In July, we returned to Berlin after 10 years from our first visit. It was the pre-blog era, long before our search of pleasure turned into material for thoughts and ponderings ready to be spread across the blogosphere.
Lonely Planet at the ready and a vague route in mind, we captured every touristy spot in our memory and our camera’s. Back home, we could have said we had visited Berlin.
The precious tips provided by three awesome creatures from the magic world of Instagram who texted us to say “hey I live in Berlin and I follow your blog, let’s meet while you’re here!” were our only compass. These creatures filled our days with hugs and chats and shared parts of our city exploration with us (if you’re reading this post: THANK YOU).
Clearly, we couldn’t forget our blogger’s curiosity at home, so we went to have a taste of the sense of freedom that shapes a generally positive attitude towards sexuality and the human body and that we felt during our first trip here.
About that, I suggest you watch the fourth episode of the documentary series Sex & Love Around the World where CNN ‘s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour explores Berlin’s sexual landscape between bondage, nudism and tinder porn.
The sex-positive Berlin
Berlin is one place in Europe where a sex-positive culture exists for real. It’s reflected in the wide and bright boutique-style sex toy stores, in the conception of sex work (it’s legal throughout Germany and usually allowed in regulated areas with off-limit zones expect for Berlin, where also street prostitution is allowed everywhere), in the long history of LGBTQ+ culture (Berlin has the world’s biggest gay district) and in the various moments of free hedonistic exploration during many sex parties hosted by the popular clubs that grew into today’s Berlin alternative nightlife institutions.
Bright sex toys stores of Berlin
We visited two pleasure objects stores that are part of the new generation of sex toy stores born out of the sex-positive culture and that are committed to promote a positive attitude towards sexuality not only by selling selected products that are beautiful, funny, coloured, enjoyable and body-safe, but also by sharing helpful advice and accessible information and by creating a welcoming and inclusive space where everyone can feel comfortable to enter and stay.
Berlin hosts the first flagship store opened by Fun Factory – productive German brand specialized in silicone sex toys as well as one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of pleasure toys known for the iconic sweet Patchy Paul caterpillar-shaped vibrator. The futuristic store covered in optical graphics was conceived by the eclectic mind of the design superstar Karim Rashid and develops over two floors framed in giant windows facing Oranienburger Straße, central street in the Mitte district. Several irregular shelves display the wide collection of Fun Factory toys in addition to a selection of lingerie, BDSM erotic accessories, lubes and some toys from other German brands (like We Wibe, Womanizer, Mystim).
There’s a fil rouge connecting us to this brand: we had stopped by this store totally by chance at the end of the opening day, back in 2010, just in time to sip the last glass of bubbly, browse all the objects freshly displayed and buy us a pleasurable souvenir. Fun Factory is also the brand of our first sex toy ever, another souvenir from an earlier trip in Barcelona.
During this last visit, our eyes set on some particular items:
Harness made from super soft denim (the first in the world in this material) that makes it easily adjustable and machine washable, and a sweet alternative to the leather or vegan leather harnesses, that maintains a bondage aesthetic with a playful and functional interpretation.
Sex toys for internal (vaginal) use that don’t stimulate through regular vibrations but instead deliver a rhythmic thrusting and pulsing motion that mimics the back-and-forth movement of the wrist.
Other Nature is the sex store we selected by surfing the web: it’s a self-defined feminist, queer, sex-positive, eco-friendly, vegan store. It’s definitively all these things and it’s also an inclusive and friendly space managed by conscious people who only select products that respect the body (every kind of body), the environment and the human being in general – of every gender, identity and sexual orientation.
We were impressed by the great variety of objects you can find browsing the niches of this safe harbour of pleasure: not just sex toys but alto intimate hygiene products (menstrual cups, washable pads) erotic massage candles and oils, lubricants (that you can test on your hands), condoms (a sample of each brand is displayed opened and unrolled), BDSM gear (floggers, ropes, paddles, chokers…), strap-on harnesses in different styles and materials, clothes and accessories for transgender people (binders for chest compression, packers for FtM, realistic silicone breasts), books on gender and sexuality, then pins and stickers and postcards and posters and clitoris-shaped charms.
The store is also committed to educating to a positive and fulfilling sexuality by hosting in-house workshops, events and toy parties. There’s also an online shop where you can find some tips, guides and info.
It was incredible the huge number of people who entered the store while we were there exploring every corner, shooting some pictures and videos. Some people were browsing the shelves, others were asking advice about the newly bought dildo, some were reading magazines in the books area.
Clubbing in Berlin is a serious matter: there are events at every hour of every day and every night and the party-goers need to be well organized and committed if they want to stay updated.
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We were interested in the hedonist side of the Berliner nightlife so we had selected two key events in two of the clubs that made the sexual freedom their trademark:KitKat and Berghain. They are also the two reasons why we’ll return to Berlin soon as we weren’t able to visit them (partly because we fell asleep in front of Netflix’s Money Heist).
Their similar traits are the rather strict dress code policy (boring and everyday clothes are bouncers’ enemy number one) and the unspeakable queues outside the entrance.
About KitKat – we know it’s a milestone in the fetish scene of Berlin with its many sitting rooms and dance floors, including a pool area, and that the unmissable event is Gegen, the so-called techno-queer dance party happening every two months on the first Friday of the month (we had chosen the Symbiotikka instead). Dress code is strictly creative and unconventional and fetish outfits and birthday suits are usually great door openers.
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About Berghain, we know that the first challenge is reaching its entrance and the second one is getting through it. The queues of clubbers trapped in a limbo of uncertainty and hope, religiously lined up in front of the abandoned power station – a pilgrimage site for techno music worshippers – are legendary. They advance slowly, waiting to be scanned by the selective eyes of Sven Marquardt, the inscrutable, irrational and inflexible tattoed bouncer who decides if you’re worthy of being part of the admitted elite.
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The web is crawling with tactics that can supposedly secure you the admission and make you gain the priceless stamp allowing to enter and exit the club during the whole party, usually going on uninterrupted from Saturday night to Monday morning. According to the advice, it’s best if you look: not too young, not too enthusiast, not too touristy, not too drunk, not too straight, not too anonymous, not too ordinary, not too numerous. And if you wear all black. But sometimes none of this is enough. To help you practice with your persuasiveness, someone developed an online virtual reality simulator (berghaintrainer) that analyses your body language and voice and decides if you deserve to pass through the door. Or you can just try your luck and monitor the community-sourced Instagram account (@BerghainLineLive) to stay updated on the length of the queue every weekend.
Having skipped over both the clubs, the next best thing was to appeal to the House of The Red Doors, a sex-positive party that every two months brings a wave of multicoloured humanity in search of pleasure into the Salon Zur wilden Renate. This is a labyrinth of rambling rooms, nooks, doors, corridors, corners and narrow stairs rushing across the multiple floors of an old abandoned apartment building where it feels like the time stopped among the baroque wallpaper and the eclectic vintage outworn furniture which create a surreal and theatrical atmosphere to get lost in. The green outdoor courtyard works like a lung where to recharge with air and light. Midsummer Dreams was the theme of our party and the inspiration for the costumes that brought to the club creatures of the forest adorned with flowers, leaves, feathers, glitters.
Determined to blend into the crowd of nymphs and fawns so as not to lose our last chance to taste Berlin’s sex-positive vibes, we put all our energy to flaunt faux nonchalance and patience during the three-hour-long queue.
We earned the coveted admission stamp at 4:30 a.m., just in time to enter, wander around every ambience and be caught by the first rays of light of the new day. Moving between the dark cramped rooms where blended bodies surrendered to the techno music and the open yard caressed by the morning warm light and the fresh air, we felt like we were suspended in a timeless non-place. Meanwhile, the ordinary life was starting to run outside, waiting to re-incorporate us in the flow of a regular Friday.
As opposed to most of the play parties (like Torture Garden) that are inspired by fetish imagery and include themed playrooms equipped with BDSM gear, we liked finding an ambience where sexual exploration doesn’t have to be informed by a stereotypical aesthetic or channelled into limited areas but is just an option on the menu.
The rainbow Berlin
After attending the Pride in Turin and Milan, this was our third Pride of the year: the largest and the most inclusive. There were so many floats and groups marching that we couldn’t see them all.
Just a week before the Pride, Berlin gay district Schöneberg around Nollendorfplatz had hosted the Lesbian and Gay City Festival (Lesbisch-Schwules-Stadtfest) – a two-day event with parties, live music and performances happening annually to celebrate but also inform about the LGBTQ+ culture.
The naturist Berlin
Public nudity has deep roots in German culture and was the only taste of freedom under oppressive DDR regime.
In Berlin you can be naked and do every kind of activity: you can sunbathe, walk in the park, practice yoga, play ping pong, volleyball, badminton and do everything else covered by the naturist sport clubs, take a sauna, dance at a club during a hedonist party… and march at the Pride parade. Compared to every other place where we practiced naturism, Berlin offers a greater sense of freedom and wholesomeness. Nudity is not just confined to specific naturist areas but is more spontaneous: you can easily find naked people by the lake or in a city park, in perfect harmony with the surrounding environment and (dressed) people.
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It’s a textile-free facility so you’re free to walk around the whole place completely naked (with slippers and a towel at hand) while exploring all the indoor and outdoor pools, lounge rooms and various kinds of saunas with rituals scheduled throughout the whole day. You’re asked to wear a robe only in the restaurant area. The Balinese-inspired ambience, the impressive design of the warm refined environments and the invigorating sense of peace surrounding the spa weren’t enough to beat our nostalgia for Neptunbad that to this day remains an unrivalled paradise.
We came back from Berlin with a greater awareness that what makes this place unique is the honest freedom of expression that leads to an open attitude towards everything related to sexuality, body and human relationships. It feels like the sex-positive, body-positive philosophies that encourage you to embrace your sexuality and body concretize here.
To quote our mermaid-guide from Instagram, Berlin really is a “well-organised adult playground moving at the pace of country life”.
We took leave from the city with too many people left to hug, too many things left to do and see and the promise to come back soon.
Before to end the post, we have to say some thanks: thanks to Roberta, our mermaid-guide who lit up our arrival welcoming us in the open-air beer garden at Urban Spree, a creative hub embodying the charm of Berlin urban culture. She also made us discover incredibly unique places like Klunkerkranich, eclettico rooftop bar che guarda la città dall’alto della sua terrazza panoramica in cima a un centro commerciale nel quartiere Neukölln. eclectic rooftop bar looking down the city from its panoramic terrace on top of a shopping mall in Neukölln district; thanks to Bea, actress and theatre performer who initiated us to the instagrammable doughnuts of Brammibal’s and shared the view of the Pride parade with us; finally, thanks to Chiara, crazy and incredible illustrator who was the best drink/food/dance buddy we could ever have.
Among other key moments, we’ll carry in our baggage of memories: our raids in electric scooter, the rowing boat trip on Schlachtensee lake and countless vegan treats (the burgers by Lia’s Kitchen, where everything, from sauce to fries, is vegan and homemade; Balaram‘s vegan icecream; Mustafa’s veggie kebap loaded with both roasted and fresh veggies, that we reached after an hour-long queue).