Story of my summer

I got into a bit of a blogging slump this summer, so here’s a catch-all post of some of the highlights I’ve neglected to write about: Hamburg Pride, a Germany reunion with my dear friend Edwin, a brief weekend in Berlin, and a visit to Brighton, U.K.

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Trying to make the most of the short-lived sunny weather – paddle boating on the Alster with friends. (See below.)

Christopher Street Day, round 2

If you’ll recall, my queer English friend Edwin and I went to Hamburg Pride, known as Christopher Street Day, back in summer 2013. Though we both missed 2014, I was keen to make it again for 2015.

The Ampelmännchen in St. Georg, the gay district of Hamburg, were changed to same-sex couples. The red
The Ampelmännchen in St. Georg, the gay district of Hamburg, were changed to same-sex couples. The red “don’t cross” light was two men.

Although Edwin was sadly unable to make it due to being at an academic conference in the south of France that August (poor guy), I went without him. I did meet up with a couple of friends there – a guy we’d met at CSD 2013 and stayed in touch with these past two years – and a colleague from Rewe. Alex, the friend from Rewe, convinced me to march in the parade with him (“just find a float with good music and walk behind it!”) and we hung out for the day.

Alex and me marching in the Christopher Street Day parade
Alex and me marching in the Christopher Street Day parade
Alex and Adrian hanging out at Jungfernstieg after the parade. I met Adrian (right) during Hamburg Pride 2013.
Alex and Adrian hanging out at Jungfernstieg after the parade. I met Adrian (right) during Hamburg Pride 2013.
Getting tied up at the BDSM booth at Pride
Getting tied up at the BDSM booth at Pride

Some things I noticed about Christopher Street Day this year:

  • While Stonewall, the first gay pride demonstration ever, was a riot, CSD Hamburg is actually just kind of a big street party and now tons of straight people attend, and I wonder if it is losing sight of its original purpose.

    Drag queen DJ - while Christopher Street Day is meant to be a gay pride event, nowadays it just sort of feels like a big party.
    Drag queen DJ – while Christopher Street Day is meant to be a gay pride event, nowadays it just sort of feels like a big party.
  • There was a bothersome lack of trans pride visible, and the restrooms (which you had to pay to use, of course) were divided for “men” and “women.” I joked about saying I was trans in order to use the men’s restroom, which consistently had a shorter queue. Still, it was disturbing to see that, of all places, a Pride event wouldn’t have gender-neutral bathrooms.

    There were some people marching with the Trans Pride flag in the parade, but other than that, the T from LGBT seemed conspicuously absent.
    There were some people marching with the Trans Pride flag in the parade, but other than that, the T from LGBT seemed conspicuously absent.
  • Cultural appropriation was rampant. I saw many Native American headdresses, including one perched on the head of a man wearing assless leather chaps and little else.

    You thought I was just going to describe it and not post it? Ha. I know some Native Americans who would be extremely offended at this fetishization of their culture...
    You thought I was just going to describe it and not post it? Ha. I know some Native Americans who would be extremely offended at this fetishization of their culture…

Nobody ever accused Germans of being too politically correct.

Edwin came to visit me

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Although he didn’t make it to Pride, I was keen to see Edwin again after he returned to Europe after spending half a year doing research in Bolivia, so he came over for a long weekend in August.

We went bouldering with my roommate and one of my German friends, which was quite fun (and quite a good workout). I decided I liked this sport and resolved to do it more often. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

We ogled at the prostitutes and adult store at the Reeperbahn, then got sloshed and went out dancing. A Hamburg tradition, if you will.

Edwin cooked me delicious food, including a wonderful, vegetarian English breakfast to cure our hangovers.

Don't worry - those sausages are quorn.
Don’t worry – those sausages are quorn.

We rented a paddle boat and paddled around the Alster and drank beer on a sunny afternoon.

We had a late-night gin-fueled discussion about politics and media and conspiracy theories with my roommate, which left me very grumpy because I’m a journalist and when drunk people talk about The Media they never have anything nice to say.

I visited Berlin

This veggie burger was the only photo I took in Berlin.
This veggie burger was the only photo I took in Berlin.

Just for two short days, spent time with a friend, and randomly ran into one of my former dormmates from the U.S. When I found out he was in Berlin, I invited him to an event I was going to which featured music, comedy, and stand-up, and we got to see the lovely Jacinta Nandi read from her latest book, which she says you should all go and buy.

Poor Nick (left) didn't really understand much since he doesn't speak German, but he had a nice time anyway. He was very excited about meeting Jacinta (center) because "you're kind of famous, aren't you?" and insisted on taking a selfie. It was loads of fun!
Poor Nick (left) didn’t really understand much since he doesn’t speak German, but he had a nice time anyway. He was very excited about meeting Jacinta (center) because “you’re kind of famous, aren’t you?” and insisted on taking a selfie. It was loads of fun!

I visited Edwin

No longer stuck in that God-awful town of Bangor, Wales, Edwin had recently moved to Brighton, on the south coast of England. It’s sort of the San Francisco of England, although much smaller and not as gentrified. The city started as a Victorian seaside town during the days when it was becoming popular to take holidays at the beach, and people could finally afford it. So there are lots of sort of elegant, crumbling Victorian houses around which give it a nice charm, and a pier with a Ferris wheel and a casino and lots of tourist attractions, because Victorians loved piers.

But Brighton has another side as well. It’s a city full of young people, and not just any young people, but bright, colorful, tree-hugging, organic-eating queer young people. It’s unofficially known as the gay capital of England, and is full of achingly hipster cafes, clothing shops with festival and rave gear, and all-natural overpriced organic markets. And, of course, English pubs!

We met up with Dan there, which was excellent because Dan used to study there and knew his way around the city quite well, and was actually quite nostalgic most of the time. (“Oh, the Roy Pav Tav!” he said as we approached a pub called the Royal Pavilion Tavern. “Me and my classmates used to go out drinking there every Friday, we had a table in the back we sat at every time. Man, the street looks different in daylight…”)

Me and Dan at the Brighton seaside.
Me and Dan at the Brighton seaside.

We walked around shops, did some window shopping, walked along the beach, and sat in the sun in a park for some time before meeting Edwin for veggie burgers later.

One night Edwin and I went to a queer party that was held in an old church. It was quite literally a church, with vaulted ceilings and stained glass and a large organ, but a small bar had been set up on one side, a DJ table and small stage up front, and multicolored lights turning the nave into a dance floor. Oddly, there was also a booth set up selling Indian food to the partygoers, which made the whole room smell of delicious spices. I was wearing uncomfortable shoes and kept thinking about my 7 a.m. flight, so while I enjoyed sitting and watching, I didn’t actually dance or drink that much, but Edwin got properly sloshed and had a nice time, and I practically had to drag him home.

What, you mean you've never been to a queer disco late at night in the middle of an old cathedral before???
What, you mean you’ve never been to a queer disco late at night in the middle of an old cathedral before???
Crap photo, but you get the idea. Incidentally, this was the only queer party I've been to where 80% of attendees were female.
Crap photo, but you get the idea. Incidentally, this was the only queer party I’ve been to where 80% of attendees were female.
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