Remember that bar in Berlin?

Eselbrucke, Berlin
Eselbrucke, Berlin.

Prenzlauerberg, formerly behind the wall, in what used to be East Berlin.  Images were conjured of intrigue and suspicion, dark doorways and men in long coats with hats pulled low over their faces.  Whispered conversations and codewords in the greyness. 

Of course, it is nothing like that.  Ice-cream shops, markets and cafes abound and life goes on in the way it does in all cities.    We had a list of recommended places to visit from a local, and on it was Eselbrucke.  It came with a warning that it may be a bit smoky, but we thought, as previous recommendations were so rewarding, we would give it a go.

Eselbrucke is located in what was a quiet suburban setting (it was midweek).   We committed several local pub faux pas on entry….

  1. Using the wrong door, which we rattled away at to no avail, before noticing the other, operational, door;
  2. Tripping over the miniscule step at the entry, stumbling noisily into the bar.

Having drawn sufficient attention to ourselves and generally disrupting the low-key intimate atmosphere, we found ourselves a discreet table just near the toilets.   

The bar itself was lit by, if not candlelight, then lights simulating it.   A standoff-ish barman took our orders and we settled down.    The interior had a sepia patina, no doubt from the nicotine build up over the years.  Old posters, a cigarette machine, and wine bottles with candle wax caking their sides placed on the wooden benches.   It was awesome.  We consumed our drinks imagining the bar in the days of the wall, listening for the ghosts, plotting. 

Candlelight atmosphere

As our drinks depleted, the standoff-ish barman appeared with fresh ones.  When we visited again a few days later, he recited our drink order to us.  We asked him how we remembered it, he said, without emotion, “that is my job”.   

Yes, you can go to bars with gimmicks, loud music, fancy drinks and people wearing less clothing than you, but sometimes the simple things are the best.  Some history, some atmosphere and a story to tell you.   Prost.

Read more about the bars that made an impression… Remember that bar in Krakow?

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

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