While Christine and her family were in Berlin, they visited her niece, Petra who has been living there for around two years with her German husband. Here she is a guest blogger for our Dioptics blog and shares with us one of her favourite places in Berlin.
If you have ever been to Berlin and did not pay a visit to Clärchen’s Ballhaus in the über cool suburb of Mitte, then either you were reading the wrong guide book or you are now in the process of booking your return plane trip there.
Clärchen’s Ballhaus is a Berlin institution. An original Ballhaus (dance hall) first built in 1913 in Augustraße, just across from the river Spree, going to Clärchens is like walking onto a film set: Parquet inlaid floors, waiters wearing black bow ties, wooden panelled walls, silvery tinsel décor draping off the art-deco lights. And not forgetting the kitschy candles melting over dusty chianti bottles which give a nod to a bygone era. Y
ou kind of expect to see Marlene Dietrich swoosh before you.
These days Clärchen’s quirky vibe attracts dance diehards of all ages to the weekly dance classes- fans shake their thing to Swing, have a tumble during the Tango or get wooed doing the Waltz. And the dancefloor is always packed. I remember taking a Swing class once and dancing with a 60 year old man, only to swap partners and end up opposite a twenty something young visitor from Paris. This bizarre mix of young hipsters and golden oldies somehow works, creating such a cheerful vibe that you just want to get your glad rags on and boogie.
Even during the fifty year division of Berlin, it was THE place to meet for East and West Berliners alike.
'Clärchens' is the diminutive of 'Clara', who was the original founder’s wife. When her husband died, she managed the premises until the start of the Cold War and then her step daughter took over the day to day running. While the street entry building (Vorderhaus) was completely destroyed through bombing during the Second World War, the new owners who took over from the Wolff family in 2004 converted the empty space into a delightful beer garden opening all day and until late. So if dancing is not your thing, then it is still possible enjoy Clärchen's excellent food- think wood fired Neapolitan pizzas, hearty soups and some traditional Berlin fare (Boulette - a meat rissole and
Berliner Blut- und Leberwurst auf Rieslingkraut mit Salzkartoffeln und Senf -
Berlin blood sausage with potato salad, sauerkraut and mustard) It is one of the last standing remnants of Berlin’s golden age of the “Roaring twenties” – imagine vagabonds, burlesque dancers and the decadence of its mobsters and millionaires. Fast forward to 2011, and not much has changed. Except that the Mobsters have gone and there's more mums dancing than millionaires.
Petra has made the move into the writing world after working as a lawyer in Sydney. Her love for Berlin has grown - the individuality of the Berliners, its hidden cafés and incredible artistic treats are just a few of the standouts. You can follow her blog about culture, travel and ideas at http://petrazlatevska.posterous.com/