The Berlin Bar is easy to miss when you're hunting for it. In a lane in Chinatown, you simply see its emblematic Berlin bear above a doorway. The doorway leads to a staircase. At the top of the stairs, you knock on a heavy door, and someone behind pretends to scrutinise your suitability for entrance while checking if you have reservations. Of course, it's all part of the game in a bar that has been divided into East and West Berlin. In West Berlin, 50s-chic decor of red booths and sparkling chandeliers welcomes youl the 'fun', American-run part of town. In Communist East Berlin, you might be positioned over an antique radio or perched atop a bunk bed, as you duck your head under the camo and barbed wire.
It's great fun for many, but for those more connected to the history of Berlin itself, the irreverent gimmickery of the Berlin bar may offend. Down in Australia, for many the horrors of WWII are far removed, and chances are strong that the young, hip crowd don't even realise what the Sachsenhausen (tanqueray infused with lemongrass, lemon, and vanilla sugar syrup) is named for - one of Germany's horrific concentration camps, the site of the murder of countless innocents. But it's all too easy to be distracted instead with a tasty Love Parade (Absolut vanilla, St Germain, lemon, and strawberry compote), the candy-pink cocktail topped with a heart-shaped lollipop.
History-conscious patrons may not appreciate the way that the bar makes light of the historically violent and disturbing serration of the city of Berlin. Yet the allure of the tasty drinks, the uniqueness of the idea, the two very different atmospheres inside, and the exclusive feel of this bar all ensure that it is is packed every Friday and Saturday night. I happily take all my out-of-town friends here.
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