Mon, Oct 20, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Creche spares German men tortures of shopping

For 10 euros, women can drop off their significant others at a `men's garden' for an afternoon of relaxation and games while they take care of the shopping

By Inke Berth  /  REUTERS , HAMBURG

German men dropped off at an experimental "kindergarten for men" by their wives say they were happy to avoid the tortuous boredom of shopping by spending Saturdays playing with mates instead.

Dozens of men left by their partners at the Nox Bar in the port city of Hamburg said they loved the "Men's creche," where for 10 euros (US$12) they got a hot meal, two bottles of beer, a name tag and free games.

"It's the first place that I've found where guys from different walks of life can come and enjoy themselves socially," said Ben Uaubascher, in his mid 30s, who had a choice of comics to read and games including a mini-race track to amuse him.

To keep the big boys entertained, there were also copies of Penthouse magazine in the bar in the northern city. Another "Maennergarten" or Men's Garden, as they have been called in Germany, has set up in a pub in the western city of Cologne.

"The food is really good and so is the whole concept," Uaubascher said. "People like new ideas and they like to experience new, interesting things. So it's interesting, it's new and it works really well and it's good quality."

For women who want to be able to shop without grumbling partners in tow, the "Men's Garden" has the advantage that they know where their men are and can limit how much they'll spend.

"I wanted to shop in peace," said Jeanette Brendel after dropping her husband off, paying the 10-euro fee, collecting a "receipt" for him, and kissing her middle-aged husband goodbye for the afternoon.

"Men are often in a crabby mood because they don't feel like going to the same shop five times to look at shoes. I like the idea. I just dropped him off and now I can go shopping where I want and as long as I want and I have my peace," she said.

Avoids arguments

Although the men's creche has so far been limited to Saturdays, the busiest shopping day in Germany, the venture could be expanded if demand for the experience grows.

Alexander Stein, the manager of Nox Bar and the man behind the idea, said the concept has caught on and women were happy to entrust their partners to him on Saturday afternoons.

"Men and women just don't shop together too well," he said, watching as men were handed name badges and welcomed to the sectioned-off "play" area by the bar's special hostesses.

"There are always arguments about shopping so this is an offer for women to drop off their men," he added.

"We take care of the rest. We serve a hot lunch, a few drinks and supply them with games. And when the women are done shopping they can come and pick them up again."

So that grown men won't squander all their time with fun and games, Stein has also introduced a workshop to teach the lads carpentry. On one Saturday in mid-October, men attending the creche were having lessons on how to use a power saw and other power tools.

Some attendees had such a good time playing the games and eating the free popcorn that they hoped to find an excuse to come back every week.

"If she comes back with 20 bags from the shops then I think I'd threaten her by saying I'm going to stay in the creche forever," said Stephan Saltuari.

Women aren't welcome, which doesn't bother Hennig Goosen, a South African.

"It's the atmosphere that's so great here," he said. "It's the whole set-up: coming in a pub initially and then moving to a lounge-type of thing where you sit back, relax. You can read a little nonsense book, you can get some training with tools or you can chat with friends and meet new people."

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