Postcard from... Berlin


The east Berlin district of Prenzlauerberg is famous for being hip, environmentally conscious and for having one of the highest birth rates in Germany.

Thousands of young west Germans flocked to the quarter after the fall of the Berlin Wall to study and live in its run down apartments. Most of the apartments have now been refurbished, but the students stayed on, got jobs and had children - too many, thinks Ralf Rüller, the proprietor of a Prenzlauerberg café called "The Barn-Roastery". He has just issued an edict banning all prams and buggies from his premises.

A giant concrete bollard had been placed across the entrance to stop prams being pushed inside. But Mr Rüller's rules do not end there. The café bans music and restricts laptops to a " media table". For obscure reasons, the waiters only speak English. The management also refuses to serve sugar or milk to customers because it believes "The Barn-Roastery's" coffee is so special that it can only be consumed without both.

Mr Rüller insists that he has enforced his pram ban because his café operates a coffee roasting machine which reaches 220C and pose a fire risk. He argues that trying to evacuate a coffee house full of buggies would be difficult and therefore he has decided not to allow any in. But some rules, it seems , are too much even for a rule-obsessed country like Germany.

The media has dubbed his establishment "Café heartless" and Mr Rüller shut up shop for a day last week fearing he would face mass protests from angry parents.