Twenty Years After the Wall

Six days before his 2001 election as Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit told voters, "I'm gay and that's a good thing." Eight years later and as popular as ever, the out politician takes Advocate on a tour of his Berlin.




You famously outed yourself in 2001. How has that decision impacted your career?My personal and political friends had known for a long time that I was gay, but [as] I was about to take on a major political office, I didn't want to risk a forced outing by the mass media. I wanted to take the offensive, not least in order to maintain some control with regard to the media and to protect my own privacy. This decision was part of an efficient strategy to strengthen my credibility as a politician and it was the right decision; that is my experience.

When visiting Berlin, where are the best neighborhoods to meet LGBT locals? The Nollendorf area in Schöneberg and, in the eastern part of the city, Prenzlauer Berg. My suggestion would be that you go to one of these areas and just wander around and let yourself discover the city and its people.

What are your top three recommendations for LGBT visitors to the city -- the places that you would take your gay or lesbian friends. I would think in terms of three categories: culture, shopping, and nightlife. You could start out with a visit to the Schwules Museum (Gay and Lesbian Museum) in Kreuzberg, then head off to Berlin's shopping streets -- department store KaDeWe is an absolute must! -- and, finally, make your way to Schöneberg, as mentioned above. Around Nollendorfplatz there are lots of bars and restaurants where the gay community also likes to get together. But Berlin has a lot more to offer too. Great places to browse and shop include the trendy shops on and around Münzstrasse in Mitte and, of course, Kollwitzplatz.

Where is your favorite place to unwind in the city? I like to relax by playing golf just outside the city. The surrounding countryside is one of the things that makes Berlin so fascinating. On the weekend, Berliners like to go by car or [the S-Bahn ] to the countryside, where they have lots of relaxing options along lakes and rivers, in the woods, and on day trips offering nature and culture alike. And in the summer, some are willing to make an even longer drive to, for instance, the beaches on the Baltic Sea islands of Rügen and Usedom.

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