December in Berlin is cold. The kind of cold that gets into your bones and only substantial quantities of alcohol will draw it out (gluhwein comes with amaretto shots, I learned) I was feeling a little low, partly because of the temperature which meant I mostly wanted to hibernate, but also because I was by myself in a strange city where I didn't really know the language. Being a tourist will always make you feel like an outsider, so I was looking forward to visiting Gargoyle and being more at home. The club itself was smaller than I'd expected, perhaps because I'd thought dance club rather than private members club. It was also a little quiet, there had been an expectation of around 30-40 people but the weather and the closeness to the holidays had reduced the figure to around 15 or so. It was, however, very cosy and welcoming - a bar area with comfy chairs for sitting and chatting, the obligatory smoking room (everyone smokes in Berlin) which came complete with puppy cage and neck holder, presumably for fitting an ash tray device, if you wanted. There was a back room with a beautiful custom made wooden frame of multiple use and a downstairs dungeon area. Small, but perfectly formed and a neat combination of safe, comfortable social space with playrooms. There were also lockers for getting changed and the cover charge included the opportunity to borrow all those bits of kit that we Londoners cart around in rucksacks.
All in all, it was a very well-thought out space for the scene - I remember thinking that having one of these in London, especially given that it was very easy to get to, would be a remarkable addition and alteration to how we play and interact. Here, the focus was on friendly interactions - the party I was attending was called Gemeinschaftserziehung which translates as "co-education" (everyone was very kind to speak English to me when and if they could, and for a portion of the night I had a semi-naked young man at my feet to translate the difficult bits). The hostess went around encouraging people to talk to each other, finding out what each person liked and wanted to do and introducing them to like-minded folk. The idea of the evening was that everyone would learn from each other, both in terms of play style and experiences - I put the previously mentioned young man on the rack after he looked at it with fear and excitement. There was a wonderful moment part way through when he got very panicky and I was able to calm him down with some breathing exercises which was a very satisfying sensation in terms of practicing that particular form of benevolent control I enjoy.
Mostly, however, I watched and talked to people. As best as I could. Sometimes with hand gestures. I suppose that part of me was looking for specific differences, a hat that I could put on "the german scene" but with only a small number of people, in one club, with my limited language use, I was just repeatedly struck with how similar everything was. Unlike the vanilla bars I'd been in on the other nights, striking up a conversation was much easier and the entire place felt more sociable. Perhaps it was simply that we had more in common, or that at any rate a common subject matter was obvious and talking about it practically a necessity.