Friday, 7 August 2015

1990 Eisenach pub guide

Yet another totally useless pub guide. As you may have guessed, it's as much laziness as nostalgia driving this series.

Dolores's mum lived in Eiseanch and we got married there, so I knew the town pretty well.

Eisenach, a town crammed into steep, wooded valleys on the road and rail routes between Frankfurt and Leipzig,   is a good place to enter the DDR and for me to start a description of a few Thuringian towns. Stuck on one of the hilltops around the town is the picturesque medieaval Wartburg castle, where Martin Luther hid out out for a while when things got a bit nasty during the Reformation. The castle has also given its name to the car which is the town's main product. The Wartburg plant and various component factories take up big chunks of the town and contribute, along with all the coal fires, to the rather dirty air. The centre of town, with Bach's birthplace (now a museum) and the market place is reasonably attractive. However, the council has seen fit to demolish a large area of old buildings behind the baroque town hall and intends building modern flats there. The town's brewery is at the start of the road leading up to the castle. A large window gives a good view of the copper, but on the whole the place looks ramshackle and in need of renovation.

Like many places in the DDR, the town centre is short on pubs (one of the few, the Marktschanke on the marketplace is closed for an unspecified period of renovation). But don't let this make you despair - just 5 minutes away from the centre there are plenty,  if you know where to look.

Starting on one of the main squares in town, Platz Deutsch-Sowjetische-Freundschaft (which may well have changed its name by the time you read this) is the hotel Thuringer Hof. When it was built in the days of the German Empire,  it must have been modern, fashionable and luxurious. Now its faded opulence is a good backdrop for anyone wishing to play out their Grand Hotel fantasies. The restaurant is still impressive enough, with its oak-panelling and crystal chandeliers, and is an eminently suitable place for those wanting to dine in style without paying accordingly stylish prices. The prices are, however, towards the upper end of the DDR scale. In keeping with it's upmarket image, it sells Apoldaer Classic instead of usual Eisenacher Pils, of which you'll soon have had more than enough.

Leaving the square along Johannisstr. and crossing Johannisplatz, just a little up the hill on Frauenberg is Gaststatte Wartburghof (Mon, Thu, Sun 15-22; Fri, Sat 15-24; Tue, Wed closed), selling Eisenacher Pils, a cosy private pub of several rooms off a central bar. In both layout and atmosphere it resembles an old Yorkshire corridor pub. Like most of the DDR's private establishments, it has a few more personal decorative touches than the state run HO bars. The beer is served in a wide range of variations on the theme 'straight beer glass'. Some of the glasses, of types not usually seen any more, look ready to take well-earned retirement.

Carrying on up Frauenberg after another small square (which also contains the Bach house) is Rittergasse, on which is Gasthaus Harmonie (10 - 18,  Tue Wed closed),  selling Eisenacher Hell. It's a typical down-to-earth DDR boozer, of the type which seems to act as a substitute factory/school canteen. At lunchtime it's full of schoolkids presenting their school dinner tickets and factory workers tucking into incredibly cheap food served on plastic trays. If you prefer to do your drinking without the company of the local brats, turning up after 13:00 is probably a good idea. Whatever the clientele, the single plain room is always cheerful, friendly and very good value.

Now continue along Friedrich-Engels Straße, an extension of Frauenberg, and in an ornate turn of the century building is Drachenschlucht which sells, as almost everywhere else here, Eisenacher Pils. The name, meaning 'dragon's gorge', comes from a glacial feature close by in the Thuringer Wald and there's a beautifully tacky painting of it (complete with dragon, maiden and St. George type) on the wall inside. There are also a couple of barrel ends and jokey cartoons, of the sort beloved by pub decorators the world over, to brighten the place up. Otherwise, it's a fairly middle of the table sort of HO establishment with the usual low, low prices. Thankfully, it doesn't attract the usual big, big crowds of thirsty drinkers.

Two of the places mentioned above still exist:

Steigenberger Hotel Thüringer Hof
Karlspl. 11,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel: +49 3691 280

Gaststätte Wartburghof
Frauenberg 12,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel: +49 3691 203053

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