This unique city of 300,000 in southern Germany, straddling the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar River, is laid out with a design that's similar to some U.S. cities. As in Washington, DC this city also has quadrants - four equal parts, each one labled by letters ranging from A to U, for a total of 20, and by numbers from west to east. It takes a bit of getting used to, but Mannheimers are proud of their quadrants, and ´quadratische queer seiten´ is a play on words used by gay Mannheimers for their city.
Old Mannheim goes back to 700AD. Leveled in the 30 Years War between Protestants and Catholics, and again during the Nine Year War with France, it was rebuilt by Frederick the Elector in 1606, who copied the quadrant concept seen in prints of New Amsterdam, the present-day New York. The city's remaining fortifications were torn down 200 years later, and replaced with gorgeous gardens that exist to this day – and quite cruisy they are too, especially the lush Luisenpark. Over the whole city towers the great Wasserturm, buiit in the time of another Palatine Elector, Phillip - as were the nearby Mannheimer Palace and the imposing Jesuit Church, all of which survived intense bombings of WWII. Mannheim was the birthplace of the bicycle (1817), the gasoline-fuelled motor car, by Benz, in 1885, and it was an important site for work in German rocket propulsion science. A large American post-war military presence ended here only recently, in June 2010.
Mannheim has prided itself on its tolerance for all religions and ethnicities, and boasts the most beautiful mosque in Germany, the Sultan Selem Moschee. This open-mindedness carries over to queers as well, with the lord high mayor (oberbuergermeister) issuing annual welcomes to gay and lesbian visitors. Proposals by Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing of the Mannheim Institute set a landmark event in gay history as he called for decriminalizing homosexuality in 1886 (but that took until 1993). Unfortunately he thought homosexuality was a sickness, and it was not until a group of radical lesbians visited the city in the early 1900s, that a self-affirming political sexual movement was launched. Openly gay establishments here date to the 1930's, and gay writers and artists flocked here much as they did to Berlin and Munich. As elsewhere in Germany, the war years all but destroyed those first efforts, but the gay community of today is solid, with a wide range of political and cultural groups, and a big annual celebration each Christopher Street Day for the whole Rhein-Neckar area takes place each August.
Frankfurt International Airport, with connections to many cities around the world, is just 40 miles to the north. Deutsche Bahn ICE trains take about 30 minutes to travel to Mannheim's main station for €25. Slower local trains, eight euros cheaper, take about 80 minutes. Lufthansa shuttle buses also run to and from Mannheim center. By train, the five hour trip from Berlin to Mannheim costs €129 (January 2013 price).
Frankfurt Hahn Airport, Stuttgart Airport, Strasbourg Airport, Baden Airpark, and Saarbrücken Airport are all an hour and a half away by car, bus or train. Since Cirrus Airlines went bust in 2012 Mannheim City Airport no longer has scheduled carrier service, and is scheduled to close in 2015.
The Rhine-Neckar S-Bahn is the main urban transportation system for the cities of Mannheim, Heidelberg and Ludwigshafen. Mannheim Hauptbahnhof is at the center of a network of 77 stations on four lines. RNV operates a system of tram lines and buses throughout Mannheim and Ludwigshafen.
Gay bars and cafés, discos and saunas, are to be found in all 4 quadrants of the city. Most are close to the center (Mitte) and around the Wasserturm in Mannheim, but a couple of places are across the river in Ludwigshafen. The largest club, the gay and alternative MS Connexion complex of 5 clubs and 7 bars, has been going for almost 25 years. The monthly queer dance party, Himbeerparty takes place each last Saturday of the month; a grand affair at the Alte Feuerwache near the Neckar River, with dancing until dawn.
South of Mannheim at the Binshof See group of lakes, there is nude swimming at the southern shores, with gay-popular sunning areas and cruisy woodlands. A mostly younger crowd mixes here with some truck drivers. Bring food, refreshments and mosquito repellent. From the eastbound A61/E31 Autobahn, exit at the Binshof rest area, walk north to the lake, then head east through the woods along the shore.
Media and resources
Going out, bars and cafes
Blum Coffee Bar (Schwetzinger Strasse 92), cafe for coffee, pastries, cakes; store for modern furniture and household accents.
Café Flo (Friedrichsplatz 15), tiny cafe, French ambience, outdoor summer tables under arcades by the Wasserturm, tasty food.
Café Kussmann (T6, 19) central cafe & bar, summer terrace, mixed crowd, popular weekday cocktail hours, weekends after 10pm, Sunday afternoon coffee get-togethers.
Crazy Dreams (Obergasse 12), show bar, elaborate local diva drag performances.
Helium (J7, 21, Luisenring), sophisticated cafe bistro and cocktail bar, DJ music, men and women mix.
IMC Mannheim (Seckenheimer Strasse 10), men-central locals' hangout bar, Wednesdays through Sundays, big Thursday night all-you-can-eat night buffets require phone reservation.
Inside Lounge (S6, 12), fun, comfortable, mixed friendly party cocktail lounge and bar; DJ music, Saturday night/Sunday morning after hours, art exhibitions by local painters.
Jails at Connexion (Angelstrasse 33), men's leather, fetish and SM theme party bar in big complex; jail and dungeon fantasy environments, Sunday naked parties.
Lello Café Bar Lounge (Berliner Strasse 17), Italian restaurant and bar, international wine selections, coffee lounge, specialty desserts.
Rosanellis Bar (S2, 16 - 68161), party bar, constantly changing special night events, mixed crowd, shows, DJ music, afterhours.
XS Café Bar (N7, 9 - 68161), mixed gay/straight cafe bar with coffee and cake.
Going out, dance clubs
Club Action (U5, 13), seven nights disco dance club, mixed crowd, week night afterhours until 5am, weekends until noon the next day.
Disco Zwei, at Pony Club (T6, 14), every Saturday night gay-friendly dance party, best local DJs.
Heaven, at Diskothek Ludwiq (Yorkstrasse 2, Ludwigshafen), gay dance each second Friday of the month, plus other special party nights for CSD, Halloween and Christmas.
Himbeerparty at Alte Feuerwache (Bruckenstrasse 2) gay and friends dance party each last Saturday of the month, 4 bars, live vocals, go-go boys.
MS Connexion (Angelstrasse 33), large complex, five clubs, dance floors, some nights all-mix crowd nights, others gay and lesbian nights, separate men's fetish bar, open-end hours.
Atlantis-Sauna & Resort (Woellnerstrasse 10), sauna resort complex, bar and bistro, fitness, cinema, nude parties, cruise area, tanning beds.
Galileo City Sauna (O7, 20, Kunststrasse), sauna, video kino, dark cruise area, massage, bar and cafe, internet access.
Cruising Point (Mittelstrasse 15), adult bookstore and sex shop, gay darkroom cruising with cabins, video cinema.
Der Andere Buchladen (M2, 1), gay and lesbian bookstore, magazines.
Studio 7 (Heinrich-Lanz-Strasse 32), adult bookstore, sex shop, gay videos.
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