Communal Student Bars (Lu and Blauer Salon)

April 2017

There are some things you expect to see upon visiting a country. When it came to Germany, I had a bit of a stereotyped vision of long Munich style beer halls that serve giant pretzels (as did the many imitation German bars in the US.) This was not the case. Instead, I found something much more interesting and mind-blowingly wonderful. Or I guess, I should give credit where credit is due. I was taken there by my friends (my ability to find places isn't that good). As it turned out, Tubingen, like most university cities in Germany, has a bunch of non-for-profit bars created and maintained by students and operated out of communal housing. My friends insisted on taking me to one. We ended up going to two.

The first one was called Der Lu (the Lu). I found this name funny but not everyone got the joke about drinking in the Lu. Upon entering, we walked down a dimly lit staircase to an open cement basement room with a bar, some tables and couches. Down the hallway, there was a lounge area with more couches, a TV, and video games. In the background, psychedelic rock was lightly playing. The whole thing reminded me much more of some kind of alternative college basement hangout place (which I guess it was). And I adored it.

After settling in, I thought it was about time for a beer, so I walked up to the bar and ordered a large, dark, unfiltered German one (when in Rome). To my surprise, I was charged only €1.50. I couldn't believe it. In the States, this would have been at least $8 in a bar. I'd even seen it sold for more money in a supermarket, but here, that was the price. I took the beer, half expecting there to be something horribly wrong with it, but no. It was rich, malty, and went down so smooth. This place seemed perfect. How could it get any better than this? I thought. That's when I saw a huge cauldron with a sign that read 'Gratis Essen' (Free food) next to a tip jar. Being my usual self, I decided to put a euro in the tip jar and have a bowl, which turned out to be a potato and carrot soup. How did I live 26 years without knowing such places existed? I thought to myself. Are there any more places of wonder like this one? Fortunately there was.

Two days later, we were out in the medieval center when I was told of the second student run non-profit bar, Blauer Salon. That was our destination for the night, and right away, like the other one, I sensed the unique, yet awesome vibe immediately. This time, the entrance way consisted of a large, open, graffiti covered room with dozens of bicycles scattered about. Over the main door hung a large portrait of Karl Marx and throughout the barroom, alternative looking students relaxed and hung out while enjoying rounds of drinks, which again were just as inexpensive as the Lu. Once again, communal spirit of togetherness had taken the form of a bar and I couldn't have been happier.