I’ve mentioned before, that when we moved house last summer, we knowingly moved in to the heart of Berlin’s ‘Rainbow Quarter’. If you look up our neighbourhood in a guide book, it wouldn’t strike you as being typically popular with families. It has been one of the centres of Berlin’s gay scene since the 1920s, and is known for its countless gay clubs and venues. It’s also famous for being host to Europe’s largest LGBT* street festival. But when I asked other expat parents for feedback on the different areas we were considering, the almost unanimous recommendation was to move here!
It’s a fantastic area for families. There are several amazing play parks within walking distance of our house (the boys particularly loves the Wild West themed one), lots of little cafes, restaurants and shops — including two award winning ice cream parlours! — a farmer’s market, a park for riding bikes. And I love that the boys get to grow up in such a colourful neighbourhood. It’s completely normal for them to see two men holding hands, taking their dog for a walk, and I like that. They’re more interested in whether they can pat the dog!
So, going back to the street festival I mentioned. It took place this weekend, for the 24th time – with this year’s motto being ‘Equal Rights for the Unequal’ – and when someone is having a street party right on your doorstep, it would be rude not to join in! And we were rewarded with glorious sunshine too.
With around 350,000 visitors from all over the world expected, we knew it would get mighty busy, so we headed there around noon just after it opened and could easily move around from stall to stall with the stroller and without losing anyone. When we made our way back around 3pm, we had a bit of a tight spot in a couple of places, so just in case you are thinking of checking it out next year, I’d recommend going before 3pm at the latest.
The mix of stalls was as colourful as you might imagine. Everything was represented, from a wide range of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender projects, groups and organisations, to political parties, health insurers, car rental agencies, teachers unions, public transport providers, museums, games and sports clubs, health and wellness providers, film, media, travel, tourism, local shops and hotels – you name it! And, of course, there were plenty of food and drink stalls too, including a stall with gluten free crepes. Yay!
The tagline to this year’s theme was ‘we’re all the same from behind’ so there were quite a few bottoms on display, and with the range of specialist shops and clubs being presented, there were a couple of other NSFW – and probably not appropriate for kids – moments, but the boys can’t read yet and they didn’t bat an eyelid at the phallic shaped ice lollies or the gentleman clad from top to toe in a rubber dog costume outside one of the fetish stores. They just thought it was funny when the ‘dog’ waved at them!
But the majority of it was family friendly – some stalls even had activities specifically for kids on offer, from colouring in sheets to badge making – and we came away with a bag full of sweeties, stickers, armbands, sunglasses and other prizes, as well as around a dozen balloons. The boys were thrilled! We didn’t stay long enough to see any of the stage performances, but the roving Bavarian ‘Schuhplattler’ dancers (or ‘Queerplattler’, as they were calling themselves) were a highlight with the boys.
We finished off the afternoon in our back yard, enjoying a couple of cocktails while the boys played in the sand pit. And before we went back in side, we just had to nip out front and return the cups. Sometimes it’s quite handy having a street party right on your doorstep.