Sunday, 16 August 2015

1990 Gotha and Erfurt pub guide

I'm not slightly amazed that anyone other than me is interested in this out-of-date travel information. Yet it seems some of you are. Folk really are queer, as they say in Yorkshire.

I was disturbed to discover how few of the pubs I could recall in even the slightest. I suppose it was all a long time ago. And a few beers have flowed over my tongue since then. It's a wonder I can remember my name. Talking of names, I couldn't name more than half a dozen of the kids I went to school with. Only the ones who were later drinking chums. And Smellie. You don't forget a name like that.

But enough idle chit chat. On with some truly useless data.

30 km east of Eisenach, along the main railway line and the motorway, is Gotha. It's another typical larger Thuringian town, many of whose attractive half-timbered are in dire need of tarting up. From the 1640's the Archdukes of Sachsen-Gotha had their residence here in an imposing Baroque palace, the Schloß Friedenstein. Stuck on top of a hill between the railway station and the centre, the castle and its gardens dominate the town. From it, there's a good view over the red tile roofs of the houses around the old market. Along Bahnhofstr., which leads logically enough from the station to the town centre, are monuments to another group of the town's past inhabitants: the 19th century bourgeoisie. The street is lined with substantial stone villas now, somewhat ironically, used as offices by VEB companies and socialist organisations. Sadly, this is another town whose council was a bit too eager in using bulldozers to solve its renovation problems.

Right in the centre of town, on the Hauptmarkt,  is Turiec, a complex of a cafe and a couple of restaurants. One of these is Slovan, offering excellent Slovak cuisine. The recently refurbished interior is one of the more comfortable and tasteful examples of the HO 'heritage' stripped pine style. The food is slightly more expensive than average, but well worth it. The beer served is Apoldaer Classic. Borovicka, the Slovak version of gin, is also available.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, my next recommendation is the Mitropa (10 - 22) in the Hauptbahnhof. Even in a country where pubs rate on a scale of basic, very basic or incredibly basic, this is an establishment of exceptionally low class. Housed in a portacabin hidden away, as if even Deutsche Reichsbahn were ashamed of it, at the end of a platform, its contents have been stripped down to the barest essentials. It makes you feel lucky that they remembered to include chairs. Despite all of this, it isn't without a certain charm and is certainly very good value. Thankfully, it isn't full of the non-travelling, obnoxious drunks which plague some of the Mitropas in larger cities (notably Leipzig, where you look out of place if you enter sober and carrying luggage). In keeping with the minimalist approach, it's also self-service.

Carrying on another 25 km east of Gotha is the Bezirk town of Erfurt, the largest city in Thuringia. It's also the only major city in the DDR which wasn't totally flattened by bombing during the war. As a result, it retains an attractive old centre, including the unusual Kramerbrucke, a bridge covered in half-timbered houses. The town contains a good mixture of medieval, renaissance and neo-gothic architecture, reflecting its long history as a cultural and political centre. The Dom and Severikirche, next door to each other on a hill,  are particularly imposing, especially from the massive square below them.

On this square, directly facing the two churches, is an unassuming little pub (whose name unfortunately escapes me).  I do recall, however, that it's a plain beer-hall type place with long, rough wooden tables. On the walls are some very interesting blue and white tile murals depicting the history of the town. For its central location its remarkably un-touristy and uncrowded - probably because of its unprepossessing exterior and basic interior. This makes it very useful, as the centre isn't exactly overflowing with boozers to choose from.  It also serves a very nice glass of the distinctive Braugold Pils.

On the way to the railway station, on Bahnhofstr., is Burgerhof,  a sizeable restaurant with a modern interior. With its angular metallic furniture and strident decor, it's unselfconsciously ugly in the way of a 1960's cafeteria. The staff's eagerness to sprinkle around the 'bestellt' signs can make it difficult to get in. The reward if you do is more of the wonderful Braugold Pils.

Actually opposite the main station on Bahnhofplatz in the grand Erfurter Hof hotel is the Pilsner beer bar. A single room reached its furnished in the decorator's imagination of a Czech beer hall - that is: barrels for tables and lots of wood everywhere. Still, the beer is at least the genuine article. Pilsner Urquell. Downstairs the hotel has a very posh baroque restaurant, which is good to try if you can't find anywhere else to eat. The menu is more interesting and imaginative than is usual in the DDR and the service pretty good. Expect to pay for this, with prices at the very top of the scale. This sells Braugold Angerbrau Pils in bottles.

Over the other side of Bahnhofplatz in the Mitropa (9 - 23) you can experience the opposite extreme of the DDR culinary world. A cavernous self-service buffet, where the food comes on those very classy plastic trays with little hollows for each different dish. Basic, but not rough, it’s good value and handy if you're in a rush. Again, you can treat yourself to some Braugold Pils.

I spent my wedding night in Erfurt. Didn't really need to tell you that, did I? I'll spare you further details. Mainly because I can't remember many. It was a long day, during which large quantities of Erfurter Hell and Nordhäuser Doppelkorn were drunk.

Leipzig Mitropa I can recall. Couldn't forget a pub as grim as that. Last time I was there it was full of shouting drunks. ANd noty the nice kind. Quite a scary atmosphere.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Thuringia has seen some notable moments in German political history, from the constitution establishing a republic post-WWI signed in Weimar to the nineteenth century Social Democratic congresses in Erfurt, Gotha and Eisenach. Makes sense I suppose given its central location.