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HEIDELBERG, Germany — There was a time when lights out was the bartender’s way of saying, “OK, you can all go home now.”

Something got lost in translation when the light switch was introduced in Heidelberg.

At the Grosser Mohr, patrons take the light bulb’s dimming to mean “OK, you can stand on your stool and spill your drink on unsuspecting passers-by now.”

That’s pretty much what happens most Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights at the Grosser Mohr, from which its regular crowd of late teens and 20-somethings from the local university can crawl home if walking becomes too difficult.

With barely enough floor space for even a handful of anorexics to group hug, it’s no surprise Grosser Mohr patrons began dancing on the chairs and tables. The tight layout may also explain why it’s so easy to get into a conversation here.

“If you go anyplace and you meet people to talk to, it’s all good,” said Stefan Winkler, a 30-year-old Swede who was visiting Heidelberg with friends. After hopping from one bar to the next near Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse, Winkler and his friends settled on the Mohr because of how friendly it was.

It’s not uncommon here for complete strangers, most of whom speak English as a second or third language, to buy you a drink.

Somehow, the elementary-school-classroom-sized Grosser Mohr packs about 200 people in on the weekends. Those lucky enough to get in are pelted with ear-shattering music of all genres. One minute, it’s punk. The next, it’s Meatloaf.

As small as it is, the Grosser Mohr is still bigger than its little brother, the Kleiner Mohr. Like brothers often do, the two bars share a bathroom, but have little else in common other than eclectic musical taste.

The uninhibited DJ-ing is one of the best things about the Mohrs, said Sophie Bartholemé, who has worked at the Mohrs for four years. Well, that, she said, “and dancing on the tables and on the bar, and drinking lots of Jaegermeister.”

The Kleiner Mohr hasn’t adopted big brother’s penchant for table dancing and loud music. With a bar roughly the size of three ironing boards laid end to end and seating for maybe two dozen, the little Mohr is a cozy, calm alternative to the big Mohr.

Plopping down on a bench with a book late on a weekday is easy at the little Mohr, which draws a slightly older crowd. Wear comfortable shoes if you plan on tossing back a pils on the weekend. The seats fill up quickly then.

The two bars have a devoted following, and draw hordes of newcomers wanting to see what all the fuss is about.

“It’s a lot more crowded than the other bars we go to,” said Sean Saika, who lives in New Jersey and visits Heidelberg regularly on business trips. It was his first time to the Grosser Mohr, and he was drawn to it by its risqué reputation.

“I came to see girls dancing on tables.”

As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

Grosser Mohr and Kleiner Mohr

Heidelberg, Germany

Drink prices: A half liter of beer runs 3.60 euro, and bottled varieties of the same size run 3.20 euro. Miller Genuine Draft bottles run 3.40 euro. Long drinks, available only at the Grosser Mohr, are generally 5.60 euro. There’s also a huge list of coffees, teas and other alcohol-free alternatives.

Cover: Free, unless you break a table

Hours: Kleiner opens at 8 p.m. weekdays. Grosser opens about 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Both bars open at about noon on weekends. Both close at 2 a.m. during the week, 3 a.m. weekends, 1 p.m. Sundays.

Food: The menu changes regularly, with weekly specials. In general, they carry a mix of Mexican, Italian and German cuisine, mostly in the 6-7 euro range. Those with fatter wallets can go for the steak and chicken combo, which runs just under 15 euro.

Entertainment: Monday is quiz night every week. They’ll even ask the questions in English if someone doesn’t speak Deutsch. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, all are invited to shake what their mommas gave them. They also carry all the major soccer matches on large screen TVs in both bars.

Clientele: Open to all

Dress: No dress code, but please wear something.

Location: Walk about 15 minutes down the Haupstrasse from Bizmarckplatz, and take a left. It’s between the Hauptstrasse and the river on the near end of Untere Strasse.


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