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The German haus that Dieter built

The Town Musicians of Bremen have arrived in Siem Reap. The animal quartet features a dog, donkey, cat and rooster from a popular Grimm Brothers German folktale and is part of the signage to lure customers into a new restaurant, Haus Bremen.

In the folktale, the animals, all past their prime of life and usefulness on their respective farms, leave their homes and set out together. They decide to go to the German city of Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners and become musicians there.

But adopting images of the animals as a corporate identity has had unexpected consequences, according to Haus Bremen’s proprietor, 51-year-old German expat, Dieter Hass.

“The first Cambodian customers were wondering whether we serve donkeys, dogs and cats in addition to the rooster,” says Hass.

But instead the menu includes typical German dishes such as schnitzel with fried potatoes or beef roulade with red cabbage for a maximum of $5.50. With this comes cool northern German Beck’s beer for $1.50.

Several years ago Hass caught the travel bug and wound up in Thailand in 2003 after marrying a Thai woman.

The marriage fell apart and in 2009 he and his new love, Vietnamese elementary school teacher Hang, moved to Cambodia looking for business opportunities.

After scouting options such as Koh Kong, Kampot and Sihanoukville, they finally decided that Wat Bo village, Siem Reap, was the place to set up shop.

“We have thousands of tourists coming through the town, nearly 3,000 expats, among them many Germans, and there hasn’t been an official German restaurant in town,” explained Hass.

The Haus Bremen restaurant is small, homey and cosy with only 20 seats. It also offers accommodation in the form of three guest rooms.

The name Haus Bremen was a quick decision. Hass said: “I wanted a German city name and since I was born in Bremen, I didn’t have to spend too much time on this matter.

“Due to the folktale Town Musicians of Bremen the city is known throughout the world, and the German word ‘haus’, the equivalent of the  English ‘house’, is easily understood by everyone.”

Hass, an amateur cook, spends much time in the kitchen training his wife and a kitchen assistant, but in the long-term he wants to mingle with his guests in the main room.

“My house is supposed to be a hangout for the Germans and other Europeans in Siem Reap,” he said.

He added that anyone is welcome, but there are limits. “I don’t accept any Pattaya-like guys who drink and yell too much, and I definitely don’t want this to be a lady-bar. I do not like those places, and therefore I do not want to run one,” he said.

To strengthen the sense of community in his German hangout, Dieter Hass counts on the power of football, and he will feature cable broadcasts of many of the matches from Germany’s Bundesliga on the big screen TV he has installed.

Haus Bremen is on Street 27, Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap. Tel: 099 490 774.

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