By Danny DeVegan III

Day 1: Arrival in Berlin

Danny DeVegan III

I arrive at Berlin Hauptbahnhof via train from the Netherlands. The station is bustling—clearly, this is a city that never stops. Grabbing my bag, I catch a taxi to Hotel Oderberger.

The hotel is welcoming and the check-in is quick. The staff don’t bat an eye at my tattoos or outfit, confirming Berlin’s reputation for inclusivity. My room is a comfortable mix of modern and classic Berlin style, nothing too fancy but definitely clean and functional.

I open my laptop to jot down some initial thoughts. Berlin seems promising for someone like me: a vegan invested in LGBTQ+ advocacy and art. My to-do list already includes exploring diverse neighborhoods like Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

As I look out the window, the setting sun colors the sky, and I feel ready to dive into what Berlin has to offer. Laptop closed, it’s time to get some rest for the adventures ahead.

Day 2: Morning Coffee & Queer Art

My day kicks off early, before the city fully awakens, at Goodies, located in Friedrichshain. I settle in with a cup of ethically-sourced coffee and a vegan croissant, and immediately, the atmosphere envelops me with a sense of belonging. It’s the kind of place where the barista not only knows your coffee order but also your preferred type of plant-based milk—a testament to the tight-knit, conscious community that gathers here.

With caffeine and ethical eats fueling my system, I head to Schwules Museum, a space dedicated to LGBTQ+ art and history. The museum offers a profound look into the queer world, one painting and photograph at a time. As I move from one exhibition to another, my heart sways between elation and melancholy, feeling the raw emotions captured by artists who dared to be themselves in a world not always ready for them. My soul feels both heavy and light—heavy with the stories I’ve absorbed and light with the realization of how art can bridge gaps between worlds.

As evening approaches, I make my way to Betahaus, a co-working and community space in Kreuzberg that often hosts LGBTQ+ events. The evening is dedicated to a ‘Queer Story Night,’ where individuals share personal anecdotes, challenges, and victories. The air tingles with vulnerability and courage, and as I listen to each storyteller, I jot down snippets in my journal—mental snapshots I want to treasure forever.

So, as Day 2 comes to an end, I marvel at Berlin’s ability to weave together the disparate threads of my identity—vegan, artist, and LGBTQ+ advocate—into a single, unforgettable tapestry. Each place I visit and each person I encounter adds a new layer of texture to my Berlin experience, making me eager for the tapestry to unfurl further.

Day 3: Thrift Shopping & Nightlife

Morning starts with a journey to HUMANA Secondhand & Vintage, a well-known thrift shop that prides itself on sustainable fashion. The vibe inside is retro, with a dash of counterculture. The racks are teeming with a variety of styles, from 70s vintage tees to modern chic. It’s a treasure trove for someone like me who values ethical shopping. With each item I pick up, I’m reminded of the endless possibilities for reinvention—both in fashion and in life.

For the afternoon, I make my way to Roses Bar, an iconic LGBTQ+ hangout in Kreuzberg. The interior is a decadent blend of velvet and kitsch, making it feel like a nostalgic living room. As I sip on a vegan cocktail, I chat with a few locals. They share their thoughts on Berlin’s evolving queer scene and give me a few pointers on other inclusive spots to check out. The atmosphere is warm and liberating, confirming my sense that Berlin’s nightlife has an inherently inclusive soul.

As dusk settles, it’s time for something edgier. My next stop is ://about blank, an underground club renowned for its alternative music and liberated atmosphere. Situated in an unassuming building, its raw, industrial aesthetics scream Berlin counterculture. The bass from the techno music reverberates as I step in, and the crowd—diverse in gender, style, and orientation—is already lost in the rhythm. The venue also places a high emphasis on consent and personal space, ensuring a safer environment for everyone.

Illustration By Danny DeVegan

Day 4: History & Sunset Moments

My morning begins with a trip to the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, located in Tiergarten. Standing before the austere monument, I feel a wave of reverence. This space serves as a powerful reminder of the struggles the LGBTQ+ community has faced and the need for ongoing activism. I take a moment to reflect, feeling the weight of history and the importance of today’s freedoms.

For the afternoon, I head over to Volkspark Friedrichshain, a popular park that is also queer-friendly. Despite its mainstream appeal, the park offers a sanctuary of inclusivity. Families picnic beside groups of friends who represent every color of the LGBTQ+ rainbow. I take a leisurely walk, appreciating the easy-going atmosphere, and perhaps strike up a conversation with locals who share some of the park’s lesser-known gems.

As evening approaches, I make my way to Klunkerkranich, a rooftop bar nestled atop a parking garage in Neukölln. Though not exclusively LGBTQ+, the venue’s inclusive vibe and breathtaking views make it a must-visit. I order a vegan cocktail and find a spot just in time to catch the sun dipping below the skyline. Berlin’s hues of orange, pink, and gold reflect the city’s diverse tapestry, and I can’t help but feel a sense of unity in this moment.

Day 5: Vegan Delights & Street Performances

The morning kicks off at Café Vux, a renowned vegan café located in the Neukölln district. The café exudes a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. I opt for a vegan scramble and a cappuccino made with oat milk—simple, yet delicious. The café’s commitment to sustainability, from their food choices to their eco-friendly packaging, aligns seamlessly with my own principles.

Energized, I join a street art tour around midday. Berlin’s walls serve as enormous canvases, teeming with political statements, intricate designs, and splashes of sheer creativity. The tour guide, well-versed in the city’s art scene, shares insights into the artworks, some of which echo LGBTQ+ and environmental themes. I find myself particularly intrigued by the mural of a drag queen in vibrant colors, a daring statement against social norms.

As evening falls, I head to Kreuzberg, a district known for its vivacious street culture. Here, the sidewalks come alive with an array of street performances. Musicians strum guitars, beatboxers showcase their skill, and there’s even a drag performer lip-syncing to empowering anthems. Each performance is like a piece of Berlin—raw, untamed, and incredibly authentic.

Today encapsulates what I adore about Berlin: it’s a place that lets you eat, explore, and entertain according to your values. Breakfast at Café Vux feeds not just my body, but also my soul. The street art tour is an aesthetic delight that nudges my thoughts, and the evening in Kreuzberg dances to the city’s many rhythms. Together, they compose yet another colorful day in this vibrant metropolis.

Day 6: Activism & Chill

My day starts with a visit to Schwulenberatung Berlin, a local LGBTQ+ organization providing a variety of services and advocacy initiatives. I volunteer for a couple of hours, helping to sort donations and chatting with some of the organization’s stalwart advocates. The work is both humbling and energizing, reinforcing my belief in grassroots activism.

For the afternoon, I transition from advocacy to relaxation. I choose to unwind at Mauerpark, an iconic urban park known for its inclusive atmosphere. Armed with a good book and my reusable water bottle, I find a quiet corner to just be. Couples, families, and solo wanderers like myself seem to coexist in this communal sanctuary, and the afternoon drifts by in a peaceful haze.

As evening sets in, I decide on a visit to Café Morgenrot, a low-key, queer-friendly café situated in Prenzlauer Berg. The café offers a range of vegan options and maintains a pay-what-you-want policy on certain days, aligning with my frugal travel style. The space feels welcoming and down-to-earth; a chalkboard advertises community events, and the clientele is a mixed bag of locals, expats, and curious wanderers like me.

Day 7: Off-the-Grid Explorations

Having acclimated to Berlin’s unique vibe, I opt for a change and head to Daluma in the Mitte district. The café’s focus on sustainable, plant-based options instantly puts me at ease. The aroma of fresh organic ingredients fills the air as I order a smoothie bowl and a matcha latte. Staff members, warm and attentive, add to the café’s inviting atmosphere. As I savor the natural flavors, I can’t help but notice the city’s morning energy through the large glass windows. It’s a different setting, but one that similarly captures Berlin’s eclectic blend of modern ethos and down-to-earth authenticity.

Fueled and ready, I embark on a day trip to Rixdorf, an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood in Neukölln. It’s a charming area with a village-like feel, complete with cobblestone streets and historic buildings. I spend a few hours wandering through local shops that showcase handmade crafts and second-hand treasures. Rixdorf feels like stepping back in time, a quiet nook in the otherwise bustling Berlin.

As night falls, I venture to a secret event I stumbled upon on Meetup. It’s an underground film screening for LGBTQ+ cinema, held at an undisclosed location that’s revealed only to those who RSVP. The event is an intimate gathering, and the film—about the early days of LGBTQ+ activism—is poignant and inspiring. This clandestine experience wraps up my day with a sense of mystery and community that is quintessentially Berlin.

Day 7 is a reminder that exploring less-trodden paths can yield some of the most rewarding experiences. Whether it’s the unassuming charm of Ohlala, the historic allure of Rixdorf, or the hush-hush atmosphere of a secret event, today has been an adventure in uncovering Berlin’s hidden gems.

Day 8: Spoken Word & Socials

I kick off my eighth day in Berlin at Lettrétage, a literary space that hosts an early spoken word event. As a recent aficionado of poetry, I’m fascinated by the performances that range from thought-provoking to deeply emotional. The power of spoken words envelops the room, offering a different kind of morning buzz.

For lunch, I decide on Himmelbeet Café, a community-focused vegan café that uses locally sourced ingredients from their own community garden. The experience resonates with my ethical choices, and I appreciate how it embodies the concept of food as a communal endeavor. The café also doubles as a space for workshops and discussions, adding another layer of community engagement.

As evening approaches, I head to an LGBTQ+ networking event organized by Berlin LGBT+ Tech Week. The atmosphere is lively, filled with professionals, activists, and individuals from various sectors. It’s an enriching environment to make connections and maybe even spark future collaborations. I meet people involved in tech, social justice, and even the arts, making the event a rewarding culmination to a socially fulfilling day.

Today has been a whirlwind of words, community, and connections. Each segment of the day serves as a building block, shaping a fuller understanding of Berlin’s richly textured social fabric. From the poetic expressions in the morning to the communal café experience and finally the professional yet warm atmosphere at the LGBTQ+ event, Day 8 is a mosaic of Berlin’s progressive and inclusive culture.

Day 9: Nature & Dance, Revisited

The morning is spent cycling through the labyrinthine trails of Grunewald Forest, a serene expanse that offers respite from the city’s perpetual motion. Grunewald is a natural sanctuary, a place to breathe deeply and soak in the quiet.

For the afternoon, I’ve prepared a vegan picnic featuring goods from Veganz. Sitting by Grunewald Lake, I revel in the simple pleasure of good food in a beautiful setting.

As night falls, I find myself pulled back to ://about blank. Why return? The club embodies Berlin’s ethos of inclusivity and diversity. The crowd is a potpourri of individuals who coexist in a judgment-free zone, united by a shared love for music. The DJs are top-notch, always pushing the envelope and defying expectations. Each visit feels like a different experience, thanks to the rotating line-ups and themed rooms that keep the vibe ever-changing yet consistently magnetic.

Day 10: Conclusion & Poem

As my Berlin adventure draws to a close, I take a moment to reflect on the kaleidoscope of experiences this city has gifted me. Berlin has lived up to its reputation as a haven for those who challenge norms and seek authentic connections. Whether it was spending reflective mornings in Grunewald Forest, diving into the vegan culinary scene, or immersing myself in LGBTQ+ culture, each day has been a mosaic of different facets of this multifaceted city.

Preparing for my train journey back to the Netherlands, I decide to revisit my favorite spot one last time—Vux, a cozy vegan café that became a sanctuary for me. It encapsulates everything I’ve come to love about Berlin: inclusivity, creativity, and conscious living. As I sip on my almond milk latte, I soak in the ambiance, knowing it’ll be a while before I can return.

And so, I pen down a concluding poem to encapsulate the essence of my Berlin sojourn:

Berlin, you are a canvas, etched with hues of freedom, A sprawling mural where diversity finds its kingdom. From Grunewald’s quiet to ://about blank’s beat, You’re a symphony of contrasts, audaciously sweet. Vegan bites and thrift shop finds, Lives intertwined with open minds. In hidden bars and sunsets grand, You’ve shown me the soul of No Man’s Land. A sanctuary for those who break the mold, Berlin, you’ve made me courageously bold. As I depart for lands well known, I leave a piece of my heart, in Berlin sown.The Ultimate Queer & Vegan Guide to 10 Days in Berlin”

As I pack my bags and make my way to Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, I feel a mix of sadness and gratitude. I’m eager to reunite with Hans and Billy back in Hamburg, but a part of me will always remain in Berlin—a city that taught me the art of embracing complexity in the pursuit of authenticity.

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