“Keine problem, keine problem”, as at the altest, schonest bar in Berlin I wait an eternity for a cold Schultheiss.
The laughter is genuine and – in a wood panelled cave out back, years of scurvy varnish, sticky with nicotine fail to dissolve in the 50’s rock & roll which emanates from the jukebox.
The soundtrack would be different, of course, the gas lamps lit with gas rather than electricity, the mood more boisterous aber es ist fruh and this is as close as I am going to get to echt Berlin.
Authenticity is elusive in this town where the past is a series of violent disjunctures. The old litanies of East versus West, of destruction, partition and rebuilding, the bellies of the Raisin bombers opening to disgorge their payloads, the cold, the dreadful cold and further back still, the ruins, the stench of death.
I light my cigarette from a candle, another dead sailor. In London, in my old local, the Montague Arms, the candlesticks are screwed to the tables.
It is early, it is early but this feels authentic enough. It feels like these nick-nacks, black and white photographs, beer steins, empty bottles, flyblown glass shades and no longer ticking clocks have been here an eternity.
The soundtrack, John Lee Hooker in his prime, only enhances the remembering. A nostalgia for another, semi-fictional past. False memories intruding, as they are want to do. Here, in the backroom of the oldest most beautiful bar in Berlin, I falter – craving some sub-auratic desire – of wanting it to be real, as it is and yet at the same time a theme park of memory.
I pick up a flyer for the Wild Rose Review at the Admiralspalast and even though I know that I probably won’t go the attempt to recreate the past, as spectacle, seems fitting.
A man asks loudly, in English, “ Do you believe the weather report?”. The ceiling has been polished and smells of beeswax.
I order another.
An old man with a beret and a white beard sells flowers and offers the bulb of his silver bicycle horn to the bartender.
Es ist fruh. This is the oldest most beautiful bar in Berlin, it has been here for 130 years.