Having enjoyed lots of interesting day trips to various events, museums and exhibitions we decided to plan our first weekend away…
Our Berlin plans really go back to October 2016 when Emma bought me a copy of Jane Thynne’s ‘Black Roses’ for my birthday. Centred around an Anglo-German actress who becomes a British spy, this series of books really captured both of our imaginations and was the original inspiration to plan a trip to find ‘Clara Vine’s’ [the lead character’s] Berlin. (These books also started an obsession with Bourjour’s Soir de Paris perfume but that’s another story…..)
For obvious reasons the 1930’s is seen as a rather dark period in Germany’s history, and very little of the Berlin we were reading about was going to be highlighted (or even exist at all after the relentless Allied bombing of the 1940’s)
And so, in our quest to use works of literature as our inspirational ‘guide book’ we read Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ as well as another Berlin novel of his ‘Mr Norris Changes Trains‘. Here was a Berlin we could visit – Isherwood’s original lodging house is still there on Nollendorfstrasse – and so our planned tour took on a more 1920’s rather than 1930’s theme.
We wanted to experience the Berlin of the Cabaret days (whilst also fitting in some of the more touristy sights) and so lots of research followed as we tried to find as many pre-war places and buildings that would bring the 1920’s era to life!
Here are some of our favourite finds:
For true vintage style accommodation we cannot recommend Pension Nurnberger Eck enough! Built in the 1920’s, this ‘Pension’ has all it’s wonderful original features (high ceilings, big double doors) and was allegedly where bohemians of Weimar Berlin met to party! With all its vintage furniture, and great Charlottenberg location we couldn’t believe our luck (and actually squealed with delight on being shown our room!).
Opposite the Brandenburg Gate is the place where back in the twenties anybody
who was anybody partied – The Hotel Adlon! Some of it’s more interesting guests include Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and the journalist and historian William Shirer. The original building actually survived the Allied bombing only to be destroyed by a fire in the wine cellar started by Red Army soldiers in 1945.
However the current hotel building was built in the design of the original and so as we sat outside enjoying a coffee on our first day we still felt a strong sense of what it would have been like in the early Twentieth Century.
Cafe Einstein Stammhaus
Another survivor of World War Two was a building on Kurfurstenstrasse currently housing Cafe Einstein. It has such a varied history since being built in 1878 and was at one time the home of actress Henny Porten (mistress of Goebbels) having been requisitioned by the Nazis. Prior to that it had been a secret gambling club for Weimar Germany’s high society and had been owned by Jewish banker Georg Blumenfeld (a commemoration of Georg and his wife can be found on the pavement outside the building). It was both fascinating and moving to think of the history behind what is now a simple restaurant. – A building that encompasses so many aspects of Germany’s past.
The highlight of the trip had to be exploring Isherwood’s Berlin! We booked ourselves onto the 90 minute ‘Isherwood’s Neighbourhood tour’ led by Brendan Nash and couldn’t have made a better decision! We learned so much about the history of the city as well as visiting Isherwood’s Berlin residence. Other stops on the tour included the original building that housed the famous ‘Eldorado’ club (now a supermarket!) as well as the site of the notorious lesbian club ‘La Garcon’. On Nash’s recommendation we stopped by (and were lucky enough to secure an outside table) at Cafe Berio – the very place where Isherwood and W H Auden would sit and observe the city. Our visit to this district finished with gins at the Sally Bowles club – a bar with a fab vintage feel.
All the reading and research gave us the most amazing weekend in an incredible city and we can’t wait to go back ……
In the meantime we have a lot of visits and events coming up as the vintage season gets going… can’t wait to share them!