Dear readers, when it comes to glamour and sumptuous style (either it’s men or women), I pretty believe that most people will opt to the ‘Jazz age’ of the 1920s as reference, from high fashion to movie, from organizing your own party to thinking of your own outfit, this golden fashionable era has been a phenomenal influence about style and the way of people live. Before visiting Berlin, I have come across a German TV series called ‘Babylon Berlin’, which the story takes place during this stylish and chaotic period, a mingle of glamour evening with stylish people, at the same time, facing the traumatic social unrest, riots and hyperinflation, then the rising of dictatorship; to me, it’s like an irony of the darkness that was covered by the outer glamour, looks beautiful from the outside, but sad and painful in the inside. For some reason I am very intrigue to find out such bygone glamour of a typical Berliner, while finding a storyteller is one of the alternative, one can always trace back those little evidence by visiting some of the old landmark from the past, yes indeed, after the WW2 and even the Cold War, most of the historic places in Berlin have been destroyed and tore down, but surprisingly, there’s one place that still stands until now, and, it is definitely worthwhile to check out, that is, the Clärchens Ballhaus.
Located in the Mitte district which relatively close to the Museum Island, this historic address was once a celebrated and glamour ballroom for stylish Berliner and socialite to get together (even Prince William and Duchess Kate had visited there last year), the Spiegelsaal in particular, is a place for the stylish group of people to have a dance, and a glass of cocktail or bubblies (perhaps in the German term ‘sekt’), under the sumptuously and splendor interior décor, a little bit of late Baroque and Rococo, created an ideal ‘Belle epoque’ atmosphere for a moment of stylish indulgence. While under the trauma of dictatorship, violence and vandalism as an act of getting rid of the so-called ‘degenerate’ lifestyle during that era, this once-popular ballroom has been tormented and wore-out, the peeling paints on the wall and broken giant mirrors, literally reflects the despair and struggle of the place (even the time that the city) has gone through. However, the current owner seems like having another perspective about this place, currently turned into a restaurant and evening concert hall, Clärchens Ballhaus is one the address that recorded the heyday of Berliner chic and the poetic melancholy of the consequence after the trauma, the war, and the vandalism. In order to preserve such poetic beauty, the distressed atmosphere has been retained without any modern refurbishment, just some simple yet nostalgic furniture and table top touch-up such as fresh flower and candlestick, somehow it brings out another kind of tormented beauty, a revival of bygone Berliner glamour that interprets by each patron and visitor nowadays, letting them to experience how the way that people live back in the Jazz age in the 1920s.
Maybe it’s just me, but being in the Spiegelsaal also makes me to imagine and visualize the depressing moment of the social unrest and trauma, facing such an instability, at the same time, strive to keep oneself survive whatever possible, to me, being stylish and beautiful back then seems not as joyous as what we think, behind this glamorous veil is another side of the story that hid the despair, struggle and suffering; perhaps that is the irony of this place that seduced me to be there, and let me feel that with my own hands and eyes; when I was standing in the middle of the ballroom, looking up the tormented interior, and, the bright sun beams that comes from the overhead windows up high on the wall, for some reason, I suddenly felt some kind of hope and warmth within the space, like someone has gone through a very difficult time and rise above, the kind of joy that shines from within.
Just in case if you are interested to experience this bygone Berliner glamour in person, do pencil-down this place in your ‘to-go’ list. As for now, I simply have one scene in my head: me in a powdery grey flannel suit, black cashmere tie and oxford cotton shirt with a splash of airy fragrance, dancing alone (or with a phantom) in the middle of the ballroom with the song ‘Melting waltz’ by Abel Korzeniowski, to recapture the beautiful moment of Berliner Jazz Age glamour.