Back To The Twen­ties

Squeezed in be­tween two World Wars, the 1920s were ex­cit­ing times – de­serv­ing a re­visit by Annabelle Mallia.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

The Golden Age: classy cabaret bars and a flour­ish­ing art scene. BY ANNABELLE MALLIA

Imagine big, rich men smok­ing ci­gars; dar­ing cabaret shows with semi- naked dancers; Brecht's Three­penny Opera, re­sound­ing in the Ber­liner En­sem­ble the­ater; or Mar­lene Di­et­rich in one of her el­e­gant out­fits, singing at a Nol­len­dorf­platz re­vue the­ater. For Berlin, the 1920s were an age of ex­cess. Stem­ming from a de­sire to reemerge and live af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion of World War I, the Golden Twen­ties saw the blos­som­ing of the city's cul­tural life and Berlin's el­e­va­tion to the sta­tus of Europe's nightlife cap­i­tal. This cul­tural pros­per­ity came to an abrupt halt when Hitler came to power, and though Berlin's cul­ture is now thriv­ing once again, WWII de­struc­tion and al­most 50 years of di­vi­sion mean that not many traces of the city's most leg­endary era are to be found to­day. Here's where you can still get a glimpse of Berlin's 1920s: Dur­ing the city's hey­day, Pots­damer Platz was a bustling hotspot of fash­ion, mu­sic, and en­ter­tain­ment, com­pa­ra­ble to Lon­don’s Trafal­gar Square and New York’s Times Square. The level of traf­fic through the square prompted the in­stal­la­tion of Europe's first- ever traf­fic light. Com­pletely razed by WWII air raids and then dor­mant for al­most 50 years as it lay in no- man's land by the Wall, the Platz has been re­built to its for­mer glory by mod­ern ar­chi­tects, but still nods to its past with a replica of the traf­fic sig­nal, while the Deutsche Kine­mathek (deutsche-kine­ at the Sony Cen­ter houses Mar­lene Di­et­rich's photo ar­chive.

The Brücke Mu­seum ( p. 38) of­fers great ex­am­ples of the art scene of the 1920s. Pay a visit to check out the works of Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ists Kirch­ner, Pech­stein, and Emil Nolde, who de­picted the ex­cesses of the era in all its shades. For more artis­tic ex­pres­sion from the ' 20s, visit the Bauhaus Archiv ( p. 38), which dis­plays a col­lec­tion of items from the Bauhaus school of de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture. Its stu­dents broke away from the tradition of fine arts and con­cen­trated in­stead on geo­met­ric shapes and pri­mary col­ors, cre­at­ing prod­ucts that could be easily mass-pro­duced for the broader pop­u­la­tion. In ad­di­tion to the nu­mer­ous the­aters and cin­e­mas on Ku'damm, back in the day Win­ter­garten-Va­ri­eté ( p. 51) was a fa­vorite way to start a night out. It re­opened again at the be­gin­ning of the 1990s as a homage to the orig­i­nal, decked out in glam­orous 1920s style with mir­rored walls and red- vel­vet, now host­ing nightly shows to re­vive the old charm of vaude­ville the­ater. An­other venue in­spired by those times is Sally Bowles ( Eise­nacher Str. 2, www.sally­, a stylish 1920s-themed café and bar with reg­u­lar jazz and cabaret per­for­mances. Named af­ter a char­ac­ter from Christo­pher Ish­er­wood's novel Good­bye Berlin, later adapted into the fa­mous mu­si­cal and film Cabaret, the café em­bod­ies the deca­dent Schöneberg nightlife of the time. To learn more about Ish­er­wood and the lais­sez- faire mood of 1920s Schöneberg, join a walk­ing tour with Cabaret Berlin, de­part­ing from U Nol­len­dorf­platz every Satur­day at 11am. (

From to: Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ism; Sally Bowles; Replica of the world's first traf­fic sig­nal; Mar­lene Di­et­rich.

Bauhaus Archiv

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