Eisenach Pub Guide
Bars - Beerhalls - Beer gardens

Eisenach is a town which will always have a special place in my heart, for a multiplicity of reasons. For one, it's where I was married (and the authorities thoughtfully sent along someone to photograph the proceedings, without us even having to ask). It's also a rather charming old place, which despite its many important historical associations, is oddly unknown in the English-speaking world.

Here is a quick crash course in the town's significance:
  • Bach was born here
  • it has one of Germany's most impressive medieval castles, Wartburg
  • it's here (in Wartburg castle) that Martin Luther first translated the bible into German
  • it was home to the world-renowned Wartburg car factory (it wasn't exactly well-known for the right reasons)
The old town is a significant size and mostly quite well preserved. A few bits on the edge were left to rot then replaced by Plattenbau, but the rest hasn't been fiddled with too much in the last century. Sadly, some of the villas on the Wartburg side of town have been standing empty for years as arguments rage as to who exactly the legal owner is. It has, ironically, caused many similar problems to the ones arising from lack of investment from the DDR authorities - fine buildings crumbling slowly to rubble.
On the west east side of town there's a chunk of the old city wall slicing across Georgenstrasse. But it's nothing that would keep out an agile 5-year old, let alone rampaging Austian/Bavarian/Prussian armies. The only even vaguely convincing section is Karlstor (Karl's Tower), gateway to the town's first significant square, Karlsplatz (formerly Platz der Deutsch-Sowjetischen Freundschaft). The square is one of many spots in Eisenach of which I have eternal recollections. Not many wedding parties leave the reception by bus, but it was a pleasure accorded us. Our own very special wedding bendy-bus left from Platz DSF.

You can criticise the DDR regime for many things, but their stance on drink-driving couldn't be faulted. The legal limit for alcohol in the blood was effectively nil and the penalties (jail sentences in many cases) certainly acted as a deterrent to irresponsible behaviour. No drunken guest stupid enough to drive us home, no taxi to be found (check out the difference now - whole caravans at every taxi stand); what else can you do but take the bus? It looks very romantic in "The Graduate", bride in wedding dress (to be perfectly accurate, jilting bride in the film). Standing amongst the shoppers in our ill-fitting suits (in my wife's case, beautiful white dress) was a far more prosaic experience. Well, it would have been, if Dave hadn't spotted the kiosk just by the busstop.

You can criticise the DDR regime for many things, but the general availability of alcoholic drinks, in all strengths, under their governent couldn't be faulted. Quicker than you could say "we're a bunch of alcoholics" we were all supplied with miniatures, proper Nordhäuser, I think. The journey was an event for my Bristish guests, not only because of the novelty of riding in an articulated bus.

To return from the world of notalgia to the more urbane one of disseminating information; here is one tip for you all. I found a little free booklet called "Gastronomischer Stadtbummel: Eiseneach und Umgebung" of great help. It's in both English and German, which is very thoughtful. You should be able to pick it up at a hotel or the tourist office:
Tourist Information
99817 Eisenach.
Tel.: 03691 - 7923-0, 03691 - 19433
Fax: 03691 - 792320
Email: tourist-info@www.eisenach.de
Homepage: http://www.eisenach.de/

Opening times: Mon: 10:00 - 18:00
Tue-Fri: 09:00 - 18:00
Sat-Sun: 10:00 - 14:00

Theses aresome more useful links for Eisenach:

Eisenach, its Beer, its Pubs
Eisenacher Brauerei
In the town is the mid-sized (40,000 hl a year) Eisenacher Brauerei. It's very central, on the big avenue that leads from town towards Wartburg castle. Some of is rusticaly half-timbered, some industrial late 19th century brick and you can see through big display windows to some of the coppers. There were a few lorries hanging about, but I couldn't see much else going on. Maybe I was there on a slow day.

I've drunk beer from the brewery since 1987. In the early days, it was OK. The Helles was a bit thin. Wartburg Pils was drinkable, but very unstable. If properly (and quickly) tapped, it was quite a reasonable beer. Bottled, you needed to buy it and drink it straight away. If you walked slowly, it could go sour before got home. Perhaps hygiene wasn't all it could have been inside the brewery.

After 1989, beer flooded in from the West and sales plumetted. The local pub trade stayed loyal enough to keep the brewery going. After a refit of the brewhouse, the beer quality has improved tremendously. Sales seem to have picked up and the Wartburg trademark to be of some value again (I don't think the make of car with the same name did it much good). Their beers aren't the best in the world, but they're reasonable and certainly above average for the area. They also produce a fair range of styles - pils, export, bock, schwarzbier - though the Helles, once their mainstay in the off-trade, has disappeared. (Helles in general, has had a poor time of it in the old DDR since re-unification.)

Their dark lager, Schwarzer Drachen is an interesting beer. Introduced in the 90's to take advantage of the popularity of Köstritzer Schwarzbier, it has changed its taste over the years. Initially quite sweet, it's now very much in the current trend of the style - dry and with quite a bit of malt bitterness. It's odd to see a style becoming bitterer these days.
Eisenach Pubs
There have been many pub closures in the time I have known Eisenach, but it's still got a perfectly respectable number for a town of its population. I've found listings for over 70 licensed premises to serve the 45,000 inhabitants. The variation in drinking establishments is good: Bavarian beerhalls, cosy pubs, traditional restaurants, local bars.

I found that the standard of pubs was generally high. That there were plenty of cosy, traditional places around. It's probably because, having been done out in the last ten years, they missed out on all the horrible design disasters of the 70's and 80's. My only observation, though this could well have been because of me visiting at early hours, was that there appeared a shortage of customers. I was there outside tourist season, too, so this is most likely total crap that I've just written. No doubt in Summer you'll be driven crazy by the crowds.

The overwhelming majority of pubs, to my great admiration, still get their standard draught beers from the local Eisenach brewery. Wartburg Pils and Schwarzer Drachen are on most bars and why not? They usually offer beers from elsewhere too. It's only right that in a small town the local brewery should provide the standard beer. Sadly, there are many towns in Germany, especially in the East, where this is not the case.

Augustiner and Paulaner from Munich both have tied pubs in the town. You'll also find beer from other Bavarian breweries - notably Kulmbacher and and Tucher. Products from nearby parts of the East - Köstritzer, Radeberger and Sternquell - mean that you can obtain an unusual mixture of beers in the town.Things are just slowly reverting to how they were before Germany was divided. Bavaria isn't a great distance away and there large brewers must always have has a presence here.
Personal Memories
To the left you can see the Lindenhof, which is currently on the market and I am sure will be attracting the attention of astute investors everywhere. Here is one of the many locations in Eisenach that conjure up very personal memories.

It may look a wreck now, but in 1988 it was totally different - all the windows had glass and there was draught beer. Inspirational design and sophistication weren't words that cropped up the HO's mission statement. Lindenhof took this corporate philosophy to the absolute limit. Today it's possible to peep at the bar inside through some of the smashed boards and, despite the vandalism, it's not looking that much worse than when I last had a beer there in 1988. The outside hasn't deteriorated considerably, either. It looks as if someone might have even tidied up the garden since the old days.

If you're thinking that's the grip this pub has on my throat and mind, then you're very wrong. The memory that will never fade from my mind emanates from my wedding feast. Over the road at my in-laws house, we were having an after-reception party. A half dozen of my friends and family were staying there for a few days around the wedding. My father-in-law had bought in a barrel of Wartburg Pils, but was worried that we would never get through it. Early in the evening of the wedding day, we had just finished off the second barrel of Wartburg (ordered in emergency after the first had run out after two days).

Lindenhof was just over the road and the only pub in the district open at that time of day. Great idea - we nip over there and buy a couple of crates of beer. After all, this is the DDR and the price of a crate in a pub is the same as in a supermarket. Even in a country where I had learnt to love the charming drabness of of the surroundings, Lindenhof was drably charmless. The landlord - a scruffy, miserable git in the best tradition of publicans totally unsuited for their profession - soon disappointed us: they had no bottled beer. About the only drinks available were draught pils and doppelkorn (and I suppose tap water, though I wouldn't have bet my left shoe on them having running water that was drinkable). What a dilemna: beer a mere 50 metres away from a happy group of revellers, but nothing to transport it in. Suddenly someone - I can't remember who, but he was a man of genius - suggested we fetch a bucket and put 10 litres of draught beer in it.

Now, bar staff could be a fickle bunch in the DDR. Moving a chair from one table to another could be considered as a capital offence. I was once scolded by a waitress for reading a book at the table. Yet being asked to pull 20 beers and tip them into a bucket was seen as a perfectly reasonable request. If you want to appreciate what I mean by this, try doing the same in your local pub. Go in with a bucket and ask them to fill it with beer. I bet you that they won't act as nonchalantly as this bloke did.

Eisenach Pub Guide
Pub Listings

Map Index

Altdeutsche Bierstube
Alexanderstr 8,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 732003
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 - open end
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €2-5, meals €5-7, beer €2.40 0.5l.
The Bierstube is one of Eisenach's oldest pubs though, hidden away on a sidestreet, you're unlikely to stumble upon it by accident. It has two rooms: the first very much a taproom, behind it is a restaurant.

Cosy may be a cliché, but that is the best word to describe the atmosphere. There are plenty of traditional feature - a kachelofen (enclosed coal oven), delightful old panelling , a beamed ceiling and wonderful carved columns. Most of the added decoration is beer related, mostly connected with Radeberger or Köstritzer.

Any pub that has a well-entrenched line of middle-aged guys at the bar has to have the word "local" pop up somewhere in it's description. They were very keen on the Radeberger. It could be a subconscious effect on people of that age of the product's former rarity. Or they could just prefer it to the Wartburg and I can't say that I could put up too much of an argument against them.

Though one of the reasons for the continued existance of the Eisenacher brewery, which survived the dark days after re-unification, is the loyalty of the local pub trade. When western beers flooded the shops, enough of the landlords kept faith with the town's brewery to keep it going.

Pride in the produce of your local area is a quality that I have always admired. It's one of the many good attitudes of the French. You find it a lot in Germany, too. Around re-unfication the former DDR had a bit of an identity crisis. Appreciation of the local specialities (which were mostly available all through the communist time) has returned and deservedly so. No-one would ever believe me when I said that the best bread and sausage in Germany was to be found in Thuringia. The beer was usually pretty good, too. I still swear (and my brother will too) that Mühlhäuser Pilsator was one of the best beers I've had in the true Pilsner Urquell style (so not pils - not that stuff that has the colour of urine - a beer with a bit of colour and body, so some maltiness as well as a good finish of hops. The style - pilsator - has very, unfortunately, not outlived the SED.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Augustiner Bräu Spezialausschank
Georgenstr 30,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 215250
Fax: 03691 - 215250
Email: andreasgutsell@arcor.de
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 - 24:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: 5
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €3-6, meals €6-14, beer €2.50-2.70 for 0.5l.
As you can tell from the name, this is effectively a tied outlet of Munich's Augustiner brewery. And there's absolutetly nothing wrong with that, Augustiner being the pick of the big industrial breweries. It's on the edge of the town centre, about due West of the Markt.

Now my memory may be deceiving me, but I seem to remember, during the late 1980's, spotting a building with a plaster sign from a Munich brewery. I have a definite feeling that it was this pub. I thought: "that's a tied house they'll never get back" - how wrong I was.

Inside you've got yourself a typical traditional Bavarian beerhall, allbeit on a relatively small scale. The walls are panelled, the floors wooden and the tables topped with pine. There are plenty of old Augustiner posters (they produced some particularly striking ones in the 20's and 30's) and steins to give the appropriate beery atmosphere. It's all been done with a good deal of taste and has created a old-fashioned, cosy boozer whose young age it would be impossible to guess. A genuine addition to the town and better than any pub they used to have.

The main bar is L-shaped, with the short side along the street, which is faced by the bar counter. There are a couple of other rooms used for functions. It's another one of those pubs that stretch back so far that the restricted frontage on the street can be xery deceptive.

The beer selection may be small and bizarrely (perhaps my German isn't as good as I thought and the waitress misinterpreted my question) includes no bottles, but there is Edelstoff, one of my all time favourite Spezial style beers. The food is a mixture of Bavarian and Thuringian dishes - not a bad combination if you don't have too many waistline issues.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Hotel "Am Bachhaus"
Marienstrasse 7,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 20470
Fax: 03691 - 2047 133
Email: amBachhaus@oal.com
Homepage: http://www.hotel-am-bachhaus.de/
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 - 23:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €7-9, meals €8-12.
This hotel, restaurant, pub and probably a few other things as well is just around the corner from where Mr. and Mrs. Bach used to live. You can still see "Johann S rools OK" scratched crudely into the wall of the local bus shelter. I think that 300 years is plenty long enough for the council to have got around to repainting it.

You know when you're in Eisenach's "Bach quarter" (young Johann's grafiti aside) because suddenly all the signposts for pedestrians are multilingual German/Japanese. On a small square (though it's still a street) a little to the South of the Markt, you'll find Am Bachhaus.

Forgive me if I now lapse into my rather dull explanation mode. On entry, ignoring the reception directly opposite you, if you turn left you'll come into the taproom. This is a square room directly behind the front window, and has much of its space occupied by a U-form bar. Most of the seating here is of the relaxing barstool variety. (My wife refuses to sit on the things, saying they make her legs go numb. The times I've wished that the same thing could happen to my brain, when I'm in some crappy pub - but I almost forgot, isn't that why beer was invented?) But I digress, if we take a small stroll towards the rear, then we'll pass through a series of larger restaurant and function rooms.

The style is what I call "postwar German brewery tap". Out in the forest, another few hectares of pine have felt the axe. A lorry-load of red tiles have been carefully laid. There's not really much about the concept that you can fault. I've been in such places from Düsseldorf to Munich, via Cologne and Stuttgart. Even the cleverest designer can't provide genuine ageing. You can fake it, you can buy it by the yard and lay it out, but it will never be the real thing. The real thing (a cosy, old-fashioned pub) evolves over decades or even centuries. You start off with a basic idea, then just let time take it's course: things break, junk accumulates, fag smoke gets deposited. There's no way to get this effect overnight (not convincingly - see the Kartoffelhaus below). Here, they've got the basic material for a very pleasant pub. With loving care, it could be somewhere to delight my grandchildren. Perhaps if "Bomber" ("Butcher" or "War-criminal" would be a more appropriate epithet) Harris hadn't been quite so conscientious in finding German towns that would burn nicely, there would be more unspoilt old pubs.

There's seating for a couple of hundred, but at the unfashionably early time of my visit, I was their only customer. So, as to the nature of the usual clientèle, your guess is as good as mine. But - I'm going out on a limb here - it wouldn't surprise me if the odd hotel guest popped in.

I'm sorry, but being the only person in the joint, there weren't a great number of barstaff around whom I could ask. OK, I admit it: I did forget to enquire about the bottled beers. An informed guess would be the Tucher wheat beers.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Hotel Glockenhof
Grimmelgasse 4,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 2340
Fax: 03691 - 234 131
Email: info@glockenhof.de
Homepage: http://www.glockenhof.de/
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 08:00 - 01:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: 4
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €3-5, meals €5-11, beer €1.60-2.10 0.3l.
If ever a declaration of interest needed were needed, then that time is now. On this spot, we celebrated my wedding reception and it will, accordingly, always (or at least until my wife finally loses her patience with my irresponsibility) evoke within me unique associations. You've been warned - don't expect Mister Rational to remain within the audatorium for the duration of these paragraphs.

Then again, I wouldn't have recognised it if my father-in-law hadn't pointed it out to me as he drove me into town. "Now, we'll have to go down this way, mate, 'cos of the *ing one-way system in this *ing town. See that place there, gov? That's where we 'ad the knees-up after you tied the knot, if I 'member it right." (My pathetic attempt at argot is only my silly,inadequate my way to convey the spirit of of the moment. The fact that he really is a taxi-driver is of no relevance here. (My god, he is the bloke who drove me to the Schmitt brewery in Singen, an act for which I will never forget him.) Memory is a fickle friend. I recognised countless other personally totally meaningless landmarks in Eisenach, yet this very significant place sparked not the slightest flicker of memory. My mind must have been on other things at the time.

Now where were we? I was about to launch into my second apology, which is for forgetting to photograph the exterior. I have a good reason for this, in pretty well all circumstances other than these. You wouldn't believe how many photos I take in the course of this grueling research. Even so, there are occasions on which I need to be economical with the film stock So I've got into the habit of taking the exterior shot upon exit rather than before entry. There are many dangers inherent in this approach: the light conditions deteriorating whilst inside; not being conscious when leaving; forgetting.

My usual reason for the delay in snapping away is fear of disappoinment. How many photos sit sadly in my albums of pubs, unreported in these pages, who let me down. From the outside everything looks good, so, whip out the camera, push the button and rush inside. How similar, as Swiss Tony says, this experience is to "making love to a beautiful woman". These chastising images of a charming appearance harbouring corruption within, haunt every visit to my archive. Traumatised by these experiences, I have become accustomed to capturing the wonderful pictures which grace these pages after leaving, when I'm certain that we're talking about high class broad and not low-rent hooker.

After all this prologue are you still reading? Do you care what this very special hotel/restaurant/pub looks and feels like? I can't say that I'm not tempted to tell you nothing at all. To let you peruse the the pics (sadly lacking one of the most vital) and come to your own conclusions. But what is the point in me making all the effort to produce these pages, if I can't force my bigoted and ill-founded opinions down your throats? If you want to see how the exterior looks, the photo on the hotel's homepage is better than I could have managed, anyway.

A lot has changed here since my brother gave his bestman's speech. In those days it was a hospice (a sort of cheap hotel/restaurant, not the last resting place of the terminally ill) owned by the protestant church. That's the half-timbered bit on the corner. The restaurant is still retained in (as much as my irritating memory can recall) its original form. The lump adjoining it is the hotel/bistro built when, as a weird side-effect of privatisation, church property got sold off, too. You couldn't build anything with even the vaguest of pretensions to hipness that didn't have a whiff of post-modernism, so on the ouside that's what you get.

The new appearance had me fearing the worst. But I was sadly disappointed in my lack of disapppointment with the interior. The bistro is (as you xcan see above) rather swish but at the same time has a real sense of place, mostly through the thoughtful use of old photographs. Bastards. Why couldn't you make a real pig's ear of it? For goodness sake, almost everywhere else in the world they can manage disastrous conversions/extensions/renovations. How come they didn't mange here? The desgner must have studied in the East - where they taught trades poperly.

The beers? Well, nothing too out of the ordinary. Three of the draught beers are pils, but, if you want a quick guide to former-DDR pils beers, this could be a fair crash course. Bottled they've got Eisenacher Schwarzer Drachen and the set of Franziskaner wheat beers.

There's a beer garden at the back, by the way. And it's a hotel. course. Looks pretty nice, too, but you would have to check their website for prices. I would suggest haggling: the major tourist sources - the USA and Japan - are running dry at present, causing a bit of a draught in the hotel trade.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Markt 19,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 203 461
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 09:30 - open end
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers: 4
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €4-8, meals €7-10, beer €2.80 0.5l..
It isn't only going to be the Einstein's amongst you who will be able to guess that this pub is on the market place. It is, strangely, about the only straightforward hostelry on the square.

Once inside, it's surprisingly diminutive given the width of the frontage. The chunky pine furniture (I always thought of it as the HO rustic style) looks like it has been kept over from the DDR days. But chaps, that dark green panelling, believe me; it doesn't do the place any favours. It looks as if they've let a four year old pick the colour scheme. And that's a four your old who can't name the colours correctly yet. And had obviously chosen the paint by words. This can be great fun to observe but, believe me, has limited charm.

You can't help thinking that they're not really making the most out of what they've got here. They've got a great spot, you would need to have pretty poor eyesight not to notice it. It's not pubby enough for hanging around in. I think that that with a bit better layout, they could be on a winner. Note the typical design of the older buildings in the town: the outer door opens onto a corridor, from which another door lead into the pub. Couldn't have been keen on draughts.

There are two rooms- a tiny one by the entrance which joins onto a second deeper room, with the bar counter at the rear. Behind the pub there is a small beer garden.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Gasthof "Am Storchenturm"
Georgenstraße 43a,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 0700 - 4040 4050
Fax: 03691 - 733 265
eMail info@gasthof-am-storchenturm.de
Homepage: http://www.gasthof-am-storchenturm.de
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 - 23:00
Jan-Apr Mon-Fri 11:00 - 23:00, Sat-Sun 11:00 - 23:00
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers: 4
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €4-8, meals €6-12, beer €2.50 0.5l..
This place had me, even armed with a very useful map showing its location, struggling to find it. My advice is, look for the public library on Georgenstraße, go around the back of it and there, amidst remnants of the city fortifications, you will discover a half-timbered barn. Part of a farm that predates the founding of the town in 1150, it reopened as a pub in 1987. If you pass the thing with the gothic tower in the photo to the left, then you've gone too far and are headed into the uncharted (for me at least) western outreaches of town.

Its name is taken from part of the wall close by, the "Storchenturm", whose roof used to house a stork's nest. Though there's not that much of the tower left nowadays, so didn't have romantic visions of gothic towers. You still can't fault the spot, fronted by a shady beer garden and shielded from the road by neighbouring buildings.

Inside, the half-timbedering is still visible, thoughthe rest of the décor is fairly neutral and modern. Some halters and other examples of agricultural retro are sprinklimg around just to make sure that you don't forget this was once a barn. OK, I've got the idea. A simple sign saying "ex-barn" would suffice.

The beer list is the same as that of a great many pubs: Wartburg/"luxury pils"/Tucher Weizen beers.
Rating: *** Public transport:

"Das total verrückte Kartoffelhaus"
Sophienstrasse 44,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 732 626
Fax: 03691 - 785 381
e-mail: totalverrueckt@Kartoffelhaus.com
Homepage: www.kartoffelhaus.com/gaeste/esa/
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 - 14:30 & 17:30 - 01:00
Sun 11:00 - 01:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: 2
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €4-8, meals €8-20, beer €2.20 0.5l.
Before you start thinking that I've become a total hypocrite and am now promoting theme outlets, I will give you my reasons for including this particular establishment. It has a handy central location and some tasty beers that I didn't find anywhere else in the town. Will that do?

I felt obliged to give some sort of explanation before divulging that this is one of a chain of potata-dish based pubs hhose name translates as"The totally Crazy Potato". It sounds horribly like a German version of Spud-U-Like, but it's really much better. Believe me, though the description I'm about to pass on to you may not improve that image. I hope that those of you who have used my guides "out in the field", will by now afford me a degree of trust (and if you don't, what on earth are you doing still reading my junk?). I was strangely seduced by this seemingly appalling epitome of all that is bad about the modern gastronmic world. I don't give it that high a rating but, hey, for this style of eatery, it's the equivalent of three Michelin stars.

Where I was immediately reminded of - for no particular reason - was the estate pub nearest to wher I lived in West Swindon (the Swindon of the West). It's all the fake internal architetural bits, perhaps, such as a tiled roof over the bar. There is one room, though loads of twidly bits of alcoves formed from demolition salvage break this up considerably. The "by the yard" old books on high shelves immediately brought into my mind another 1980's Swindon monstrosity of a pub: the one closest to my work. A combination of two design catastrophes - is the gestalt a masterpiece of kitsch? Don't ask me. I just drink the beer and check if the bar staff know their Aas from their Elblag.

Strangely, this mish-mash of historical débris is in a genuinely old building. But, in a sort of mirri\or of the interior, a modern block of flats is adjacent and actually extends above this house. Spooky, eh?

The beers include a very pleasant Mönchshof Premium Schwarzbier, the Weißbier products of the Kulmbacher brewery in bottle and draught Sternquell, which, sadly, is a poor shadow of its former magnificent self.
Rating: ** Public transport:

Paulaner-Restaurant Der Zwinger (in Hotel Kaiserhof)
Wartburgallee 2,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 213513
Fax: 03691 - 203653
Email: info@kaiserhof-eisenach.bestwestern.de
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 - 24:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: 3
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
You'll all be bored to death by me banging on abvout this yet again, but I do greatly admire Paulaner for their chain of tied houses. I may have growing doubts about certain of their beers (the dreaded hop-extract), but they do have some great boozers. When in a new town and desperate, my first move is to check for the presence of a Paulaner outlet.

You German experts may well have heard of Dresden's renowned Zwinger museum, part of that city's distinctive skyline. Now, it's only while I was browsing through a German kid's guide to castles (coincidentally in the bookshop on Eisenach's main shopping thoroughfare Karlstraße), that I realised what a Zwinger was. It means "bailey" - one of the outer walled courtyards of a castle. Whether the Zwinger in question here is a reference to Wartburg castle (at the top of the hill up which Wartburgallee winds) or Dresden is unclear.

Hotel Kaiserhof dominates a corner immediately in front of the only preserved tower of the city wall. The style of the building is typical for the period called in Germany "Gründerzeit", the age of rapid economic expansion preceding World War One. It's a form of architecture I've got quite a soft spot for. OK, we're heading into town from the station (another beautiful building from the same era) and the fork at Kaiserhof gives you two options: up the hill to the castle; through the gate into town. If you're on foot, going left is a bad option, unless your destination is the brewery (at the bottom of the hill, on the left) or the castle, a chest-bursting climb of a mile or two.

Where were we? I remember - I was trying to tell you about this Paulaner pub. It's in basement of the hotel, the main advantage of which is that it's completely sparated from the hotel part of the structure. You can see the windows half sticking out from the pavement in my snap above. Now there's a funny story about the semi-subterranean nature of this boozer. I'm told that during periods when miniskirts were popular, seats close to the windows were most favoured by young gentlemen. Despite their low elevation, they found the outlook admirable.

At some point I will eventually tell the more patient amongst you what it's like inside. Well, not really any great surprises. There's a single L-shaped room in a typical Paulaner style. Dark-panelled walls, pine tables and chairs. Hopefully my photo isn't so dark that you can't get the idea without me using up any of my lyrical inspiration. Slightly odd are the wiatresses who, true to Bavarian tradition, are clad in dirndls. Unlike Bavaria, none of them looked like they were drawing their pensions yet. Got the idea - it's almost like being in Munich (not, by any means, an unpleasant thought). They're making a good attempt to hide the panelling with old photos and newspaper clippings, but will need another year or two to complete the job.

One last point about the interior. Christophe, it defies the law of toilet symbols you told me. The male and female figures on the bog doors are undisputably fat, yet the toilets themselves are the epitome of modernity and cleanliness. I would go far as to say, the best quality toilets I found in the town.

The food is a combination of Thuringian and Bavarian, which suits me just fine. Any menu with a high dumpling quota scores highly with me. No argiments about either the quality or quantity (this is Germany, after all) of the nosh.

Beer - well it can't come as much of a shock that they have a load of Paulaner ones. I would steer away from their pale bottom-fermenting beers - the hop-extract taste screws them up a treat. The Dunkles and wheat beers fare much better, being lightly-hopped.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Waldgasthof Sängerwiese
Sängerwiese 1,
99817 Eisenach.
Tel. 03691 - 20 32 72
Fax: 03691 - 20 32 72
Email: info@gasthof-saengerwiese.de
Homepage: www.gasthof-saengerwiese.de
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 - 18:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: 3
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €2-8, meals €3-17, beer €2.40 a half litre.
I wouldn't pay too much attention to the address. What it really should say is, "half way up a hill, in a forest, just outside town". I had the good fortune

a) to have a father-in-law who's a local taxi driver
b) to be walking with the assistance of a crutch (it's a very, very long story that I won't be sharing with you)

so I didn't have to walk up the hill like you will have to. Sorry, it's emergency vehicles only.

"How could you have got the full appreaciation of the beautiful surroundings in the Thüringer Wald national park, without putting in the work?" I hear you ask. Well, getting a hour's peace away from the bloody kids, left me in a very appreciative mood, believe me.

You're no doubt getting impatient with these personal asides and would like a few more hard facts. Here we go then. Sängerwiese is a fairly small pub/restaurant, in the middle of a wood (ss I have already expalined), decorated in a folksy but simple manner. So you're got the trademark check tablecloths and the slightly less grandmotherly dead animal skulls hung above the wood panelling. There are too separate rooms in addition to the DDR-style taproom.

The menu is stuffed with traditional Thuringian dishes (you'll be feeling stuffed after many of them), including plenty of game. For those of you on a budget there is a special menu that would put a smile on the face of the meanest miser. The "Ostalgie Menu" conatains a selection of meals once common in DDR pubs. What makes especially tempting is that not only are the meals are exactly the same as they were, so are the prices. You can get a full meal for under 3 euros! It's amazingly good value.

You would be surprised how many portraits of Honecker, which used to hang in every pub in the DDR, are still knocking around. (I have one myself, somewhere, but my wife keeps taking it down and hiding it.) Quite often, as in this case, their location isn't as respectful as in former times. But it's nice to think that Erich is still keeping an eye on us. It was amusing to observe the efforts to whip up some sort of personality cult over a bloke, let's face it, with less charisma than John Major's underpants.

Ostalgie I interpret as a healthy phenomenon. In the immediate days after re-unificartion everyone tried to pretend the previous 40 years somehow hadn't taken place. People now feel safe to express fond memories of elements of the DDR period, without coming on as some sort of unrepentant SED hard-liner. More and more DDR-memorabilia forms an integral part of pub interior design. I don't know what West Germans make of it, but it certainly brings a nostalgic tear or two to my eyes.

Also a small hotel with 6 double rooms. In the warmer months, there is a beer garden.
Rating: ***** Public transport:

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