Brian and Lanny Go to Europe

by Nick Brady

Chapter 18

In the morning, they all gathered around the table to enjoy the nice breakfast that Anna had prepared. Karl's little daughters, Heidi and Gretchen, were animated by the presence of Brian, Lanny and Roth whom they viewed as very exotic. They sat and giggled as the conversation went across the breakfast table.

Karl laughed, "Heidi and Gretchen are quite taken with you. They seem to think you are rock stars."

"If they only knew how little musical talent we have, they would not think that," Brian told him. "Your brother Roth is the musician."

"No, no. Playing in a little club band does not make me a rock star," Roth demurred. "But he does not mean you are musicians, only that you are very interesting to these little ones."

Karl and Anna were profusely thanked for their hospitality and the boys were in the car and on their way. "What will we see today?" Lanny asked.

"There are very many things to see in Berlin," Roth said. "Do you wish to see fun things or do you want more history?"

"It's the history of this place that really interests me," Lanny answered, and Brian agreed.

"Then I will tell you about some things," Roth agreed. "I think you know, that after the end of the Second World War, Germany was again defeated and much of the country was in ruins. The Allies divided up the country into what were called 'zones of influence'. The major powers of England, France, America and the Soviet Union were each given administrative control of a part of Germany. While England, France and America tried to convert the western part of Germany into a democracy, the Soviet Union set up a communist government in the east. As time went by, the two sections became very different."

"How is that?" Lanny asked.

"In the west, the decision was made to try and avoid the problems which made the German people so desperate after the First War. The Marshall Plan attempted to rebuild the economy and life improved for the people in West Germany, while the Soviets instituted a very repressive government in the east. As a result many East Germans wished to move out of that part and began to leave when they could. In response to that, the Soviets built a long fence along the border between east and west and tried to keep people from escaping. This was particularly apparent in the city of Berlin."

"Who controlled Berlin?" Brian asked. "Isn't the city in the eastern part?"

"Yes. But Berlin was also divided into sections, western and Soviet, with access guaranteed along an autobahn from the border city of Helmstedt to Berlin. The Soviets built walls to contain the citizens from leaving their part of the city. Four million East Germans defected all along the border, and Berlin was particularly concerning. Many of those who left were young professionals which created a very serious problem for the east. It was known as the 'brain drain'. There is a famous place where people were allowed to pass from one part to another that is called Checkpoint Charlie. There is a museum there that you should see."

Before long they drove into that area and Roth found a place to park his car. "We should walk from here," he told them.

Roth tried to explain what he knew about the place. "The Soviets wanted to stop their best people from leaving. So, in 1961 they built a wall. They said it was to protect themselves from the west, but really it was to enclose their own people. It was a long concrete wall with many barriers designed to prevent people from escaping. The area in front of the wall was a wide open area which used land mines and watch towers with armed guards instructed to shoot to kill anyone who attempted to escape. There are terrible stories about people being shot while attempting to cross the border. About two hundred were murdered trying to escape. It was a disgrace. Even some of the East German border guards escaped through this area."

They went into the museum to see many photographs of the wall and the the means by which some escaped. From the photographs they could see the wall and its fortifications. On the Soviet side, long rows of buildings were vacant to isolate that side. On the western side were new modern buildings which looked very tantalizing to those in the east. The western side of the wall was covered with murals and slogans about freedom. The eastern side was bare and forbidding. It was a strange sight to Brian and Lanny.

"But the wall is gone now," Lanny observed. "What happened to it?"

"In 1989, many of the Eastern Block countries demanded freedom and the Soviet Union began to crumble. Late in that year, East Germany began to allow people to pass more freely to visit family members who had been cut off from each other for so many years. Soon afterwards, the wall fell to great celebration. People stood and danced on top of the wall and cheered as holes were cut allowing people to pass. Much of the wall was cut up and kept as souvenirs. By the next year, most of the wall had been destroyed, although parts of it still stand as a reminder of those times. Then in 1990 the reunification of Germany was accomplished and we were again one people.

"Prior to the fences, most simply walked across the border at various places. After the building of the long border fence and the Berlin wall, the means of escape were sometimes ingenious. One group of people floated across the border using a home-made hot air balloon. Another group hid themselves under the carcasses of slaughtered pigs in the back of a refrigerated truck. One man drove his low sports car under the barricade to freedom. On another occasion an East German border guard escaped across the border. His companion was under orders to shoot anyone who crossed the border. The soldier decided not to shoot, but knew he would be severely punished for not doing so. His solution was to follow the first soldier, and he made his own escape."

"First the Nazis and then the Communists. The poor German people," Lanny observed sympathetically.

"There is a line of stones which trace the wall," Roth told them. "Let us walk along that until we come to another famous place."

Along the way Roth pointed to the Gedachtnes Kirche, a cathedral destroyed in a bombing raid in 1943. "Rather than tear down what was left of the old church, the members insisted that the new church include the bombed out ruins into the new cathedral."

They followed the path until they came to the Brandenburg Gate. On each column, were large carvings of different scenes from German history. On the top were statues of four great horses.

"This is a very famous place," Roth told them. "Here Hitler paraded his troops through at the beginning of the war, and here the Allied forces paraded at its conclusion. And just here, is the American Embassy and that of the Russian Federation."

They went into the Reichstag, the German Congress Building, with its signature glass dome where they could walk and enjoy spectacular views of Berlin and the surrounding area. Nearby was the Chanceleramt where the German Chancellor lives and works. Roth laughed and told them, "It is known as the 'Washing machine' for its boxy white exterior appearance."

They went into Fernsehturm, or TV tower, that has an observation deck providing a tremendous view of Berlin. On top was a steel ball. "When the sun shines on the steel ball, it makes a cross-shaped light reflection," Roth told them. "It used to be called the Pope's Revenge on the East German's anti-religious beliefs pushed on the people. The East Germans tried many different things to stop the cross reflection of the sun on the ball but they could not."

"Let us enjoy the Zoo," Roth suggested. "The Zoologisher Garten is said to have been the site of many hand-offs of information between spies during the Cold War." They got the student admission to the park and looked at all the animals as a relief from the dark history they had been learning.

From there they visited the Kaufhaus Des Westens, the KaDeWe, a block sized department store with everything they could imagine. One floor was devoted to toys and sporting goods. "This would be a good place to get a soccer ball for the twins," Brian decided. "We can deflate it and stuff it into my pack."

"We should get something for Heidi and Gretchen while we are here," Lanny suggested. "We need to do something for Karl's hospitality."

"That's a good idea," Roth told them. "If you do a kindness for their children, it is a kindness for them."

They found a large selection of stuffed toys and selected a bear and a lion. In another area they found a selection of miniature flags and put a small American flag under the arms of each. "A gift from their American guests," Brian laughed. "Now we should find something for our parents. What sounds like a good idea?"

After some discussion they decided on two inflatable plastic world globes on which they could trace their travels with a Sharpie. "This will be a nice souvenir of our trip, and it will fit into a pack," Lanny suggested.

Roth took them to the top floor which was an enormous food court with all sorts of good things. It was late in the day, and since they were hungry after their long walking tour, it was the ideal place to stop for something to eat.

"This has been a very interesting day," Brian said to Roth. "You make a great tour guide."

"I hope I have not left you feeling depressed," he said. "I think I show you too many dark things."

"Not at all," Lanny told him. "It is a part of German history that we need to understand. What impresses me is the resilience of the German people. After the devastation of two World Wars and the struggle with the Soviet Union, Germany is once again a great economic power. It says something very good about your people."

Roth smiled, "Yes, yes. I think so. We are not easily defeated, despite ourselves. But there are more enjoyable things to see here. I wonder if you would like to see some of the nightlife?"

"That might be fun," Brian agreed. "What do you think we would enjoy?"

Roth smiled, "I wonder if my two gay friends would like to see a famous part of Berlin that should be of interest to you?"

Brian and Lanny looked at each other. "We are probably not interested in anything too dangerous."

"I would never put you into danger," Roth assured them. "But it is not something you can see at your home, I think."

"You have not led us astray yet," Lanny agreed. "I think we can trust you on this."

"Then let us return to my car and I will drive us to another part of this city," Roth said with a smile. "It is very near to here, but I do not want to park on the street."

Once in Roth's car, he drove them to the Schöneberg area and parked in a secure garage on Eisenacherstrasse. "We will be safe here," he told them. "There are interesting places to visit."

"Where will we go?" Brian asked.

"There are many clubs. Let us go up the street and then walk back down to the car," Roth suggested.

"Have you been here before?" Lanny asked.

"Yes. I came here with some friends. We found it very interesting."

"Didn't you tell us you were straight?"

"Yes of course. But even so, it is an interesting place to visit," Roth explained. "And I think you might like it. If not, we can go back to the home of Karl."

"Sure. Now I'm getting curious," Brian admitted.

"Yes, curious. We were gay curious," Roth said. "Is that strange for you?"

"Let's go see what's around here. I'm curious too," Brian grinned.

Lanny shrugged and followed his friends.

They walked up the street to a place called the Blue Boy Bar and went inside. As it was early in the evening, there were only a few people inside. As Brian looked around he noticed that the men he saw there were quite young looking, some surely in their teens.

"Some of these guys look pretty young," he mentioned to Roth. "Are they old enough to be in a bar?"

"Yes, I think so. But I think perhaps they are working here."

"Working? What do they do?"

Roth grinned. "I think you call them rent boys. They are looking for business."

It took Brian a moment to realize what Roth was telling him. "You mean they are, uh, they are for hire?"

"Yes, yes. They will rent their bodies. Do you have this in Tulsa?"

"I don't think so. Not like this anyway. Is this legal?" Lanny asked.

Roth smiled. "Yes it is legal. Our laws are different I think. Let us have a beer. I am thirsty."

A pretty young man came to the table and Roth spoke to him. In a moment he came back with three glasses of beer.

"Here is to an interesting evening," Roth raised his glass.

They sipped their beers and looked around at the small crowd. Several of the boys were dancing to recorded music. A smaller number of older men stood at the bar and watched. After a few minutes, a man in a business suit approached one of the slender young dancers and they began talking with each other. The boy slipped his hand under the man's suit jacket and leaned into him. After another few minutes they walked out of sight.

"Where are they going?" Brian asked.

Roth shrugged, "It depends on what they agreed to do. They may just be going to the toilet for oral sex. If they do not return soon, then perhaps it is for more than that."

"How old is that kid?" Lanny wondered.

"The age of consent in Germany is fourteen, but to work here I think he is probably sixteen. Do you find this interesting?"

Lanny looked uncomfortable. "I'm not sure what I think about it."

After about ten minutes the businessman walked through the bar and out to the street. The young man returned and began talking to the boy he had been dancing with.

Roth chuckled, "I think that was for a quick blow job."

After a few more minutes an older man in a leather jacket came to their table and spoke to them in German. Roth replied in a pleasant way and shook his head. The man walked away. "He likes my red hair," Roth explained, "But I told him I was only here with my friends."

"Did he want to have sex with you?" Lanny asked.

"Probably. But I am not here for that."

"Have you ever done that?" Brian asked.

"No, no. But I have never needed money so much. These boys can make a lot of money very easily doing this."

Brian finished his beer. "I think I'm about ready to go," he said.

"Yes, of course. There are other places to see," Roth smiled.

They walked south on Eisenacherstrasse and soon came to a bar called Bull. They walked inside to find it was very dark and populated only by a bartender. "I think it is too early for this place," Roth told them. "Let's go on."

Walking farther, the stopped at the New Action which had a sign on the door which told them it was closed on Monday. They walked on to the Rauschgolds Lieblingsbar. Inside was a glitzy room with a long bar where several men sat drinking. To one side was a small stage where a young man was dancing in very little clothing.

"Would you like to watch the dancer?" Roth asked. Brian shrugged. "I guess."

"We can have another small beer and see what happens," Roth suggested. They sipped a beer and watched as the dancer undulated to some hip-hop music. He was joined shortly by another dancer and the two did what looked like a simulated sex act. Brian and Lanny found themselves bored by this. When the beer was finished they were ready to move on. "I think it is too early. Probably things are more interesting later in the evening." Roth explained.

Just down the street was Tobasco. Inside it was dimly lit with lots of red and brown under a low ceiling. On one side were four or five scruffy looking young men playing pinball and pool while leather clad older men looked them over. Roth ordered them another round of beer.

While they watched, one of the men walked over to a boy playing pinball and stood behind him. He watched him play for a minute then ran his hands over the boy's butt and leaned forward to say something into his ear. A brief conversation took place then the young guy said something to one of the others and walked out with the older man.

"Are these guys rent boys too?" Brian asked.

"Yes, I think so. Maybe hustlers is a better word. Rent boys are usually younger, and prettier."

"You seem to know a lot about his sort of thing," Lanny said.

"I find such things interesting," Roth explained. "I like to understand what things people do, and why they do them. I want to understand people. Is that a bad thing?"

"Not if you put it that way," Brian shrugged. He looked at Lanny who was unenthusiastic. They finished their beer. Brian was trying to remember if that was three or four.

Down the street was Tramp's which was small and empty. They went on. At Roth's suggestion, they skipped the Hafen and went to Tom's Bar, where they found a livelier scene. There was loud music and a number of men who were standing, talking and dancing with each other.

Lanny looked around and smiled. "There is a little more going on in here."

"I think that on Monday the drinks are 2 for 1. That makes it more popular, I think," Roth smiled. They found a table and once again, Roth ordered for them. In a few minutes the waiter came with a tray of six glasses of beer. "It is 2 for 1 tonight," Roth grinned.

"How many of these have we had?" Lanny asked.

"They are only small ones," Roth explained. "But the beer is good, yes?"

Lanny shrugged and tapped his foot to the music. "This place is a little more interesting."

Are you having fun?" Brian asked him.

"Yeah. This is OK. Nothing like this in Tulsa that I know of."

Roth leaned over and said to Brian, "Maybe you and Lanny would like to dance. He likes the music, I think."

Brian smiled, took a long drink out of his glass and turned to Lanny. "Hey lover. Want to dance with me?"

Lanny grinned. "Really?"

"Yeah. Why not?"

Lanny looked around and nodded. "I guess this is as good a place as any."

They got up and walked out onto the dance floor holding hands, then turned and started dancing to the music. Roth watched with a smile. When the music stopped, Brian took Lanny in his arms and hugged him. Lanny grinned and hugged him back. The music started again and they kept on dancing. No one paid a bit of attention to them. It was a normal thing for two men to do in this place.

After several more songs, they walked back to see that Roth was smiling at his two empty glasses. "You are getting behind me," he said. "Are you thirsty now?"

"I am," Brian admitted and drained his second glass quickly. Lanny shrugged and did the same.

"I need to pee," Lanny announced. "Where's the toilet?"

Roth pointed to a sign that said 'Herren', and both walked to visit. Inside the toilet was a long porcelain trough where they stood side by side and relieved themselves.

"Damn, that feels good," Lanny sighed. "How many beers have we had?"

"I don't know," Brian admitted. "But it's our last night with Roth. Besides, they are just little ones," he chuckled.

They zipped up and returned to their table to find another six glasses of beer. "It's my turn," Roth said, and walked to the toilet.

"Two more of these and I'm going to be over my limit," Lanny said.

"I think I already am. I can feel this stuff."

"Should we call a halt to this?"

"I'm having fun," Brian said. "And so is Roth, I think. Maybe you should offer to dance with him."

"No. I couldn't do that. I mean, it's OK dancing with you, but I would feel sort of awkward with anybody else."

"He might enjoy it," Brian grinned.

"Well, you dance with him then."

"Would you mind? I don't want to make you jealous or anything."

"I don't care," Lanny shrugged.

They worked on their beer and when Roth came back and sat down,

Brian looked at him and grinned. "Why are you smiling?" Roth asked.

"Are you having a good time?" Brian asked.

"Yes. I like this place. Are you too?"

"Yes, but I have a dance partner and you don't."

"Ah. Is that an invitation?"

"If you like."

Roth grinned and drained one of his glasses. "Yes. I think I would like that." He turned to Lanny, "May I dance with your boyfriend?"

Lanny grinned. "Knock yourself out."

Roth stood, did a little bow and held out his hand to Brian. "May I have the honor of this dance?"

Brian laughed, finished his glass and stood. They went out on the floor and began to dance to the music while Lanny watched. They made a nice looking couple, he thought to himself. Especially Brian, who Lanny regarded as very beautiful.

As he watched them, a not unattractive young man approached him and asked him something in German. Lanny was not sure what he had said, but understood his intent. He shook his head and laughed, waving his hands. "Nein, Danke." The man smiled and walked away.

After a few minutes Roth and Brian returned and sat down. "I got another offer," Lanny laughed.

"How's that?" Brian asked over the music.

"I think I just got asked to dance."

"Oh yeah? Was he cute?"

"Not as cute as you," Lanny grinned. "How are you doing, Roth?"

"I am having a good time. Your boyfriend is a good dancer" Roth laughed. "But I must make a confession to you."

"What's that?"

"I think I have had too much beer to drive back through Berlin to Karl's house. It might be a good idea if we stay here tonight. Would you mind that?"

"I don't care," Lanny shrugged. "Can we find a place to stay this late?"

"This bar is part of a hotel. Maybe I can ask about that. Are you sure you don't mind? I can pay for the room."

"You don't need to pay. This is our treat. Check and see what you can come up with," Brian asked him.

Roth nodded and walked out through a side door. In ten minutes he returned with a smile. "Yes. They have a room for us, and it is not expensive. I had to pay to get the key. I hope that is OK with you."

"Sure, thank you. I guess that means we can have another beer, right?" Brian grinned.

"So you like this German beer?"

"Yeah. It's pretty good. I can manage another," Brian laughed. "As long as we aren't driving anywhere."

"As long as we can walk next door, we are fine," Roth smiled and drained his last glass. He motioned to a waiter and ordered again. This time the waiter returned with six glasses of a darker beer

and six small glasses of something else.

"What's this?" Brian asked.

"It is a nice dark beer and some Schnapps. They will be good together. I will pay for this round."

"Brian grinned. "Well, since we aren't driving. You know you're leading me astray, don't you?"

Roth pretended to look hurt. "No, no. I would not do that. Do you know the custom with this?"

"No. What's the custom?"

"Let me show you," Roth grinned. He picked up the glass of Schnapps and tipped it up to drain it in one gulp, then followed it with about half of the glass of beer. "Ah!" he smacked his lips. "That is very nice. Now you try it."

"Damn! That looks dangerous," Lanny frowned. "I might not be able to walk next door."

"We can help you," Roth laughed. "This will be our last round, I promise. It is very tasty, please believe me."

Lanny and Brian looked at each other, shrugged and repeated the ritual, coughing a little at the sharp liquor, then followed it with the dark beer.

Brian let out his breath. "Actually, that's not half bad.

"I told you," Roth laughed heartily. "Now we can drink the rest of the beer to cool off our throats."

Another round of Schnapps and beer followed as the room began to spin slowly. They sat and watched the dancers. By this time the room was rather crowded. Several of the young men were dancing shirtless and looked quite sexy. The room seemed warm and Brian wondered if he should remove his shirt. He decided that it might not be such a great idea, and left it on. He sat and looked at Lanny, who grinned back at him. Roth nodded his head to the music and they finished the rest of their drinks.

"I think we should go," Lanny suggested.

"Right. I think that's a pretty good idea," Brian agreed. "You ready Roth?"

"Yes, yes. I am ready. Let's find our room. I have a key."

They stood and walked through the side door into a hotel lobby, then up a short flight of stairs to the room whose number was on the key. Roth opened the door to a nice clean room with an adjoining bathroom and a king sized bed.

"I hope you do not mind if we sleep together," Roth smiled. "It was all that was available.

"It looks good to me," Lanny grinned.

"Bigger than our tent," Brian agreed.

"I think I would like to shower," Roth said. He looked into the bathroom and turned back with a smile. "It is a big shower. It might be big enough for all of us, if you like."

Brian and Lanny looked at each other, grinned and began to get undressed.

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