Bahnen over to Prenzlauer Berg in the former East Berlin. Here one can see differences in the former divided halves of the city. The Prenzlauer apartment blocks were unremarkably Soviet in their size and the residential streets looked as if they were the actual filmsets for “The Lives of Others” ( = “Das Leben der Anderen”), the Academy Award-winning Best Foreign Language Film in 2006. What I noticed in the former eastern side was that there were signposts on every corner of an intersection. Thus there were four signposts, with each post displaying two street signs. Talk about overkill. The posts were nice but the abundance in each intersection looked ridiculous. Seeing all these signposts reminded me of the overabundance of bus shelters in the former Soviet city of Primorsk which I visited in 1999.
Mark and I were in Prenzlauer Berg because we wanted to check out a few gay clubs which were clustered in a certain area. We had visited one bar near to where we were staying in Berlin the previous night. That bar was called Hafen, and we met a fellow athlete from the Gay Games who had competed in swimming. That was on a Saturday night and the place was crowded, with most of the men gathered outside on the street to chat. We didn’t know what to expect on a Sunday night further away from downtown, but we didn’t expect all the clubs we popped into to be stark empty. Most of the places required the patrons to be buzzed in. Perhaps this was a remnant of East Berlin protocol or perhaps all such places, when they are practically empty of customers, require their guests to go through some cursory security check.
We were buzzed into the first place (a club by the apt name of, ahem, Cocks) and were greeted by a man who was stark naked. Yikes! What kind of club was this? I asked him facetiously if we were overdressed, and he said no, but he would give us a couple bags to put our clothes in if we wanted. Only now, as I write this, do I see from the Club’s own web site that Sunday night is a “Naked sex party, Boots only”. Oh sheesh. We walked out after a polite look-around, only to find out that no one else was there, nude or otherwise fully dressed.
We continued to walk around Prenzlauer Berg, finding a gay club every few blocks as indicated in our Berlin gay guide, yet each place was dead and barely breathing. No one goes out in this part of Berlin on a Sunday night. This is unlike the gay area of Church Street in Toronto, which is buzzing with dance clubs and night life no matter what day of the week it is.
My toes had been hurting for a few days already, as all the walking Mark and I had been doing had given them a bad case of blisters. There were three blisters on the toes of my right foot, as well as a blister on the ball of that foot. I normally don’t qualify any discomfort I feel as “pain”, as I tend to separate the two feelings and only rarely do I label a sensation I feel as actual “pain”. However this time I was in a lot of pain. I could not keep up with fast-footed Mark and I followed about two metres behind him like a crestfallen puppy. It stung every time I placed my right foot on the ground. I was so relieved to sit down on an S-Bahn seat when we decided to call it a night at 00.30. My toes were so inflamed that I had no choice but to relieve the pressure by doing what one normally (ought not to?) do when they are filled with so much water. I was still in horrible pain when Mark and I went club-hopping in Frankfurt the following night. Monday night in Frankfurt was just as dead as Sunday night in Prenzlauer Berg, although the men at the Piper Red Lounge were a lot cuter than those we saw (nude or otherwise) the night before.