Saturday, December 25, 2010
Berliner Raucher Kneipe
The kneipe is a special place in Berlin where you can find a few locals crammed together in corners watching sports on the telly and drinking cheap beer in small glasses. The wiki translation of 'kneipe' is 'pub,' but this isn't exactly accurate. To me, a pub is a place where large groups of English or Irish people gather together and drink ales and stouts from LARGE mugs and watch sports on the telly.
Most of the Berliner Kneipe are raucher, or smoking pubs. Most European pubs have followed the popular trend of banning smoking; England, Ireland and Germany all share the same laws concerning smoking in bars. To whit: it is not allowed. In Berlin, however, people just plain don't give a fuck. They smoke in bars anyway. Technically, this is illegal, but if a kneipe owner scrawls the word 'raucher' in crayon on a bar napkin and duct tapes it to the door of his establishment, alles in ordnung.
"So, db, why in the hell do you go to the raucher kneipe if you don't like smoke, you California beeotch?"
Glad you asked. Two words: CHEAP BEER. Sure, the beer is crappy, mostly warm off-brands that nobody has ever heard of outside of Berlin. But I'll be god damned if I'll ever be caught DEAD in the typical over-lit, over-priced, bistro-slash-faggy-slash-dancy cafe-slash-bar-slash-fuckers-I-don't-like-SLASH-em-ALL!!!
Ahem, excuse me. I prefer dark corners and dark people. I don't mean the local African watering holes per se, but those would be welcome as well. I mean, normal people who have no problem with the dual stigmas of being butt suckers and alcoholics. The lungs and the livers are shot, but these people are REAL.
FALLING DOWN is my local raucher kneipe. It is practically right across the street from me, which makes it an easy stagger home. I suppose the name of the place, in the immortal words of Bukowski, 'sort of fondled my scrotum.' It's not normal to have an English name on a German bar. And this bar is all German, mostly Prenzlauer Bergers of the old sort: unemployed, hard drinking, DDR-raised people who like cigarettes and beer more than life itself. The bar is owned by a man of Mediterranean origin. His name is 'Shefki,' which he told me means 'happy man' in Arabic. It's true: the man is happy. Even when his bar is dead empty, he just smiles and asks me 'where are the people do you suppose?' Then he rips open a bag of chips and brings the darts out for a game or two.
He opened the pub on Christmas Day "for the lonely people who don't have Christmas today." I thanked him profusely by eating his chips, drinking his beer and throwing his darts. I had to ask him about the decision to name the bar 'Falling Down.' Was it about the gambling machines tucked in the corner? Does 'Falling Down' mean the falling of coins? Or is it about the more unfortunate patrons who can't handle the new uber-Captialist economy and the heavy amount of alcohol one must consume to deal with the aforementioned regime change?
To which Shefki replied: "I think it is the last place people go in the neighborhood. After they have gone to all the other kneipe in the neighborhood, they come here last and fall down."
Don't be scared. Please visit Falling Down on Paul-Robeson-str. today. Sure, your lungs may fall out of your ass from the smoke, but Shefki is a happy man who plays a mean game of darts and peddles a cheap bottle of beer. Tell him the big American sent you.