Cracked and exhausted at the end of the Great Baltic Adventure, I found myself in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. I'd been told this was a good place to drink, and so it turned out to be. The local lagers were fine, and quite a few places had a good range of English and Belgian ales.
I was in Drink Baar, sampling a stunning, hoppy Finnish pale ale, and decided to tweet the fact. Instantly I got a reply, "Tallinn's great. Obviously you've tried the Depeche Mode theme bar?"
I expressed my disbelief that a pretty, miraculously unspoilt former Soviet Baltic city could boast a homage to Basildon's most successful electro-synth poppers (they really wouldn't like to be called that), and was promptly sent the address
and directions. Tremble at the power of the interweb.
Five minutes later, we were standing outside the Depeche Mode Baar. The band's logo formed the pub sign, and Dave Gahan's distinctive braying tones wafted from within on a fug of smoke.
Inside, the white walls were covered with Depeche Mode posters, album covers, and photos of the time the band partied here when they were in town for a gig.
The bar itself was a sleek, white formica construction, with photos of the Mode boys looking at various horizons.
The only music in the Depeche Mode Baar is, of course, Depeche Mode, and it's on all the time. Two video screens played live concerts on a loop, Gahan dominating the screen, shirtless and sweaty, serenading us as we timidly took our pints of Saku to one of the many empty tables.
By now Twitter was demanding proof that the place existed. They wanted pictures. And as I was snapping and posting — to the growing displeasure of the shaven-headed, heavily-punctured barman, who was probably objecting to the sniggering — I got my second extraordinary Twitter message of the afternoon:
"Are you in the DM bar at Voorimehe 4 or the one at Nunne 4?"
Tallinn has not one, but two Depeche Mode bars.
Or at least it did — a few seconds, later, 'QueenofGoths' tweeted to explain that the Nunne 4 one closed down a few years ago. So now there's just the one. I was later informed that there's another very successful one in Cologne. It has Kölsch. And dancing cages.
The extraordinary revelation that there were once two of these places here reminded me of what had just become my third-favourite theme bar of all time: the pirate-themed bar I once got drunk in in Barcelona. In my travels around the world, drinking in countless cities, it was only the second pirate theme bar I'd ever seen. The first was directly opposite, across the street.
What kind of local rivalries, grudges or feuds are being played out in these situations?
"Hey, a Depeche Mode theme bar — should we compete by opening a Haircut 100 bar around the corner, or a Flock of Seagulls bar up the street? No, it's Depeche Mode kids are after, and that one over there isn't focused enough on the early stuff."
Or "Damn that man and his pirate bar! I was just about to open one. I could do mine across town, or in Madrid, maybe. No, I'll show him. This is the street for pirate bars, and mine shall prevail!"
Both pirate bars were trumped the following night, when around the corner from them we found the Kojak theme bar.
Until Tallinn, Barca's Kojak and pirate obsessions were the only obsessive themed bars I'd encountered — apart from one strange example in Burton-upon-Trent. The Grail Court Hotel, which could not hide its surprise when I phoned up to book a room, was in the grip of a battle between Arthurian legends and a tribute to Derek Acorah when I was there. The lobby had the suits of armour, but the back-bar had one copy of Acorah's book where you'd expect the optics to be, and the barman had dresses and styled himself to look as much like the Scouse psychic as possible.
Why am I telling you this? Well, you may not like Depeche Mode, or Kojak, or Derek Acorah. Neither do I. But in the words of one Twitterer, "you simply have to go there for a look".
Thirty million Depeche Mode fans can't be wrong. OK, bad example, but you get the point.
So come on, publicans of Britain. If you're struggling against closure, dig into your souls, search for your passion, your obsession, and let your pub give full voice to it. Where is Canterbury's Heaven 17 bar? Whither Liverpool's Oliver Postgate pub? Why, for the love of God, is there no Alien Sex Fiend bar in Guildford? Or if there is, why has no one told me?
What have you got to lose? At the very least, you'll go out in a blaze of glory. And your heroes might just pop in for a pint.
Tallinn's Depeche Mode bar is at www.depechemode.ee — in case you thought I was making this up.