This weekend was really calling my name especially hard after a long and intense week of school and training. I'm not usually one to "go hard" but I went ahead and made plans for Friday AND Saturday night *gasp* a true rarity for this introvert right here.
Friday my cousin and I met a mutual girlfriend for some drinks. While sometimes I feel like I am spoiled by the bar culture in Portland, on this night we visited a couple really cool joints.
Neue Odessa Bar
The entryway to Neue Odessa Bar twinkles with old-fashioned marque lighting enticing people off the street to come inside. It was still lined with Christmas tress and decorated from the holidays which gave it a very rustic look.
Inside, the bar is broodingly dark and smoky. Monotone decor with lots of mirrors and candles gives it a chic side, too.
This kind of bar is known as a Raucherbar, where it is totally normal for people to light a cigarette indoors. As an American, it is still weird for me to see, but (despite the health downsides) this gives some bars a romantic vibe that makes me nostalgic for a time I wasn't even alive for.
The patrons and waiters here exude fashionista and hipster flair in their all-black get-ups, but the surrounding still felt welcoming and cozy.
After a short wait on a velvet banquette, we snagged a table next to a window with a cozy window seat over a heater to take Berlin's winter chill off.
We ordered off of their extensive cocktail menu, which featured bar-favorites, variations on the moscow mule, and other bar-standards for 9-15€. Each of our drinks was delicious!
After so much-needed catching up, the smoke was starting to get to us, so we decided to move onto the next location.
Cafe-Bar Gorki Park
Walking in the door at Cafe-Bar Gorki Park transports you to what I imagine the 1970s Eastern-Bloc to look like. wooden bar chairs and tables, hanging metal pendant lights casting a warm glow over each table, little nooks for private conversations, and wall paper, little mirrors and trinkets covering the shelves and walls make this place super comfy and unpretentious.
During the day Cafe Gorki serves Brunch and Lunch and by night turns into a bar that features beer from Moscow. Lots of university students flock here for the affordable wine pitchers that can be shared with the whole group. The menu also features delicious Russian specialties like Pelmeni, Borscht, und Blini.
Next up on my weekend agenda was Shisha night with a couple of my guy friends. While I'm not a smoker, I was really interested in learning more about this social custom from my Arab and Palestinian friends.
Punta Time - Shisha Bar
Punta Time is a Shisha Lounge and Soccer Bar in Prenzlauerberg. They've got a funky old-Hollywood / celebrity vibe combined with modern, brightly colored chairs and color-changing lights that I associate with a Hookah or Shisha Bar. One of my friends is a regular here and we were lucky enough to snag their favorite spot in the back with a table, a couple chairs, and a couch to ourselves.
We ordered Apfel Shisha, which is apple-flavored tobacco*, one of the most popular flavors and is often sold out. Our server prepared our hookah, or waterpipe, and brought it to our table ready to go. They circle around periodically with a little bucket of perfectly square, glowing coals, and change ours out when needed. Generally it costs about 10€, but during happy hour you can get Shisha + a drink for ~8€.
One of my friends explained a few traditional customs which I found very interesting:
- The hookah should be placed on the ground - never on the table. This is because this object is there to serve you, and it should also never be more important the guests you are keeping company with.
- When you are ready to pass the pipe to someone else in the group you offer it to someone. If they want to accept, they should tap your hand to signal acceptance. It is perfectly okay to go to a Shisha bar with no intention of smoking - there is no peer pressure there.
- When smoking Shisha, you hold the hose in your lap or right hand. Don't put it down on the table when done - instead either pass to someone else, or signal to the server that you are finished by wrapping the hose around the hookah.
Some people smoke Shisha by themselves, but if you are going to indulge in this vice, I recommend going with friends. It is my experience that stimulating political and existential conversations ensue.
* Disclaimer: Please be aware of the risks associated with smoking Shisha and other nicotine products. I am in no way advocating this past time, but I wanted to document my cultural exchange with friends just like any other experience I blog about during my time in Berlin.
And.... Sunday is reserved for rest and relaxation (and detox!) after a busy and entertaining weekend with friends.