During my time here in Germany, I’d been hearing stories of cruising in the famous Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest inner-city park. In many ways it was their Central Park: 210 hectares of land (85 more hectares than London’s Hyde Park). I’d been speaking to some native Berliners for a few weeks about the potential cruising spot, but they informed me the city had trimmed the brushes in the park so that gay men could no longer cruise there. I found this municipal gesture offensive — to go to such lengths to assault this part of queer culture. I now imagined the park being full of families and heterosexual couples, spraying their normative agenda all over the grass like foul pesticide. No, I couldn’t accept that this would happen in a city like Berlin. Not Berlin!
There were some outdated posts online about where the cruising occured. According to a forum, you get off at the Tiergarten S-Bahn station and walk down the main street, Straße des 17 Juni, toward the Victory Column. About halfway down you go south into the park to a lake which is the supposed cruising area.
I decided to check it out on a Sunday afternoon. I passed several men on their own, and wondered whether they were there for the same reason as myself. I looked deep into each of their eyes, like we were part of some secret society and waiting for a sign of acknowledgment. It was less effective than I hoped.
I assumed that the lake mentioned in the posting was Neuer See (“New Lake”), which was the only one in that part of the park according to my iPhone map. I soon found this lake and gazed out. There were canoes drifting in the reflection of the sun and couples sitting in the clearings all along the water, sunbathing. And yes, any bushes around the lake were thin, trimmed and unsuitable for cruising.
I went back up to Straße des 17 Juni, exiting the park and continuing down the street to the Victory Column. There was greenery all around the monument — I couldn’t believe that that there wasn’t a single area for cruising in all that. Then I noticed a large map at the southwest entrance of the park. It showed unmarked lake, east of Neuer See, which wasn’t on my iPhone map. (I vowed to only use Google Maps from then on.)
I went back into the park and followed the trail toward this other lake. When I arrived, I noticed an inconspicuous path at the top, lined with men standing about. Were all the stories true? My heart started pounding. Could this be the holy grail? I chased that feeling into the bushes, and deep inside I found several men with their pants down, kissing one another while a guy gave them alternating blowjobs. There were about five other men around them watching, silently, as though they were observing a fine piece of art. Like art, they wouldn’t dare touch. It was like I’d gone back in time, and all I could think about was how grateful I was to have stumbled upon this — a significant piece of my queer culture.
Curious to see the other happenings around the lake, I backtracked to the main trail and followed it south. At one point I looked back and could see that orgy through the bushes from the trail. They had trimmed the bushes, yes,, but maybe that only added a thrill of voyeurism? Trimmed bushes or not, these men weren’t going to stop for the sake of the families, I suppose.
I passed a bench full of men facing the lake. There was no way that they couldn’t see the orgy from where they were sitting. Then it occurred to me that they were probably cruising, too. Not only that, but across from that bench was another path into the bushes with even more men coming and going.
Unbelievable, I thought with a smile. I entered and followed the narrow pathway along the lake. There were about 15 other men in there with wandering eyes, but no sex to speak of. They were hungry for it though; waiting for it. You could tell.
I decided to stand on the path and cruise too. From where I was, I could see families through the bushes passing by. All they had to do was look over and they could see exactly what was going on, especially where the orgy was happening. It made me feel strongly content to know that this world still exists in the city, where sex like this isn’t hidden away like some dirty thing. Not like how we treat sex in North America.
And so began my affair with Berlin. I was in love.