Brit in Berlin: The village park

By Camilla Leathem, PQ Monthly

Ever wondered where you can meet all of the lesbians you’ve ever met before in your life in one small space? If you live in Berlin, the answer is in Volkspark Friedrichshain on the third weekend of August. Once a year, the open-air cinema in the Volkspark hosts the “LesBiGay Park Party,” whereby we got carried away with the “party” element of the title and had tanked up on quite a substantial amount of high percentage “party drinks” before we realised that this was more of a family affair, and that nobody was cashing in on the “party” aspect of it quite as much as we were. (Sorry, what? 4 p.m. is a perfectly acceptable time to consume alcohol!).

An amphitheatre set-up with tiered extended wooden benches and a large stage are surrounded by large areas of lawn so green and juicy we initially thought it was fake. So you can choose to mingle and park yourself next to the least offensive-looking strangers on the benches and get a sore behind, or you can seek out a sunbathing spot at the top of the grassy mound (HILL mound) and people-watch from above.

Whoever the DJ for the first hour of the afternoon was, she must have been some kind of pop genius (okay I do believe it was actually a “he”), as she kept banging out the kind of tunes that make you punch the air with excitement and blurt out “yesssss” in a guttural voice. Not that it was really a dancing affair. The only person really rocking her thing was a 3-year-old child, who had either been watching too many Beyonce videos, or whose mother advocates sexual discovery and expression from a young age.

So what were the Germans doing if they weren’t dancing? Eating sausages. This is no lie. The queue for the women’s toilets was shorter than the queue at the sausage stand. Two hours in and it was going down in my books as a thoroughly enjoyable, family-friendly event with a rare balance of men and women. The sun was shining, the music was good, the atmosphere was congenial, and the sausages just kept on coming.

And then the park really begins to fill up. You can’t see the grass anymore for LesBiGays, dogs, balloons, children, beer bottles; you’re sitting back, people-watching in the large and seemingly anonymous crowd. And then you start to realise that you know more people there than just the friends you are with. In fact, you realise that you seem know more people there than you don’t know. The woman you went on a date with last year who insisted on showing you the ginormous revolting scab on her leg even though you insisted that that wouldn’t be necessary; the two shy women who own the lesbian bar down the road who once upon a time starting stripping on the bar; the two transvestite nuns who got so drunk that they had to leave the awards show you were working at before the show had even started; the woman you once stalked on Facebook because she is the ex-girlfriend of someone you once had a crush on …

Berlin, the lesbian village. I’d heard it many a time before, but had refused to believe it, thinking that this city was a frustrating combination of too many lesbians and yet too few of the “right kind” of lesbian (from a purely egocentric perspective). I can now confirm it (although I assume that lesbians can make a village out of any major city). And I’ll probably belong to those lesbians who tut and roll their eyes and bewail the fact that Berlin is such a village for us downtrodden and disheartened dykes. But secretly I’ll feel a little bit proud of my first village experience. Ssshhh.

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.