Thursday, 30 July 2015
1990 Mühlhausen pub guide
There’s a simple reason why I visited Mühlhausen several times. My wife’s sister lived there. And it was home to one of my favourite beers, Turmquell Pilsator. I was lucky enough to get inside one of the town’s two breweries in the DDR period, thanks to my sister-in-law’s husband, who knew someone who worked there.
It was heart breaking to say the inferior Eschwege Pils flood into the town after the wall fell, eventually killing off the town’s breweries. It made no sense to me. Why pay considerably more money for a beer that wasn’t half as good? Turmquell Pilsator is one of the beers I miss the most. I've cried a little every day since it disappeared.
30 km north of Eisenach, just 45 terrifying minutes away along a crumbling and treacherous road (it's not a good idea to try navigating it after dark) is the ancient town of Mühlhausen. If you happen to get thirsty on the way, the village of Mihla has three pubs. Mühlhausen is graced with a virtually complete town wall and, of more practical value, two breweries (one of which is built into said wall). Inside the old fortifications, not a lot has changed in the last few centuries. There's a maze of twisting streets and narrow alleyways all lined with half-timbered buildings leaning at disturbing angles. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, but fortunately for us tourists wishing to recapture the atmosphere of the past, most of the houses don't seem to have been modernised since they were built. A few months ago I would have added that they also didn't seem to have been painted since their construction, but, in honour of the recent influx of guests from over the border, a few of the main streets have seen their facades receive a well-needed lick of paint. I'm sure that it's dirty, dingy, generally unkempt appearance is far more in keeping with the spirit of the Middle Ages than are the antiseptically tidied and prettied up towns over the border. The town is also famous for the quality and quantity of its bakers. They produce the typical dark German rye bread in hearteningly traditional manner, without the use of the chemical additives so common in the west.
On Görmaer StraBe, just inside the wall on the way into town from the railway station, is the Hotel Grune Linde (8 - 24), selling the excellent draught Turmquell Pilsator. This is a pub/restaurant of a slightly higher class, so your table will have a tablecloth, albeit probably not very clean. The single large room is comfortable enough and the tables seem happily immune to the plague of 'bestellt' signs (the current record for these is held by the Lindenhof of Eisenach, which one evening contained eight tables, two customers and six 'reserviert' signs). On the walls, no doubt at the whim of an HO interior decorator, hang some arty and enigmatic prints of trees, totally out of keeping with the nature of the place and its customers, who don't exactly look like the type to knock around in art galleries.
Carrying on down Görmaer Straße, one of the streets recently having undergone a slight face-lift, you'll come to Wilhelm-Pieck-Platz. Pretty well directly opposite where you enter the square is the Mühlhauser Bierbar (16-23:30; Sat, Sun closed), an unassuming old building without much indication of being a pub. Inside its cramped interior, in the wonderful HO 'heritage' style (pine furniture and obviously designed folksy decoration), a variety of DDR beers are available. The selection varies, but you can usually count on Bad Kostritzer Schwarzbier and Wernesgrüner Pils, both bottled (unfortunately so in the case of the latter, which tastes much better in its unpasteurised draught form). This is the only specialist beer bar in the area and, judging by its popularity, you would think that it was the only pub in the area full stop. A word of advice: arrive closer to 16:00 than 23:30. (If you are unable to get in, nip over the road to the modern Stadt Mühlhausen Hotel, which sells Turmquell Pilsator on draught and stays open until midnight.)
You now have a chance to see the centre of town on the way to your next stop - this saves wasting too much valuable time on sightseeing. On leaving the beer bar, walk to the diagonally opposite corner of the square, up Linsenstr. then left along Herrenstr past the Marienkirche. Through the Frauentor, one of the old town gates and an impressive chunk of stonework, you'll find a fairly desolate piece of open ground. To the right of this, on Johannis Straße, is Gaststatte Drei Rosen (10-17; Sat, Sun closed). One glance and the neglected and crumbling plaster of the facade tells you that you're in for a treat and, when you enter, the austerity of the interior is no disappointment. From the rudimentary counter, bare walls and tubular steel furniture of its single square room to the outside toilets (aspiring to Czech standards of filthiness) everything is perfect. It deserves to be preserved in its pristine state as a memorial to the HO minimalist school of pub design. It's to be hoped the changing times won't see such monuments swept away. Your fellow customers are likely to be as straight-forward as the surroundings, but the atmosphere is relaxed and conducive to the quiet enjoyment of a glass or two of the Turmquell Pils which is on offer. A little further along Johannisstr., through another old gate, is the Turmquell bottled beer brewery, some of whose workers you might well rub shoulders with in Drei Rosen.
On leaving turn left, left again into Petristeinweg, then right along Petriteich following the town wall around (another chance for a quick spot of sightseeing here) until reaching Ammerstr. Turn left into here and a couple of hundred metres along, easily spotted by its distinctive green colour-scheme, is the strangely-named Ammerscher Bahnhof (10 - 20; Sun, Mon closed). Strangely-named, because not only is there no Ammerscher station in the vicinity, but no station of any description and not even a railway line. Here there's a bit more choice, with Turmquell Pilsator on draught and Gothaer Spezial and Eschweger Pils in bottles. There's a spacious dining area, a small taproom and another small dining room at the back. The higher quality wooden furniture, numerous pot plants and better standard of decoration are dead giveaways that this is a private pub. One wall has a particularly good mural of Muhlhausen, taken from an old engraving. Oddly enough, despite the visible outward signs of comfort, there's a lack of warmth in the surroundings. The grotty and Spartan Drei Rosen is actually a far more welcoming spot in which to enjoy a glass of beer and a quiet conversation. In just the same way that your local public bar is more convivial than a Berni Inn. In many respects, Ammerscher Bahnhof resembles more a W. German pub and I suppose that the cooler atmosphere goes along with that. They also use handled mugs instead of the usual straight glasses, a suspicious practice if I ever saw one, and the ceiling has fake beams.
As far as I can tell, only one of the pubs mentioned in my small guide to Mühlhausen still exists: Ammerscher Bahnhof.