Cologne isn't the prettiest of cities but it has a rich history with lots of Roman stuff still being unearthed from the construction site of the new underground tram line, including beautiful mosaics and shrines.
The city got its name from the Romans: Colonia Agrippina, the colony of Agrippina.
I'm not sure whether the Cologne people appreciate being founded and
dedicated to the second wife of Emperor Claudius, whom she eventually
murdered. But it may account for the rather freewheeling and fun-loving
spirit that pervades the city. It's the centre of the annual Carnival
festivities in the Rhineland and the nightlife was ravishingly good: the
bars and clubs stay open very late and public transport, which allows
you to take a beer on the tram, runs all night on the weekend.
I met up with Charles at a central bar, called Cox,
a bar for "bears and butch men", which summed us up pretty much. It was
full of black leather clad German blokes of all sizes and hair colours.
Charles had already started chatting to a local, and soon we got a few
guys joining in. I marveled at the sheer internationalism of the gay
scene: here we were, a Belgian living in New Zealand, an American living
in Denmark, an Irishman living in Spain and a Kuwaiti visiting his
German boyfriend. If the world was run by gay men there would not be any
After a few beers it was on to a cruise club across the road,
which was also owned by the Cox bar people, and they named it Boners (no
website). It has a large bar and backroom and a pretty broad dress
code, including nothing. They run a great system of charging: you don't
pay to get in but you have to buy two drinks or be charged an equivalent
amount when you leave. It's very popular but not too crowded as to be
stifling. The men seemed to me pretty sociable and keen to get it on
with you. After making a lot of new friends in very dark corners we
staggered home at 5am on the tram to our hostel.
I went to one sauna in Cologne, the appropriately named Badehaus
(or Bath House), a massive complex conceived as a Roman villa, with a
swimming pool between both ends of the complex. Both ends are also
connected by an underground area where there is a maze and a steamroom
and a beautifully massive spa pool complete with Roman-style mosaic. On
the ground floors are a winebar, massage rooms and Finnish sauna.
Upstairs are resting cubicles. Its sheer size warrants the need for a
lot of punters to attend before it feels cozy, and you do walk enormous
distances. There are no video rooms as such, only tiny seating areas
around video monitors, which is a negative point. It's very much a place
for the pretty people although there were men of all ages there. On the
hour, one of the attendants bangs a gong summoning everybody to the
sauna box where he proceeds with wafting around a large towel so
everybody gets throughly scorched by the heat. I had experienced this
service before in the Black Forest, and it is not for the faint of heart. The entry price of 19 euros is also heart-stopping!
is a small provincial city on the Rhine River with a long history too.
It's rather pretty with its narrow pedestrianised city centre streets,
university and Beethoven culture. And it's incredibly rich too by
looking at just one indicator: it has two (two!) Bang & Olufsen
shops. There isn't an incredible lot gay-wise. A local neighbourhood
pub called Bobo's in the Jozefstrasse. A nice enough venue, very
sociable and full of people who know each other. Great beer too, of
Around the corner from Bobo's is the sex cinema, in a
basement attached to a groundfloor sex shop on Berliner Freiheit (there
is a back entrance for all of you who don't want to be seen entering a
sex shop on the main thoroughfare). It's a rather spartan affair in two
underground rooms, one for hetero and one for homo movies, but there was
a lot of traffic in between (perhaps it is true there are a lot of
bisexuals in the world!). Enjoying the films is an arduous affair: the
benches are wooden only, so bring a cushion. There is a backroom in the
homo section. It costs €8 for an all day pass and it does have the
feel of a dayroom for many men whose wives had gone shopping.