TWO Muslim business partners have given a defunct Lancashire pub a twist by renaming it the “Halal Inn” and keeping everything except the liquor. What the Daily Mail bills the “first alcohol-free Islamic pub” has been open since December. We wish the Mail had tried to be a little more specific about the food situation — they tell us about the “fizzy drinks and fruit juices”, but nothing about the snacks, other than they’re “Asian”. Is it too much to hope for some decent kebabs and good strong coffee?
Some clearer gastronomic guidance comes courtesy of a book that makes us wonder, how much weight did the author put on researching it? Jamie Cahill, of the recently published Pâtisseries of Paris, has compiled the city’s best pastry shops, bakeries, ice cream shops, chocolatiers and salons de thé. Among Cahill’s picks are L’Artisan de Saveurs (72 Rue du Cherche Midi) home of his dream dessert, the pain de Gênes – “two almond-sprinkled cake triangles with a luscious slathering of lemon cream in between”. Cahill informs us that “desserts are serious here”, which means a pear charlotte is “spiced up with pain d’épices” and a plain old blanc manger gets an update with coconut and exotic fruit.
More local knowledge is on offer in Palermo. Augusto Cavadi, a Sicilian tour guide, has penned a pocket-sized guide called The Mafia Explained to Tourists. Available in Italian, English, Japanese, German, Spanish and French, the book covers lots of the questions Cavadi is often being asked while giving tours in his hometown, including “what does a Mafioso look like?”, “will the mafia exist forever?”, and “why haven’t we seen a shoot-out in our 10 days here?”.
If you want to guarantee some criminal sightseeing, try Berlin. A wise man once sang “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”. Unfortunately in Berlin, with its 12 years of Nazi dictatorship followed by four more decades of communist authoritarianism, one might have ended up doing the time — or worse — while never having actually “done the crime”. While the city now has a normal correctional system, several of Berlin’s old prisons have been converted into memorials.
Try Moabit Prison Memorial Park (5 Lehrter Strasse), which marks the location of the notorious Moabit prison. Completed in 1849, the prison “featured” an innovative star-shaped ground plan and isolation cells, allowing for constant surveillance of the prisoners while denying them all human contact.
The Nazis imprisoned political opponents here, including Albrecht Haushofer, who wrote his Moabit Sonnets here on smuggled bits of paper. After Moabit was damaged by Allied bombing, many of its prisoners, including Haushofer, were freed in the final days of the war, only to be murdered by roving SS death squads. This park was completed last year, and its pleasant green expanse belies a quite grizzly past.Writers: John Rambow (UK), Lauren Elkin (Paris), Alisa Gould-Simon (Sicily), William Thirteen (Berlin). Illustration: © Ladislav Kosa @ Lemonadeillustration.com