Friday, March 28, 2014

Cologne: Smaller Towns Make for Bigger... Smiles!

Ready for the night after my (delayed)
Ryanair flight from Malaga.
In searching for a cheap route to Berlin for one of the world's largest tourism conferences – I decided to fly to Cologne since (evil) RyanAir offered an irresistible price (and I've never been). Of course, the flight was delayed 2 hours, cutting my time in the city to just about 9 hours in total. Still, I ventured out in the dark around this big-small town and found (gay) fun on a Friday night.

My first stop after exiting the central train station - and taking in the incredible views of the Dom - (naturally) was for a beer. I confirmed that, yes, I could legally traverse the city with my open bottle – of course, it's Germany! In Europe, beer is like a soft drink - as it should be. I set out with my Reissdorf Kölsch towards the gay area around Rudolfplatz and the main bar street, Schaafenstrasse.

Die Mumu mystery elixor   
First, I nearly collided with drunk gays visiting from Austria outside of Ex-Corner - both Austrians & Germans can be pretty direct; I'm not sure we shared a language, but before too long we shared saliva! Ex-Corner seemed like a relaxed, neighborhood crowd of all types. We walked together over to Die Mumu - definitely more hip and younger. Later on I hit up Max Bar which proved to be twink-land – with teenagers running in packs and of course suave daddies trying to make “conversation” with them. I enjoyed – but for (slightly) more mature 20-30s gay boys Mumu is the main spot - plus they even serve a self-labeled mystery drink! It's difficult to imagine half a million LGBT people crowding into the city for the major gay festivals – these all seem to be quite small venues – but that makes for still fun quieter nights like this particular Friday, post-Carnival weekend.
The Cologne Cathedral outside of the
Central Train Station

Because of my 6am flight, I made nearby Phoenix Sauna my resting stop at 2am – so I could at least have a shower. My experience was sadly sub-par, likely because the gay boys were at disco Clip or another party. Thus, there were few people around to chat with and to make it worse the staff proved to be rude (though you don't expect much from sauna staff, right?). Furthermore, the place appeared strangely two-sided with a (very boring) spa on the top floor, complete with palm-tree-adorned frosted glass, fresh cedar paneling and soothing music – Of course, perfect for my purposes as a late night rest-stop – but it just didn’t match with the dark grimy cabins and mazes for cruising on the floor below. And the jaccuzzi water was cold! I took a cat nap on a lounge chair and enjoyed the Braveheart soundtrack in the dry sauna. Vaguely relaxing – it brought back wholesome childhood memories but felt strange while toweled older gentlemen drilled holes into me with their eyes...

I'm definitely coming back to Cologne to stay longer, make friends and play tourist. Just taking in the incredible Cathedral is worth the trip - and maybe next time it will not have this scaffolding-pimple up top! And of course the guys in this friendlier but smaller-town scene appear always ready to make you feel welcome. Perhaps for Carnival or CSD (German Pride), I'll come back to see about what other trouble I can get into!

Even Google Maps caught this gay (with his clipboard?) outside of Ex-Corner!

View Gay Cologne (Köln) Map 2014 in a larger map

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