I have a penchant for rare things. Special stuff. Uniqueness. This obviously goes for material possessions like limited edition dvd’s, books and Lego sets, but also for experiences. Not in the sense of thrill seeking, I’ll never go base jumping for example or climb Mount Everest. I’m thinking more of the historical and cultural kind of treat, I’m a person of the mind after all. Places with a particular story behind them. Places like Skara Brae on the Orkney islands, Petra in Jordan and Sengaku-ji in Japan (where the 47 ronin are buried) But it doesn’t have to be places no longer in use, old walls that have seen volumes of stories pass by is pretty much the only criterium I’m looking for. So I’ll take you to a café, a pub and a restaurant that I always wanted to visit, because you might as well have something to drink with your history, right? So grab your wallet, make sure you got your valid ID and let’s go on a little journey.
First stop: Vienna. We need to be in the Herrengasse, a street with several old palaces from which the ‘Street of the Lords’ got its name. One of the palaces belonged to Joseph II you know, the Holy Roman Emperor in the second half of the 18th century and brother to Marie Antoinette. It’s part of the Austrian National Library now though. It also houses the Globe Museum and a museum for artificial languages, Esperanto and Interlingua being the most represented. The street is old, being built by the Romans (not the Holy ones) and mentioned in writing for the first time in 1216, but the place we’ll visit, called “Café Central”, is slightly more recent. Look, there it is. It used to be a bank from 1856 to 1860 but in 1876 a café was opened on the ground floor, the same one we’re looking at now. It’s a bit of a fancy place, very traditional Viennese, but the interior isn’t that bad on the eyes. I think I’ll have one of those Almdudlers, what about you?
Vienna had a rather big intellectual scene in the late 19th century, and this “Café Central” was a famous meeting place of plenty, mostly literary, minds though you could always find a good chess opponent as well. So who frequented this place, you ask? Well, you had your writers like Peter Altenberg, Theodor Herzl, Anton Kuch, Egon Friedell, Alfred Polgar, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Leo Perutz but also Adolf Loos, the famous architect and Alfred Adler with his theories on individual psychology and inferiority complex. Ok, these names might not be the most famous ones, but I haven’t been talking about January 1913 yet. What a time that must have been. Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud and Adolf Hitler himself got a drink right here in just that month alone. And who could forget about two of the most regular patrons, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky! I know this story of when Victor Adler objected to Count Berchtold, the then foreign minister of Austria-Hungary, that war (referring to the upcoming First World War) would provoke revolution in Russia. Berchtold replied with “And who will lead this revolution? Perhaps Mr. Bronstein sitting over there at the Café Central?” So this Lev Bronstein, it was Leon Trotsky’s birth name, the brain after the October Revolution in 1917 and the founder of the Red Army. I hope Berchtold didn’t lose a big bet there.
So now that we’ve had our elevensies and it’s nearing noon, we should go have some lunch, no? Let’s fly to Regensburg, Germany, shall we? I’d like to visit the ‘Historische Wurstküche’, as the locals would say. I hope you like sausage though, they don’t have a huge menu. You got your choice in six, eight or ten portions of Wurst with Sauerkraut and mustard, but they serve “Saure Zipfel”, “Krautwickerl” and “Sauerbraten” too. All Bavarian dishes, but don’t ask me what they exactly are. We’ll probably have to eat outside too, the building itself is rather small. I heard that maybe 35 people can eat inside, and that’s it. But you know what? This is the oldest continuously open restaurant in the WORLD! Well, probably anyway. There was this construction office built in 1135 for the Regensburg stone bridge over there, but with the bridge finished, it turned into a restaurant called “Garkueche auf dem Kranchen”, the cookshop near the crane. Its proximity to the river port made it so that dockers and sailors were the main body of customers, together with people working in the Saint Peter cathedral workshop nearby. They served boiled meat back in those days though, it changed to sausages somewhere around 1806 when a new family took over, the same family who still owns it today. The current building is 17th century, but archeologists are sure it’s the same location, and size, for that matter. But hey, I’m not here to philosophize about the Ship of Theseus, just to enjoy a good sausage. Ten of them, I’m hungry.
I’m stuffed, I don’t think I’ll need dinner anymore. So what do you say we fly to Ireland and find ourselves a nice pub? Since we just visited the oldest restaurant in the world, why don’t we go to one of the oldest pubs in the world? Let’s go to Sean’s Bar in Athlone! Supposedly this place was built in 900 A.D., can you imagine? The name Athlone actually came from Atha Luain, which is Irish for the Ford of Luain. Luain was this innkeeper who guided the folks across a dangerous ford in the River Shannon, the longest river of the Emerald Isle. So before it was called Sean’s Bar, it was named Luain’s Inn. I wonder if the current owner’s name is Sean. Anyway. The bar has this ledger with records of every owner since the start. You know who’s on that list, in 1987? Boy George! Just briefly though. But that’s just another notch in the ‘neat’ list. Also, in 1970, they did some renovations and they found walls dating back to the 10th century, which confirmed the ancientness of this place even more. Those walls were made of wicker and wattle, those woven fences you see once in a while. Here, hold on, lemme get my cellphone. I’ll show you a picture of what I mean.
They found these really old coins too, which were, like, minted by landlords themselves to barter with, and they go waaaaaay back to the 10th century too. The coins and walls are in the National Museum now, but see over there, there’s just one section they kept here to show off. Yo, dude. Dude, you’re not looking. Over there. Ah fuck it, you’re drunk. Oh shit, the band is starting to play, shut up.
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