Since their Velvet Revolution and Velvet Divorce (so named, because there wasn’t a drop of blood shed this time around) in 1989, bars in Bratislava (and Slovakia, in general) have poked fun at their communist past, specifically building Soviet themed bars and decorating them with communist symbols. It has been their way of shrugging off their communist past, and welcoming the present.
One of the more famous of these Soviet themed bars is the KGB in Bratislava – a short walk away from the old town, which felt rather long in our sub-zero, windy, snowy walk on a bitter cold December night. The KGB here apparently stands for Krčma Gurmánov Bratislavy, or Gourmet Pub of Bratislava. Seriously?
Not knowing what to expect, we wanted to head over there for dinner. A walk down a narrow descending staircase with red walls took us to the basement where the Bar existed. One pull at the front door, and we knew at once that this wasn’t going to be our dinner spot, especially with two young kids alongside us.
Built to look like a secret hiding tunnel below street level, the bar was engulfed in a blue-gray haze and smelled of beer and cigarettes, lending it an eerie covert communist era feel. The non-smoking regulations of the US haven’t made their way to this part of the world yet. KGB was mostly filled with students who do consider a pint (or two) to be a hearty dinner.
As the kids stood patiently near the door, not knowing what to do, I quickly scoured the bar and took as many photographs as I could. No questions asked, no eyebrows raised, everyone comfortable in their own skin and their own worlds, unfettered by a brown-skinned guy walking around pointing a camera at them. A characterisic we witnessed across most bars in central Europe.