Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pride Day Berlin (July 22)

Well, it's actually called Christopher Street Day Parade here, the Berlin counterpart to Christopher Street West in Los Angeles, all of which take their cue from Stonewall in New York, but by any name it's still Pride Day.

The weather for it is wonderful, by the way; it's the coolest I've been since I left Prague. Temperatures in the mid to upper 80s F.

As the date for my return to the U.S. draws near, I've started to worry about all the work waiting for me back in Long Beach. In fact, I had a brief panic attack at 4 am, but managed to convince myself to fall back asleep. I'm going to try to put off thinking about as long as possible.

After breakfast I mailed my last postcards and headed to the film museum. This is in Potsdamer Platz and traces the history of German cinema from 1895 to the present. Most of the displays are on pre-Nazi cinema, with lots of material on the making of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the films of Murnau and Fritz Lang, but the real heart of the museum is Marlene Dietrich. There's virtually a shrine to her, with dresses, traveling items, diary entries, and a variety of short clips and images.

I grabbed a quick sandwich at Zoo Station, and then headed up to the Bröhan Museum, right across the street from Schoß Charlottenburg. This was a former private collection devoted to art nouveau and jugendstil. At first I thought it wasn't that interesting, but as I went further I was impressed by several of the pieces. Willy Jaeckel, for example, had some interesting works, though none were included in the postcards in the gift shop. (Here's an example of one painting of his: ). One of his more striking paintings, called simply "Paar", showed two naked figures, both apparently male, embracing.

From there I headed to Wittenburg Platz to catch the parade. I followed it all the way from there as it wound its way through Schönberg to the Brandenburg Tor and the Tiergarten, ending at the Siegesäule, Imperial Germany's statue honoring the wars it won (in the 19th century, obviously). All together, this was a loop that took nearly four hours. But with the cooler temperatures, a liter and a half of water, and carefully staying on the shady side of the street, I did alright.

I noticed some differences and similarities with other pride parades I've been to. It was much less political than either DC or New York; there were a few anti-AIDS and anti-defamation groups, and some political parties represented, but there was little in the way of community organizations that really define pride parades in the States. Even LA is more political than Berlin, and LA really isn't that political at all.

As usual, the clubs have the biggest floats which are covered with dancers. The music was all the classics from ABBA to Madonna to the Village People, with some Tarkan thrown in. I was really surprised when I heard "Ma Baker," a song I remember from my summer camp. This was a huge dance hit in Europe and Israel in the 1977, but got virtually no air play in the U.S. (To find out more about this song, check out the wikipedia entry: ). I hadn't heard it in years.

One major difference I noticed with American pride parades didn't hit me until the end when I realized I hadn't seen the religious right counterdemonstration. As far as I could tell, there wasn't any. There were, however, a few floats making reference to the recent violence in Poland directed against gay rights groups there, as well as persecution in Central America, Iran, and Russia. Just a few days ago, the paper had an article referring to a speech made by one of the twins governing Poland (the President and the Prime Minister are twin brothers), denouncing EU values -- such as equal rights for gays and lesbians -- that he thinks conflicts with Poland's traditional values. It would seem to me that intolerance, violence, and persecution are not values to be particularly proud of.

By the time I reached the Siegessäule in the Tiergarten, I was pretty tired. I still had a half hour walk to get back to Zoo Station, so I took some rest stops at benches along the walk. In the shade of the trees, the park and city are quite pleasant. I only wish I could have had this weather for my entire stay here, instead of just at the end.

Tomorrow I'm heading to the southwest of the city to visit the mansion in Wannsee where the conference was held in January 1942, and then stop off at the Brücke museum on my way back. Then I need to pick up my train ticket for Frankfurt for Monday.

I can't believe my trip is nearly at an end. Part of me can't wait to get back to air conditioning and really clean clothes (as opposed to clothes that have been washed in the sink for two months). Wearing different clothes would also be nice, as would sleeping in my own bed. On the other hand, it's been so long since I was out of the U.S., part of me fears that it will be another 7 years before I come back (though I'm hoping for next summer).

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