Shel Fuller on why the German capital is his paradise…

The word “bohemia” means any place where one could live and work cheaply, and behave unconventionally; a community of free souls beyond the pale of respectable society.

Berlin is the last remaining city on this planet that fits this description. A delicate combination of dilapidation and rebirth where stereotypical German social structures cease to exist.

Every resident is continually in the midst of a love-hate relationship with this city but the desire to leave never lasts more than a few hours and is usually totally gone after a subversive night in Berghain.

I moved to Berlin in 2005 after running away from a disaster of a marriage in Cologne. It was sheer coincidence that I landed in Schöneberg, the heart and soul of Berlin’s gay community.

A herd of cattle would not make it through this neighborhood without being turned immediately into a leather accessory. On a hot summer night, it is not uncommon to see 160kg of flesh stuffed into a full body rubber jumper with zippers in very peculiar places. From my own personal experience, I would also be weary of anyone who offers to give you a pearl necklace because they aren’t planning on buying it from a jeweler.

There used to be a bar called Armstrong, which always reminded me of a David Lynch film gone wrong.

A tranny got into a fight with someone in the darkroom over who was going to be the top and who was going to be the bottom. The result was a broken beer bottle, a large gash on the forehead and a hospital visit for the loser. When the police arrived, the tranny was hiding in a dark corner underneath a sling. At this very moment, I fell in love with this city.

I really feel that I have found “my own private Idaho” here. In the summer, I usually spend most of my time laying in the “Tuntenwiese” in Tiergarten watching the parade of naked flesh walk by.

It gives a whole new meaning to the concept of a petting zoo. Being an American, I had to get accustomed to the fact that Germans will take off their clothes at the drop of a hat. Usually, there is a delightful, visual buffet of three-legged, tattoo- covered animals sprawled as far as the eye can see.

Unfortunately, the last time I was in the park, the only spot I could find was directly across from a well-worn, vintage handbag wearing a g-string.

This city really has not done much to cure me of my rampant alcoholism. The openly-gay, governing mayor of Berlin is quoted as saying: “Berlin is poor but sexy.”

This is probably the most truthful thing that any politician has ever said. Beer is cheap and delicious. With 20 Euro in my pocket, I can usually do myself in really good at Möbel Olfe in Kreuzberg.

If I take 50 Euro with me, I usually end up waking up naked between two athletically built punks with an odd taste in my mouth and a smile in my heart.

When I came to Germany, I didn’t speak one word of German. To my advantage (and most tourist), Germans love to speak English. Many of them speak quite well and even if they don’t, they usually can get their point across.

When someone asks, “Do you like mouth sex?”, there isn’t much room for interpretation. Berliners don’t really like to leave much to interpretation anyway.

It is quite common to see small signs in private bathrooms with instructions on how you should pee. I’m sorry, but if I am covered from head to toe in lubricant, I am not really interested in urinal instructions.

Making the decision to move to Berlin was not an easy one but it is one that I certainly do not regret.

At the end of the day, when my ears have stopped ringing from all of the blaring minimalist techno; after having drunken conversations in New Action while someone is being “fistfully” gratified directly behind me, there is no place in the world I would rather be. There is something that I have found in Berlin that I really never found in America – freedom.



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