What to bring
Packing for a trip to Berlin is not much different than what I pack for other cities around the world. However, with Berlin I am vigilant about bringing just a few additional items. I also recommend these items for Amsterdam, Manheim, Hamburg, and a few other similar cities with active bar scenes. None of these items are required, but having them helps me keep my options open for a flexible visit while always being able to fit in.
Please remember, that I am preparing you for a bar hopping or sex club visit. I am sure dance club venues have different requirements.
- Regular blue collar wear: This sounds obvious, but what I am really suggesting is making sure you bring clothing other than business wear, or high designer wear. A few party venues, especially in Berlin, will refuse you entry based on what you are wearing. These venues are not looking for people to be in full leather regalia or some sort of butch drag, but they do demand a certain degree of manliness. Such clothing will also help you avoid feeling out-of-place.As a side note and nothing to do with Berlin, in general I always recommend Americans traveling outside the USA to wear darker, more subdued clothing. Jeans, a cool black or dark jacket, darker t-shirts, etc. Try to stay away from the bright colors. Americans are usually easy to identify by their dress, and when I travel I feel better blending in.
- Boots or leather shoes: My previous recommendation is especially true of shoes. When heading out for a night of bar hopping, avoid open shoes, such as sandals. If you think you are going to go to a sex club then absolutely bring boots or leather shoes. Once I had to throw away a perfectly good pair jogging sneakers after a visit to a club because I decided they could never been sanitized enough to the point where I felt comfortable packing them into my gym bag. In addition, leather shoes will protect your feet from whatever may be lurking on the floor. Make sure they have good soles because I’ve been to clubs where the floors and stairs get pretty slippery.
- Leather Vest or Harness: I always bring something of leather. For me it is usually a harness or leather vest. Both are easy to pack and don’t take up much room in your luggage. Certain bars will not let you in unless you are wearing leather. You don’t need to be in full leather regalia, but some venues require something leather or rubber, other than shoes or belt. I am not at all into leather, but since I don’t look bad in a harness I have made the harness my travel leather of choice.I remember once being on a standard business trip to Amsterdam, and while there I found out there was a party I wanted to explore. Unfortunately the entrance required wearing something leather. I had to make an unexpected last minute run to the nearest leather wear store and plunk down a bunch of money for vest. If you think buying leather in the USA is expensive, then wait till you visit a leather shop in Europe.During my most recent trip to Berlin the door of a club right down the street of my hotel had the following sign posted on the door stating requirements for entrance on Friday and Saturday nights:Ab Sofort Gilt:
Dresscode Strictly Enforced!!!
Leder, Gummi, Uniform, Skin
For those of you that do not know, ‘leder’ is ‘leather’, and ‘gummi’ is rubber. Also, most times ‘skin’ can mean it is sufficient be shirtless upon entering, but years ago I was in a bar in Paris where ‘skin’ meant down to the underwear. Wow… I remember that being a great night.
Sometimes you will also see the terms ‘sport wear’ and ‘western wear’.
- Gym wear, sportswear, jock strap, cool underwear. Certain parties result in guys getting down to the bare essentials, so I always bring or wear a jock strap. Gym shorts or cool underwear are also on my list of items to pack. Boxer shorts look out of place, but gym shorts are common.In some venues you will see guys in soccer outfits. The Europeans seem love this. So if this is your thing, feel free to pack sneakers, tube socks, soccer shorts, and a team shirt.
- Leather Wristband: I always bring a leather wristband that has a zipper pocket on the inside which I use for a money stash. You can usually buy something like this at your local leather wear shop.This recommendation will become clearer when I describe my most recent Friday and Saturday nights in Berlin. The basis of this recommendation is to have a comfortable place to stash some cash in the event you are not in a position to carry your wallet. In addition, the right leather wristband around your forearm can look pretty cool.
- Money Clip: I also recommend a money / identification clip or small billfold. Where ever you travel in the world I recommend shedding the big fat wallet full of your id, credit cards, American money, medical cards, CVS cards, your BJ membership, etc. I don’t understand the need for a fat wallet in the USA, and I certainly recommend you avoid such a bulge in your pocket when you travel to a foreign country.
- Money: When going out in a foreign city always, always, always make sure you have a hidden stash of cash on your person of more than enough money for the bar tab and a taxi ride home. You never know. You could hookup with someone whose apartment is on the edge of the city. You could leave a bar late at night and become disoriented and lost. The subways might stop running at midnight. The bar might not be in a safe neighborhood. You might have your jacket stolen. It may start to snow or thunderstorm. The scenarios are endless, and I’ve experienced many of them.I strongly suggest you always have enough money for a quick solution, such as a taxi ride back to your hotel. I have gladly choked on some taxi fares, because in the long term, the money spent is nothing compared to simple and safe ending to an adventurous night out.
What to leave at home
When traveling there are just a few things I would recommend you leave at home. I recommend this list especially for cities like Berlin.
- Attitude: I am not saying only Americans gays are guilty of this. Posturing with a superior attitude happens all around the world. But to me, it seems American gays, especially in America’s gay Meccas, have made attitude and posturing a primary part of their culture. When traveling, leave the attitude at home. There is no need to posture at the bars like you may normally do. You are on vacation, and if you present too much attitude you are only hurting yourself by not allowing yourself to absorb the full experience of visiting the gay scene of a foreign country.
- When you go out, be friendly. Go out of your way to meet people and talk to people. Don’t worry about the language. Many people will speak enough English, and sex is a universal language.
- Cologne: Some venues and parties around the world explicitly request on their websites not to wear cologne. I never quite understood the need for a man to wear cologne, so I totally agree with the bars when they make this request. I prefer my men to smell like men.
Tomorrow: The Fun Stuff