What to do in Barcelona and Berlin if you are gay
A Brazilian couple, Julio Bedin and Rogério Rabitto, tells how it felt in their first trip to Barcelona and Berlin
Our eurotrip was like a sandwich with two ‘layers’ of Barcelona and Berlin in the middle. The season was excellent, late May early June, all in full swing, but without the ordinary crowd of tourists in the Catalan and German capitals in that period. Important to say that it is impossible to make this “report” without comparisons with our homeland, Brazil.
The first thing I noticed in our eurotrip, both in Barcelona and in Berlin, was the existence of a “common dignity” to all. A situation of respect as if it were oxygen, that is, basic for the survival of a lifestyle very different from ours: looks without judgment, in fact, many times, nor even looks. The sense of freedom is permanent, perfect for gay couples, like us, traveling from homophobic homelands.
First stop: Barcelona
Barcelona is a sort Rio de Janeiro that works fine. It´s kind of sad to say, but it’s reality. Barcelona is hot and cheerful. You can walk along the streets fearlessly, although it is worth to keep an eye to your belongings. When you are on the Ramblas, with tourists from around the world delighted and seduced by the charm of the city, anyone is a gift for light-handed pickpockets. On the other hand, there are police officers, often handsome, everywhere. Beautiful buildings, one stuck to another with very nice people.
An iconic gay hotel
We chose a hotel set especially for the gay public, the Axel, one of the best Barcelona hotels. They are so gay there that they call themselves “hetero-friendly”, impossible to not feel at home. A particularity: every room has a sign DISTURB, just put on the door to improve the possibility of making new friends. Axel One is in a central area, Eixample, yet quiet by the Brazilian standards.
You can easily find shops and restaurants with the proud rainbow at the door. The link with Rio has something to do with the cult of the body, many gyms, and the beach! The gayest of them is Platja de Mar Bella, lots of equipment, much freedom. It’s very worth a close look-up. In Barcelona, you have a lot of topless, jeans, nudism, nice people and lots of sangria, a local drink made of sparkling wine and fruit served in a jar. Delicious!
Do not forget to go to Sitges, a seaside village that is a 30-minute train ride from the center of Barcelona. There you find many gay beaches and a climate of sophistication. At first, it looks like an old village and suddenly it turns into a border with buildings and chic houses, all together, accessible and organized.
Second stop: Berlin
Then we left for Berlin. We chose the same Axel hotel network to host us there. There was a mismatch of information about our reservation and to compensate they put us in the best suite of the hotel. It was funny.
But we did not need to stay in a gay hotel – it was a choice of ours because if there’s a thing you have in Berlin it is privacy. No one will ever bother you because you’re gay or an alien, ne-ver! Especially if you are in the charming district of Schoneberg. Cafes and restaurants with a lot of history, incidentally, the whole Berlin has a lot of history and you will realize that it is very recurrent in some parts of the city the memory of the Holocaust, a kind of “so not to forget” about all that happened.
The city is beautiful and rich but people are simple without ostentation. There is no visual connection with the German aesthetics of the Oktoberfest type that we have in Brazil because Berlin is Prussian and the Germans of Brazil are Bavarian, the ones from the ‘inner part of the country’. It´s better to google it because it´s a long story.
The leather-fetish culture is latent, there are many specialty shops and obviously places for this kind of practices. People smoke a lot, really a lot. As we understand it, it is an option for the sites to prohibit or not to smoke. There is that Berlin burlesque/underground / chic/decadent collective imaginary and it sits in Kreuzberg. We went to Südblock, a bar frequented by a lot of people from outside, but living in Berlin, very cool; to the ORA, a former apothecary/pharmacy of 1961 that transformed it into a very beautiful bar/restaurant, the original bathrooms shiver; and the Roses, a little room with walls and pink plush ceiling, with many people smoking, drinking and dancing. Music there is great.
Back to Barcelona
It was really cool going to Barcelona twice on the same trip. The return allowed a calmer and uncommitted look, like “we’re already home,” seriously! We left the airport on an AeroBus, a public transport service that works great. Our home city of Curitiba has something similar, but the Catalan one is much more modern and comfortable. So we got off at one of the many stops and went on foot on perfect sidewalks, pushing our bags, just fine.
Both in Berlin and Barcelona, there are bikeways everywhere, and electric scooters are very successful. We went to the Black Room on a Sunday, and it reminded us of The Week in Brazil – many people with no shirts dancing, uncontrolled, and good music.
A good tip is to take a large bag to dispatch and buy another one there to take the delights of Barcelona and Berlin to Brazil without paying excess baggage to remember these wonderful cities.
We met many Brazilians throughout our trip, everywhere, which was good, it helped us to get back to reality. Europe is an incredibly real dream.