Brit in Berlin: My first — and possibly last — Motzstraßenfest

By Camilla Leathem, PQ Monthly


Motzstraßenfest (Motz Street LGBTQ Party): They say it’s a pre-Pride party to give you a taste of what’s to come in the real thing. They lie.

The thing you have to know about the buzzing city of Berlin is that not the whole city buzzes. Like most major cities, Berlin consists of a series of districts: Central Berlin (Berlin-Mitte), the hip East (Berlin-Friedrichshain), the hip South East (Berlin-Kreuzberg), the posh West (Berlin-Charlottenburg), and the gay South West (Berlin-Schöneberg), among others. It is a truth generally acknowledged that anyone who’s anyone does not participate in events in Central Berlin or in the posh western district of Charlottenburg: these districts are reserved for tourists and people who don’t know any better.

The same is true for the main Gay Pride party in central Berlin: the parade is average, the atmosphere is average, the crowd is … you get the idea). If you really want a Pride party with bite in this city, head to the alternative Kreuzberg Pride; the music is better and louder, the atmosphere is electric, and the crowd is certainly less average, and generally more naked.

The gay district of Schöneberg is a borderline case. It borders the trendy Kreuzberg to the east, and the posh Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf to the north. As a Motzstraßenfest-virgin, I anticipated that the Motzstraßenfest could therefore go either way. As a post-Motzstraßenfest non-virgin, I can confirm that it went the wrong way. Motzstraßenfest is a commercialised museum for political parties, bars, and clubs. The two-day party occupies four streets and hosts four themed stages: the Main Stage, the Queer Media Stage, a stage domianted by a radio channel, and the Women’s Stage.

Destination Women’s Stage: the journey. As women, we first had to battle our way past the other three stages to reach the Women’s Stage in a far corner of the most distant street from the official entrance. On our way, we stopped for all of 12 seconds to hear an (unfortunately) sober middle-aged German man singing Ronan Keating karaoke.

We quickly moved on to be bombarded with leaflets for a (men’s) S&M club. When we rolled our eyes and gave the distributor in question a questioning look, he shrugged apologetically and tried to make up for the lack of women’s S&M clubs by promoting a new morning event in a club around the corner — “Coffee, Cake, and Sex.” Pay 5 Euro and get a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and, if you want it, a slithering of sex. This sounds suspiciously like a former cafe in London’s Covent Garden — “Coffee, Cake, and Kink.” Except for the latter offers both men and women an array of delightful sex toys to investigate over coffee and raspberry cheesecake, whereas the Berlin version offers mainly men an array of delightful chains and leather with which to bind the coffee-drinking victim of their choice.

The battle past the male-orientated promotion stands was epic. We only stopped to really listen at a stand campaigning against racism among dogs. Yes.

Destination Women’s Stage: the arrival. Ecstatic to have glimpsed the banner confirming our arrival at the Women’s Stage, we grabbed a caipihrinha and sat down to do some people watching. We soon began to feel very self-conscious; wherever we turned, hoards of lesbians who all buy their clothes in the same camping shop, who all get their hair cut by the same hairdresser, and who have all not seen mascara or a compact since 1972. Despair.

What a relief, then, when a friend of mine who had clearly had five caipirinhas too many called to say she was round the corner and could she come and hang out with us. We welcomed her with open arms; if the only true entertainment of the day was to be an amusingly inebriated PhD student, then so be it.

Drunky (who must remain anonymous) arrived at our table and we soon made friends with a mother (50) and daughter (13) who live nearby and who have been led to the party by curiosity. I jokingly whisper to Drunky that this is a lesbian couple with a huge age difference, and Drunky goes silent for a good 30 minutes, only to ask after mother-daughter combo leaves, “Are they REALLY a couple?”

And so pre-Gay-Day became Keep-Drunky-Away-From-Any More-Caipirinhas-Day. Normally an unwelcome responsibility, taking care of Drunky was a welcome distraction from the disappointing and male-dominated Motzstraßenfest. Where did all the lesbians go? We shall never know. But horror quickly dissolved into hysterical laughter when our favourite drunken lesbian accidentally added a sudden dash of regurgitated caipirinha to a leather-clad man’s beer.

Until next time: Enjoy your caipirinhas and stick to Kreuzberg.

Camilla Leathem was born in a miniscule seaside town in southwest England, studied English literature and German in London, and is now pursuing a German language PhD in Berlin. Likes: Germany, German, and the Germans, pigs, and secretly analysing people when they’re not looking. Hates: pasta, flat shoes, and techno music.