Alter Simpl

Bohemians, beer and bulldogs

The Alter Simpl used to be the most famous artists’ pub in Munich and a meeting place for the bohemians of Schwabing. Joachim Ringelnatz, Oskar Maria Graf and Franziska zu Reventlow had their fair share of extravagant nights here. The pub got its name and bulldog logo from the satirical magazine “Simplicissimus”.

The charm of the olden days has remained. The walls of the Alter Simpl are covered in photos of Joachim Ringelnatz, Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt, who once stood on stage here. Black-and-white photos show moustachioed men with bow ties raising their glasses, and women in silk blouses and thick checked skirts. Artists like Ludwig Thoma, Oskar Maria Graf, Franz Marc and Franziska zu Reventlow would throw extravagant parties here at the large bar between the dark wood panelling of the walls. Inspiring topics were discussed over a glass of wine or beer like nowhere else in the city.

Ringelnatz wrote: “And I’m pulled by the hands of ghosts – whether I want or want not, I must – to the picture-filled walls of my hosts, at the Simplicissimus”. This attraction reached right across Europe and all the way to America. People travelled all the way to Munich to experience the flair of the Simpl, where young artists sang spontaneously to the sound of the lute or piano, magicians showed their tricks, professional actors performed plays, and guests danced wildly. Poets from Schwabing’s bohemian district would present new texts to their keen and knowledgeable audience.

It all started on Walpurgis Night in 1903. Kathi Kobus attracted a lot of attention by opening a new pub on Türkenstrasse in the Maxvorstadt district. She’d left her old pub, “Die Dichtelei”, located just a few metres further along Adalbertstrasse, following a dispute with the landlord. And she wasn’t alone; numerous regulars followed her out the door, carrying tables and chairs, led by Frank Wedekind and his guitar. This move became a street party. It was followed by the first of many legendary nights at the Alter Simpl.

Kobus named the pub after the satirical magazine “Simplicissimus”. Its editors and artists were based in Munich and often enjoyed some food and drink at the Alter Simpl, including the painter Thomas Theodor Heine. He’d created the famous red bulldog for the magazine and drew it on a pub sign especially for Kobus. The only difference is that the dog on the pub logo is not breaking the chains of censorship; he’s popping a bottle of champagne with his teeth.

The building was destroyed by a bomb in 1944, and although a “Neuer Simpl” opened a little later by the Platzl square in the city centre, it couldn’t match the unique atmosphere of the original in the Maxvorstadt district. Lots of journalists, theatre lovers and film buffs came to the Alter Simpl following its reconstruction. Nowadays, students eat burgers and fries here – but the spirit of the past lives on.

 

 

Foto: Sigi Müller

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