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D’Aix en Provence, a bar across the river from Heidelberg’s aldstadt, provides a mental trip to France — and according to a self-described philosopher and regular patron, a chance to meet local “aristocrats.”

D’Aix en Provence, a bar across the river from Heidelberg’s aldstadt, provides a mental trip to France — and according to a self-described philosopher and regular patron, a chance to meet local “aristocrats.” (Nancy Montgomery / S&S)

NEUENHEIM, Germany — Schopenhauer? He finds it hard to “take him seriously.”

Yes, he is himself a philosopher for many years but no, don’t ask him his name or other tiresome questions. By the way, his English is usually far better than this but my questions — indeed, my very presence — are failing to “inspire” him, he says.

I’m sitting in a little French café and bar in one of the richest suburbs of Heidelberg before noon. Edith Piaf is singing, the bartender speaks French, Berber, Spanish — but not much English — and I’m drinking a cappuccino and considering what to have for lunch.

Yet somehow I seem to have stumbled into a conversation with Dieter, the arch, condescending German talk show host played by Mike Myers in old Saturday Night Live skits. But without the dancing.

He finally allows his name is Martin, and says he’s a regular patron of d’Aix en Provence, which he’d be happy to describe. “Alors,” he begins through frequent cigarette puffs. “It’s ultra conservative. Very respectable people. Very rich people. Here, come many aristocrats and academics.”

He looks at me meaningfully. “Older women come here looking for partners,” he says. “It is the club of unkissed hearts.”

The petite bar, which holds about 60 aristocrats, sits on a Neuenheim street corner across the Neckar River from Heidelberg’s aldstadt, and provides a little bit of France for just a few euro.

Robert, the owner, born in Nice to an Algerian father and Italian mother, has been in business a decade, providing more cocktails and whiskey, more aperitifs and digestifs, and way more French wine and champagne than is usually found in a Heidelberg bar. (Beer is also available.)

The ambience is soothing, charming and quite French, from Piaf and Charles Aznavour singing about l’amour, to the zinc bar, to the mellow sepia walls to the sconces and the little tables and brown leather banquettes.

There’s an extensive menu of “petits plats,” salads and toasted sandwiches, and even a selection of tapas.

Most patrons are German, Robert says, but some Americans are regulars, often appearing after they close down the Irish pub across the street. And although his bar is mostly a place for people to gather, drink and talk, Robert said, sometimes they want to dance.

I’m about finished with my excellent antipasto plate – much better than I’ve had at Italian restaurants closer to Campbell Barracks, and, at 9.60 euro, for less money, too.

Martin has already left, after asking me my astrological sign. But when I tell him and ask when his birthday is, he won’t say. “I don’t want to be interviewed,” he said. “I’m not in the mood now.”

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

d’Aix en Provence

Neuenheim, Germany

Drinks: Daiquiris, 6 euro; Zombies, 7.50 euro; wines, 1.90 to 4 euro for (more than) a glass. The most expensive item is a bottle of Krug champagne for 285 euro.

Food: Sandwiches, salads, tapas, and a variety of cold plates.

Clientele: Said to be an older, wealthier crowd.

Location: Bergstrasse 1, Neuenheim.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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