Anything which would be considered abnormal in most other cities becomes the norm in Berlin. Over there, being ‘normal’ is considered weird. I fell in love with Berlin for its open mind, its young and dynamic working culture and of course, the nightlife.
Berlin’s districts can quite easily be divided up into different scenes:
Prenzlauer Berg is inundated with yuppies. Hipsters flock to Kreuzberg (Neukölln if you’re *really* hip). Charlottenburg hosts the elite. Punks and anarchists squat in Friedrichshain. Gays go partying in Schöneberg. Marzahn is the refuge for neo-nazis.
Everyone can find their home in Berlin. A place where you can be who you want and find yourself.
I heard that one of my friends’ cousin had recently moved to Berlin. I didn’t know him very well but we used to hang out on the beach when on holiday many years ago. After being nagged enough, he would reluctantly join us to play football. He was a typical French BCBG (Bon Chic Bon Genre), bourgeois, studious and maybe even a little shy. He had traditional catholic values and possibly a little aristocracy in his blood.
Since I had already been living in Berlin for a year, I thought it would be a nice idea to show him around some of the alternative places I had discovered, to try and ease him in to the Berlin lifestyle. Nothing too outrageous like the Berghain darkrooms (an account of what happens in there is far too graphic and risks spoiling the enjoyment of your stout). But maybe a dive bar where you can smoke cannabis inside (how daring) or an open-air electro party, often illegal, where some party goers take ecstasy (don’t tell mum).
A couple of months went by and we still hadn’t met up. Mostly my fault as I was busy with work, study and other social engagements. Soon after, a photo popped up on my Facebook feed in which he was tagged with one of my acquaintances from Berlin (who happens to be a member of the gay scene). What a small world I thought. And shot off a message to this acquaintance asking him how they knew each other.
“How could I not? He’s the biggest queen in Schöneberg.”
The words of Stalin (probably shared with most dictators’) helped me to figure this one out. Seeing homosexuality as bourgeois decadence, he introduced laws making it a crime punishable by a prison sentence in the Soviet Union.
Stalin couldn’t have imagined the city of decadence Berlin is today. The crowning of Schöneberg’s ‘biggest queen’ may be the epitomy of everything the Russian dictator despised: a bourgeois reveling in the pleasures of a neighborhood dedicated to the celebration of being gay.