by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Hamburg is an awesome city. Just 180 miles from Berlin, or a 2-3 hour train ride, it is the second largest metropolitan area in Germany and boasts one of Europe's most active LGBT communities. This October, Hamburg will host the 26th International Queer Film Festival, the largest and longest-running event of its kind in all of Germany. The six-day festival will include 130 films, documentaries, shorts, and experimental cinema projects to audiences gathered at select theaters throughout the city, plus opening and closing night galas, workshops, a children's program, and a Centerpiece screening; 2014's Centerpiece showing was the Swedish binarity-themed drama Something Must Break. Over 15,000 people are expected to attend this year's festivities that will bestow seven awards in five categories. Although the official 2015 program won't be revealed until September 22, it's not too early to consider a detour to Hamburg if you're traveling to Europe this fall.
While you're there, explore the nightly Gay scene in either the St. Pauli or St. Georg districts; the latter is a stone's throw from the Hauptbahnhof, or Hbf, the main train station, and during the daylight hours check out the redeveloped area of HafenCity, where restaurants, shops, and pedestrian-friendly walkways attract visitors and residents alike, and where the Elbphilharmonie, a magnificent new symphony hall, is undergoing its finishing touches ahead of a 2016 unveiling. The Fish Market, on the banks of the Elbe River, is open Sunday mornings for those wanting to buy fresh produce, artisanal food, inexpensive souvenirs, and coffee. And, one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the world is located in Hamburg, called Freudenhaus (stpauli-freudenhaus.de), in the St. Pauli neighborhood. The decor is kitschy, the clientele is a mix of trendsetting Gays and straights, the atmosphere is upbeat, and the food is marvelous. It's not expensive at all; you'll love it! For accommodations, try any of these: Junges Hotel Hamburg (jungeshotel.de), Alpha Hotel (alphahotel.biz), ARCOTEL Rubin Hamburg (archotels.com), and Hotel Hanseatin (women only, hotel-hanseatin.de). During my visit, I stayed at the Hotel Village (hotel-village.de), a former brothel now transformed into a comfy, charming boutique hotel a block from the Hbf; their inclusive breakfasts are wonderful. For more information on the International Queer Film Festival (October 20-25), go to lsf-hamburg.de, and for trip planning information, log onto germany.travel.
Since we're talking about Germany, the Schwules Museum (Gay Museum) in Berlin has relocated to a converted printing house with over 17,000-square feet of space. The ground floor features four exhibition rooms and cafe, and upstairs is a library, an all-ages research area, administrative offices, and workshop. Established in 1985, the Schwules Museum has become a destination attraction to LGBT travelers, as well as international tourists and German locals wanting a historical and cultural education specific to the country's Gay movement. Photos, videos, print materials, and clothing were some of the items on display when I stopped by the museum's former residence, in the Kreuzberg district. Current exhibitions include Homosexuality_ies and the accompanying Homosexuality_ies Audiotour through December 1, 2015. Berlin is a mindblowing city; it's wild and fun and cool with so many things to see and do. It's also got one of the hottest Gay club scenes in Europe with dozens upon dozens of old pubs, contemporary lounges, edgy watering holes, and late night dance spots. Of the two hotels I stayed at in Berlin, my favorite was Lux Eleven (lux-eleven.com), in the bustling Mitte district. With 72 rooms on four floors, this popular hotel places you within five minutes of restaurants, stores, bars, and the Alexanderplatz train station; I can't recommend it enough. For more on the Schwules Museum, go to schwulesmuseum.de, and for tips on visiting Berlin, check out germany.travel.
You already know that Seattle ranks high, in the top three, on the list of U.S. cities with the best live theater offerings. But did you know that Tempe, Arizona is right up there, too? It's true, this college town of around 165,000 residents consistently brings award-winning musicals and plays direct from Broadway to the ASU Gammage, on the campus of Arizona State University. The 2015-2016 season was recently announced, kicking off with a three-week run of Tony Award winner The Book of Mormon on October 20 through November 8, followed by A Christmas Story (November 24-29), If/Then (January 12-17), The Bridges of Madison County (February 16-21), A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (March 15-20), 42nd Street (April 5-10), Annie (May 4-8), and Newsies (June 14-19). Each of these productions will be staged inside the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theatre, which can accommodate over 3,000 guests. In its 25th season, the Desert Schools Broadway Across America-Arizona series at ASU Gammage is the largest theatrical subscription series in Arizona and is one of the most successful Broadway series in the United States.
New to the vicinity of the ASU Gammage is the Graduate Tempe, a college life-inspired boutique hotel across the street from the theater and campus. The 140-room property, formerly the Twin Palms Hotel, features two on-site restaurants, The Normal and Tapacupbo, as well as a 24-hour fitness center, outdoor pool, complimentary shuttle service, and $6 per night self-service parking. For more information on the Graduate Tempe, go to graduatetempe.com. For additional details on ASU Gammage, log onto asugammage.com, and for Tempe travel tips, visit TempeTourism.com.
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