Germany

Traveling In Gay Europe - Final Destination: Cologne

Our European travel series for gay men concludes. First we showed you Vienna, Austria. Then we took you to Munich, Germany. Now Instinct is pleased to present you with a tour of culturally rich and historical Cologne.

The fourth-largest city in Germany and former Roman colony has the famous Rhine snaking through it and a robust gay culture. Cologne’s annual Pride festivities draw about one million people from all over Europe.

Bars are located in two areas just about two metro stops apart. Old Town, closer to the river, caters to men 50+ as well as leather and fetish. More popular, attracting a younger crowd, is Bermuda Triangle, near Rudolfplatz. The intersection of Schaafenstrasse and Mauritiuswall is where one finds lively watering holes of many types. ExCorner has a casual beer-loving vibe and I saw birthday parties and Oktoberfest celebrated in equal measure. One thirtysomething had multiple glasses of beer lined up on a window sill. At only two Euros per glass, I suppose he could afford it.

IRON is more sophisticated featuring an all-black interior accented with purple neon lighting. Here I spoke with an American (who didn’t want to give me his name for this article) living with his husband in Germany. When I commented on how mixed the crowd was, he told me it is normal for gay men and women to hang out together in Cologne. His identity preserved, we both smiled at the handsome Iranian (and straight) bartender who felt embarrassed his German wasn’t “good enough.” Who was I to judge? I ordered my second drink in English.

Saunas are popular in Cologne too. Badehaus Babylon, a gorgeous Italianate villa made of red brick, offers three floors of fun including an outdoor pool (allowing office workers to be voyeurs from their skyscrapers surrounding the facility). Drawing a diverse clientele, there were men of all ages and types, from thin, pimply teenagers (the age of consent is 14) to white-haired older men. In contrast to years ago when I first visited, this time I noticed many Middle Eastern men (Cologne has a sizeable and growing Muslim population). One reason they stood out was the swimming trunks they wore. Most men wrap a towel around their hips, or wear nothing at all. And in comparison to the US, condoms are a big deal in Germany. PrEP is not yet widely available in Europe like it is in the States, so one finds condoms everywhere, as well as posters stressing safer sex.

Lastly, there are two absolute cultural musts in Cologne. Museum Ludwig, with its permanent and visiting modern art exhibits, features Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. Cologne Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction began in 1248 and wasn’t completed until 1880. Both are located on the Domplatte, not far from the main train station.

If You Go – Cologne

GETTING THERE

Cologne Bonn Airport is a regional one so it is difficult to fly direct to or from the USA. Connections via Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin should be expected. Cologne is served by high-speed rail if you travel in and away by train. Deutsche Bahn offers Sparpreis saver fares for booking in advance online and one-way tickets can cost as little as 19 euros.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel NH Collection Köln Mediapark, Im Media Park 8b; +1 212 219 7607

WHERE TO EAT

Bei Oma Kleinmann, fantastic traditional German food popular with locals – get the schnitzel with a pint of Kölsch, the signature local brew; Zuelpicher Str. 9; +49 221232346

Bastian’s, charming bakery café serving jaw droppingly-good rolls and pastries; Auf dem Berlich 3-5; +49 221 25083412

WHAT TO DO

Badehaus Babylon Cologne, one of the most beautiful and popular saunas in Europe; Friesenstraße 23-25; +49 221 4207 4577

ExCorner, Schaafenstraße 57-59; +49 221 233 6060

IRON, Schaafenstraße 45; +49 221 2764 9614

Museum Ludwig, Heinrich-Böll-Platz; +49 221 22126165

Cologne Cathedral, Domkloster 4

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Travel Thursday: Traveling In Gay Europe - Say Hello To Munich

Welcome to the second installment of Instinct’s three-part gay travel series looking at a trio of Europe’s most charming locations. Yesterday we gave you a glimpse into gay Vienna, and tomorrow we take you to historical Cologne. But today let’s visit the capital of Bavaria: Munich.

English-speaking residents have a nickname for this city: Toytown (apparently due to its great quality of life, which I can vouch for). I first visited in 2007 and fell in love, with both the city and a resident. Jochen and I were drinking beer at an outdoor community table, at a café that no longer exists, when I addressed the waitress as fraülein. Major faux pas. He leaned over to educate me. “We don’t use that word anymore,” he said. “It’s considered sexist.” Always one for political correctness paired with an accent, a long distance romance lasting a year-plus was born.

Die Deutsche Eiche (“the German oak”) is home to a restaurant, hotel and sauna all in one. A former epicenter of gay culture for decades, glass-enclosed wall displays present a brief history lesson evidenced by photos and video of German drag queens fighting for social change. Continue to the back and either check into your room or hit a buzzer to be let into the sauna, a massive four-story facility complete with locker rooms, showers, mazes, cubicles, movie theatre, Jacuzzi, saunas and steam room. The hotel has been renovated and the rooms are very comfortable (if expensive) with tasteful wood floors, double-paned windows, new beds and modern bath fixtures. I prefer rooms in the back, away from the street, for their peaceful urban garden setting.

The restaurant’s charm makes you feel you are in the Bavarian countryside. The food is fair, the service professional, and the draft beer delicious. Jochen, now 46, and I remain friends after all these years and we met for dinner. Besides being a landscape architect, he is also a talented water colorist and has been married for six years to a Frenchman who works for Cartier. When asked about Munich’s current gay culture he said, “I’m not sure that there is one anymore. I think there are these places called ‘subs.’”

Indeed, we walked along Müllerstrasse, once the gay boulevard of Munich. Stopping in front of a sterile-looking building, on the street level was a bar/cafe doing its best not to look like a gay community center. A green neon sign flashed “Sub,” as in subculture. Roughly twenty people under 35, men and women, chatted, drank and played pool. Continuing down Müllerstrasse I saw former LGBT clubs – including one I once saw filled with soap suds for an all-night sex party – now gone, either empty or now simply mainstream businesses.

Having been to Germany so many times now, I’ve seen Munich change. Gärtnerplatz, once the LGBT Ground Zero is now a fashionable neighborhood notable for its roundabout mini-park, historic theatre, trendy eateries and moms pushing strollers. You may also spot German soccer superstars and celebrities lunching at the charming Café Cotidiano, though it helps to have a national with you to appreciate the honor.

Tomorrow’s destination: Cologne (via train from Munich: 5-6 hours)

If You Go – Munich

GETTING THERE

Munich Airport is served by all major airlines, with nonstop flights from a number of U.S. cities. You can also travel by train when already in Europe.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Cocoon Sendlinger Tor, Lindwurmstraße 35; +49 89 59993907; cocoon-hotels.de/?lang=en

Hotel Deutsche Eiche, Reichenbachstraße 13; +49 (89) 23 11 66 – 0; deutsche-eiche.com/The_Hotel

WHERE TO EAT

Deutsche Eiche, traditional Bavarian cuisine; Reichenbachstraße 13; +49 (89) 23 11 66 – 0; deutsche-eiche.com/The_Restaurant

Restaurant Cotidiano, fashionable atmosphere, fresh pastries and teas; Gärtnerplatz 6; +49 (0) 89 2420786-10

WHAT TO DO

Gärtnerplatz, charming circular park and neighborhood in the middle of the city, former center of LGBT Munich; muenchen.de/sehenswuerdigkeiten/orte/120320.htmlDeutsche Eiche Sauna, Reichenbachstraße 13; +49 (89) 23 11 66 – 0; deutsche-eiche.com/The_Bathhouse

Sub, Müllerstr. 14; +49 0 89 8563464-00; subonline.org/english/

Munich Gay Oktoberfest, annual beer-loving event for LGBTs. Plan ahead! gaytravel4u.com/event/munich-gay-oktoberfest/

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A Gay Couple Just Became The First To Adopt In Germany

A gay couple has become the first same-sex pairing to adopt a child in Germany.

The two men from Berlin got married on October 2nd, the day after gay marriage was officially legal in the country, and have now earned the screening to adopt as well.

Michael and Kai Korok are now happy to be the official parents of adopted two-year-old Maximilian.

The two have known the child since birth as they took him in as his foster parents. Then, after Germany legalized gay marriage and gave gay couples equal rights in adoption, they took the legal responsibility over the child.

What took them so long after their marriage? Well, it took the Berlin Kreuzberg district court till October 10th to approve of their application for adoption says the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany.

When asked about the happy occasion, Michael Korok said, “It is a wonderful feeling to be jointly registered as parents.”

In addition, Markus Ulrich from the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany told Gay Star News that everyone is overjoyed for the earning of rights for same-sex couples.

"We are feeling really emotional."

"Especially for people who have fought for 25 years for this moment. It’s quite amazing. It’s super exciting."

"We’re really thankful."

The First Gay Marriages In Germany Are Being Held This Sunday

Image via Youtube

The first gay couples in Germany will begin marrying this weekend, reports say.

Back on June 30th, lawmakers voted on whether the country should legalize marriage equality and same-sex couples were happy to see the vote pass in favor of it.

The law now reads "marriage binds two people of different sexes or the same sex for life,” and that change allowed an estimated 94,000 couples the right to marry each other.

As you can imagine, several of those couples have been waiting for some time now and are ready to join the marriage bandwagon any moment. But of course, these things take time and it has taken till this Sunday for the first few couples to finally be able to do it.

Couples will either be converting their civil partnerships or outright getting legally bonded for the first time come this Sunday in many places like Berlin, Hanover, and other cities.

But, the right to get married isn’t just about getting a wedding of course. It’s about the marital rights that come with it.

Now, these same-sex couples are being given the same rights that straight couples get concerning tax advantages, adoption rights, and much more.

 

 

But, of course, this is a government after all, so things will take some time to go fully through. Government software has still not officially been updated to acknowledge same-sex couples so online paperwork will continue to say “husband” and “wife” until sometime next year.

That said, people don’t mind the minor setbacks as long as they can finally get married.

"Finally, our country is joining the rest of Europe!" said Jörg Steinert, whose the head of a gay rights advocacy group called LSVD.

"We won't be a second-class couple any longer," noted Bode Mende to Neues Deutschland, who will be the first to marry in Berlin along with his partner Karl Kreil.

But as happy as this occasion may be, German citizens shouldn’t become complacent and stop forward motion for LGBTQ rights.

There are still several tasks to be done concerning policies affecting LGBTQ life like reproductive medicine, blood donation, and more.

That said, its good to celebrate the victories, so enjoy your day German people and congratulations.