hidden europe 9

Comfortable corners: Berlin and Prague

by Nicky Gardner


Inns, pubs, cafés and bars are often the very essence of travel. We check out two of our favourites, one in Berlin and one in Prague.

Inns, pubs, cafés and bars often are the very essence of travel. When Victor Hugo travelled up the Rhine to write a fine account of the river (Le Rhin, 1842), he made much of the watering holes that the traveller might anticipate along the way - as did the prolific American writer James Fenimore Cooper a few years earlier (Gleanings in Europe, 1836). A century later, the eccentric English traveller, Patrick Leigh Fermor, trudged through a Germany heavy with Nazi menace (en route to Constantinople on foot) and he seemed to stagger from one homely Rhineland Kneipe to the next (a journey beautifully described four decades later in his A Time of Gifts, 1977).

Missing a bus or train in some distant rainy town, and retreating to the shelter of a bar or café, might prove to offer the most memorable hours of an entire journey. Sometimes, we concede, these are dreadful moments, as DH Lawrence found when he had some difficulties with Sardinian bus schedules and found himself haplessly stranded in places with ill-kept pubs where even the landlord was drunk (Sea and Sardinia, 1921).

Leave the grand boulevards of any big city and head into the side streets to find places that are comfortable rather than chic. The sort of place where Pablo Picasso might have spent an afternoon sketching a violin. hidden europe has tracked down two: one in Berlin and the other in Prague.

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