Warsaw nightlife does fancypants just fine: you know, venues that are all Latino wannabes practicing The Game. Sometimes, looking around, you want to scream: give me something real. Well, it doesn’t get more real than Berlin. Hidden in the dirty guts of Most Poniatowskiego, even the approach feels intrepid. With the winter murk swirling around you half wish you’d remembered a flick knife – just in case, of course.
Set up a flight of stairs, a concrete footbridge at the top links the two bars either side: Berlin and Warszawa. It’s a Matrix moment, the red pill or the blue? We choose Berlin. Dimly lit with industrial cage lights, it’s decorated in salvaged DDR memorabilia – newspaper clips, odd bits of junk, and a giant print of Brezhnev snogging Erich Honecker. Sensing our bewilderment, the barman proudly points out an original drawing he’s rescued from an auction: my, if it isn’t a gentleman delivering a firm spanking to a startled damsel.
Surveying the scene, it’s all wobbly tables, sticky surfaces and tight little alcoves fitted into impossible spaces. Walls tremble as trams pass overhead, and a faint smell of mildew hangs in the air. From a horseshoe-shaped bar, the owner dispenses his knowledge of their beers of the moment: brews from Pinta, Dr. Brew and other trending breweries. Above the conversation, and amid the odd grunt from the electric heater, the Stones and the Kinks warble from the speakers. This is just about everything I’ve ever wanted.
It’s easy to lose track of time in a bar with such personality, and that’s exactly what happens as one beer becomes two and two becomes lots. We topple out in high spirits, the owner’s farewells ringing in the dark. As the door shudders closed on this secret little gem, I can’t help but think this is more than my favorite dive bar of the year. It’s my favorite bar. (Text: Alex Webber; Photo: Ed Wight)