I met John Wayne, turns out he’s German.

Cowboy bar

It’s always interesting to see one culture through the prism of another, one of my favourite exercises is to ask a new class about what they know about Britain. If anything it’s fun to watch a group take a few moments to think and then respond with the clichés of bad weather, worse food and a predisposition to rule by an elderly woman and her slightly inbred brood. Well, what can I expect? In fairness they are always almost right, except that everyone knows that Prince Harry is Boris Becker’s son and therefore genetically safe. I also find it slightly ironic that a culture that produced Liver Sausage has any right to degrade the culinary insanity of a Chicken Balti stuffed inside a Yorkshire pudding. Sadly they are always right about the weather. Glossing over that fact, this exercise designed to get them talking and entertain me for ten minutes, yet I find it even more fascinating when the prism is directed against a culture that is not my own.  

I have already discussed Germany’s fascination with Irish pubs but what I was not prepared for was the bar I happened to walk into on Friday night. To say this bar was hidden away would be an understatement. I live in a small village  despite the protestations of a rather bemused mayor that in fact it was a town, it’s a village. Get over it. However, there are amazingly places smaller, namely Birnthon bei Nürnberg. It’s so small that even the locals lose it occasionally and end up finding it weeks later, hidden down the back of the couch.

I think I can see it, behind that tree.

Despite it’s size, and like many small people with a grudge, this place packs a punch. This particular left hook comes in the form of the Big Horn Ranch, a old west theme bar that (to further string out the metaphor) doesn’t pull any punches. One minute I was standing in Germany and the next I was being greeted cheerily by a Sheriff carrying the cowboy equivalent of a WMD hanging from a holster. It was the kind of welcome that insures that even if you don’t enjoy the evening at least some one might get shot. Yet the cowboy atmosphere didn’t stop there, the bar looked like it had been ripped right from the set of a spaghetti western, while the walls were decked out with sepia photos of Cowboys and Native Americans. Adding to the western feel was a wide variety of taxidermied offerings both local and foreign (unless buffalo are to be considered local) and enough weaponry to renew hostilities with Mexico. This is what Germany imagined the old west looked like, and although I knew it didn’t I was happy not to argue.

Arguing would have been especially discourteous given that the hostess had just thrust a beer in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other. Nothing makes you forget clichés and inaccuracy better than hard liquor. Yet, I couldn’t quite shake the sense that something wasn’t right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the fact I had to order in German or maybe that all the cowboys were drinking Weißbier but this wasn’t quite Django unchained. Well not until they played Dixie and paraded the confederate flag through the bar, but that wasn’t until later and well into the second bottle of whisky.

Despite this slightly unnerving element (ignorance is no defence, but there you go) it was a pretty amazing night. Although I felt a bit of a let down to the other revellers as they constantly asked if I was American with hope in their eyes and then appeared incredibly disappointed when I told them I was simply British. I tried the accent but I sounded like a twat. As the evening drew to a close I stood by the bar waiting for the rest of my group, in what I imagined looked like a nonchalant cowboy but may well have come across a basic drunk English guy. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I turned to face the chest of what appeared to be a denim-coated wall but actually turned out to be a local in a fantastic ten gallon hat.

“You’re the English guy, right?” he asked.

“Yeah..erm..that’s right” I offered back.

“Well if you’re ever in trouble give me a call” he drawled.

Sadly I didn’t get a number, but don’t anyone mess with me. I think I might be protected by John Wayne…or maybe his German cousin.


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