P.S. Fool me once... :D
I second the Beseler 23c enlarger, super easy to use and to find parts for. I have 4 and that's without trying. you'll need to learn about developing, start simple. Look at stand developing with Rodinal, a good alternative to start with and is cheap. Color is way beyond this discussion, start with black and white.
I'm also new, having set up my first darkroom a couple of months ago. Just about everyone on the forum knows more than I do, but I can perhaps give some advice from a beginner's perspective.
www.rogerandfrancis.com has some great tutorials under the "photo school" section of their website. The Roger of rogerandfrancis, Roger Hicks, is a regular here on APUG.
Ilford (a company that manufactures B&W chemicals, film and paper) have a useful "getting started" page at http://www.ilfordphoto.com/applications/page.asp?n=9 which has information sheets about setting up a darkroom, developing black and white film, and printing. I've followed the Ilford instructions step by step for developing my films and am very happy with the results. The same principles apply no matter whose film, paper and chemicals you use. Simon Galley of Ilford is also a regular here.
Just remember that you don't need all the equipment mentioned in the Ilford guides. All I have is my enlarger, a tank for developing film, four trays (for paper developer, stop bath, fixer and water), 3 pairs of tongs for moving paper between the trays (using separate tongs for different chemicals to prevent contamination), a spirit thermometer, a safe light, a pair of scissors for cutting test strips, a few jugs for measuring and mixing that I purchased at the local plastics shop, and some cloths pegs for hanging prints and film to dry. Exposure meters, squeegies, digital thermometers, grain focussers, multigrade filters, printing easels, special film clips etc. are nice but not essential. (OK, I have an easel. It's still not essential.) My darkroom doesn't even have running water, although it is next to a bathroom where I wash prints.
Ctein's book Post Exposure is available as a free download at http://ctein.com/PostExposure2ndIllustrated.pdf. It's a book about advanced darkroom printing techniques and not intended for beginners. But when you want to move beyond the basics it is an excellent resource (although it's not light reading - I'm still working through it).
A Colour (*) enlarger allows you to control the precise colour of the light that the enlarger uses to expose the photographic paper, which is necessary for colour printing. Colour printing is probably not a good place to start - for one, you have to work in the dark - so I recommend B&W, which allows you to work under a red safelight, and is less demanding in terms of equipment and precise temperature control.
A colour enlarger does have the advantage of allowing you to use variable contrast papers without requiring multigrade filters. Variable contrast papers allow you to change the image contrast - exposing with a yellow filter gives low contrast, exposure with a magenta filter gives high contrast, and you can get intermediate contrasts by varying the amount of magenta and yellow filtration, which a colour head will allow you to control. Admittedly, filters are probably easier to use since the exposure does not vary as much when using filters as when using a colour head.
Welcome, and have fun!
(*) We spell the British way here in darkest Africa!
Roger and Frances wrote a good book on darkroom basics too.
wow i'm stunned at all the help i got thanks all of you! i will read more in detail when i get back home from my GF tomorrow.
The enlarger can be an expensive piece of equipment. I've had and have been using a Beseler 23CII for around 40 years now. They work and they last. But they have an inconvenient construction where the tracks for the focusing bellows extend downward and interfere with dodging and burning. Obviously not a disqualifying problem, since I've dealt with it for 40 years, but annoying. The EL-Nikkor lenses are excellent, and that Nikon enlarger would be a real temptation if you can get it at a good price and if it is in good condition.
While economy is always a factor, you should get the best enlarging lenses you can possibly afford. You quickly be disappointed with cheap lenses - you can not make a good print with them. As mentioned above, the EL-Nikkors are excellent and fairly available on the used market. Rodenstock Rodagons and Schneider Componons (or Componon-S) are also excellent. I've heard good reports about the Meopta lenses, but I have never used them.
The enlarger is the central feature of any printing darkroom. But you will quickly find that you need to consider other things as well. A good safelight is necessary. There are a lot of them out there, but there are some not so good ones as well as good ones. Ask for recommendations, and test whatever you get. Trays, big enough for the prints you make, are necessary. You can get them in sets of 3. A place and maybe equipment to wash prints is often a big problem. Think about it. And while you can do darkroom work anywhere that is dark and big enough for you, the enlarger, and 3 trays, the physical arrangement of the space should be considered.
GREAT people on apug...
i'm sure there's someone near you who you can look over their shoulder as they work in the darkroom... 3-4 hours just watching and talking will make a huge difference in de-mystifying - and shortening the learning curve/understanding!
The 'Nikor' enlarger is a rebranded Japanese LPL. They were sold under many names - Rollei most commonly - and are pretty common on the used market. You don't need a lot of fiddly bits and accessories for it, like you do for a Durst. They are better built than the Beselers and Omegas. If the price is right, and it has the lens board, negative carrier and 35mm insert, and you can examine it, then go for it.
There was also a version with a sloped head/front - not as common and I've only seen them in pictures.