A touch of Havana in Ehrenfeld

by Annette Meisl
Annette Meisl likes cigars. Of course, she prefers the ones she shot herself with her friends in her shop. Photo: Weinert

By Ulrike Weinert|Kölnische Rundschau|July 30, 2019

The third millennium had just begun when Annette Meisl from Cologne had an encounter that pointed out new paths. In Cuba she unexpectedly found herself sitting opposite 103-year-old Gregorio Fuentes, and thanks to her fluent Spanish she was able to follow the stories of the old man who once accompanied Ernest Hemingway as a captain through the Caribbean. There are stories like these and countless more that lie behind the La Galana cigar factory.

Born in Baden from Rheinfelden on the Swiss border, another cigar-smoking legend of the Cuban music style of the 40s and 50s, as on the famous album “Buena Vista Social Club” immortalized, place. Reynaldo Creagh made a guest appearance at the Philharmonie in December 2007, and he, already 90 years old at the time, visited Annette Meisl in December 2007 in the small Havana that she brought to Ehrenfeld at the time.

The long-time artist agent opened the shop and salon on Venloer Straße ten years ago. “Nothing here is decoration,” she explains and takes a kilo-heavy wooden panel from the shelf. “This was used to roll cigars for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Nicaragua,” she says. She discovered the shapes in a run-down workshop on one of her backpacking trips through Latin America. “I carried her on my head,” she remembers one of her many adventures with shining eyes.

Like all the professions in which she was and still is, she learned the craft of cigar making not in schools, but from people like the Cuban-born cigar rolling master Magaly Laugart. “I always looked for my masters myself,” says Annette Meisl, even though she has acquired two certificates: as a simultaneous interpreter and as an IHK-certified event manager.

“Five men for me”

Meisl became a sought-after talk show guest when she published the book “Five Men for Me – a Sexperiment” in 2012. She turned a bad experience into creativity with talent and unwavering positivity. At that time it was the collapse of their supposedly happy marriage after 15 years.

Instead of falling into the self-pity of a cheated woman, she starts the “Five Lovers Project” – she derived the number of simultaneous lovers from the “5 Tibetans” yoga exercise, among other things. “Women still thank me today and say that my book changed their lives. Nevertheless, my experiment is not intended to be an alternative to monogamy, but rather a possibility,” she explains. She took an opportunity to get out of a health crisis - and immediately turned it into a calling - when she confided in a therapist because she was short of breath. “You have to sing,” he said, and discovering and developing your own voice became a new passion.

Now she also sings her own chansons

Annette Meisl is currently preparing a new show with the music producer Geo Schaller and is recording a CD, all with her own chansons. “My heart tears holes in the moon, I walk the whole neighborhood and wonder where you actually live,” are refrain lines that appear in it. In this song, the longing searcher finds her male counterpart, the two exchange their first kisses and immediately know that “having breakfast together is worth it,” according to the song's humorous happy ending.

The La Galana cigar manufacturer, Venloer Straße 213 in Ehrenfeld, is open Monday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors have the opportunity to taste the various types and formats of “La Galana” cigars in the salon behind the sales room. Annette Meisl also invites you to music evenings.

Classical guitarists from the music college will organize the “Cigar, Guitar and Rum” evening on Monday, August 5th, starting at 8:15 p.m. The brands Salon Petit Corona or Salon Gordita can be tasted, alternatively chocolate cigars for non-smokers, and two Cuban drink specialties. The next cigar seminar will take place on Saturday, August 24th at 3 p.m., the rum seminar on Friday, August 16th at 6 p.m. Registrations for all events are accepted via the website.

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