Sunday, 4 June 2017

Wuppertaler Brauhaus - May 2017

The building which today houses the Wuppertaler Brauhaus, opened as a bathing establishment in July 1882, in the centre of the then independent city of Barmen; thereby becoming one of the first German Volksbäde, or people’s baths. Today Barmen makes up part of the Wuppertal conurbation.

In 1993, after providing both swimming and bathing facilities for 111 years, the baths closed; presumably due to the difficulties  and expense of accommodating changes in public demand within a 19th Century building. Fortunately, following extensive renovation work to adapt the listed building,  it re-opened in 1997 as the home of the Wuppertaler Brauhaus. This means that on 14th June, this year, this brew-pub and restaurant will be celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Our visit took place three weeks before this milestone, and we found the Brauhaus in good form. As mentioned in the previous article, we had a little difficulty finding the place, having taken a wrong turn away from the pedestrianised street, which forms Barmen’s main shopping centre. I was pleased that we did find it though, as I am starting to suffer from the condition which affects men of a certain age –  in other words I needed a pee!

Wuppertaler Brauhaus is housed in a fine red-brick, late 19th Century building, as befits this former municipal swimming baths, and much care has been taken in the restoration work. I was a man on a mission though  and soon found my way downstairs to the gents, or "Herren" as the men’s facilities are labelled in Germany. I had to laugh, as I stood there emptying my bladder, as directly above the stainless steel urinal trough is a mural depicting a group of ladies looking down on what is taking place directly below. One lady is pointing and laughing, another is gasping, one has a camera whilst a fourth is holding a tape-measure!
I had to laugh too, and once I’d finished what I’d gone in for, took a number of photos on my phone. I wouldn’t normally be taking photos in a toilet, but I thought the mural was well worth capturing and sharing with the world. I also thought that if nothing else does, the sense of mischief conveyed dispels  once and for all the notion that the Germans don’t have a sense of humour! So for the lovers of “toilet art” amongst you, and especially retiredmartin, here are the lovely ladies of the Barmen Badeanstalt.

When I returned, my travelling companions were also greatly amused by my photos of the mural. In my absence they had grabbed a couple of the long bench tables, outside in the Biergarten. It was just the weather for sitting out, and whilst we had the place to ourselves to begin with, it soon began filling up with discerning locals. The waiter arrived to take our order; beer first of course. There were three draught beers on tap and I tried them all.

I began with the 4.9% Hell – an unfiltered and un-pasteurised, full-flavoured pale beer with a nice crisp finish. I followed it with the Dunkel – a dark lager, also 4.9% ABV, as well as being unfiltered and un-pasteurised. Last on the list was Bernsteinfarben – a 5.6% amber coloured beer. Well-balanced and refreshing and with hop flavours to the fore, this was good beer to finish on, but I have to say that out of the three I preferred the first. I was also pleased to see the beer being served in proper 0.5 litre tankards.

We all selected an item from the menu to go with the beer; knowing full well the rule about never drinking on an empty stomach. Matt and I both went for the Frikadelle mit Kartofelsalat – a type of burger served with potato salad. It was just the right portion size for lunchtime.

We were all quite sorry to leave the Wuppertaler Brauhaus, but our tour leader had another brew-pub in store for us on the way back to Sollingen. 

We departed mid-afternoon, but not without me making a last visit to the gents. There I heard, what one of my companions had pointed out earlier, as playing gently in the background, over some hidden speakers, were the recorded sounds from a typical swimming pool. Another nice humorous touch for this most excellent German brew-pub.


Matt said...

I went to Wuppertal last time I was in the Rhineland a couple of years ago to visit the industrial museum in Barmen and the house next to it where Friedrich Engels grew up. It's one of the world's first linear cities, running along the Wupper valley rather than having a single centre, and the architects who designed similar settlements in the Soviet Union cited Engels' later comments about integrating residential, industrial, educational and recreational spaces to help break down the divisons between urban and rural areas, work and education and to some extent social classes which I'd guess were at least partly influenced by the example of his home town, rather than separating them into different zones, as he had lately seen in the slum housing and textile factory hellhole which was then my own home town, Manchester, in which the better off living at the outer edge of the city never saw the largely Irish immigrant poor who lived and worked at its centre.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks Matt, for that fascinating insight. I hadn’t realised that Wuppertal was a linear city; largely because we had used the Schwebebahn to travel the length of the Wupper valley. I was therefore under the impression that the city was one big sprawl, but having now looked at a satellite map of the area, I can that it isn't.

I also hadn’t realised that Wuppertal was Engels’ home town. I’m really pleased our tour organiser took us there, as the city probably doesn’t figure in many tourist guides; proving, yet again, that some of the best and most fascinating places are to be found well away from the well-trodden tourist routes.

Anonymous said...

Another "must-visit" for my list,then !

Incidentally, the much loved/mocked IndyManBeerCon is held in the public baths in South Manchester, one of the few fests I look forward to due to a great setting.