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A Twen Stroll through Berlin (1960)

Published in the influential teen magazine Twen, this account of cultural, culinary, and leisure-time offerings in 1960 Berlin shows how far the city had come since the immediate postwar period. The “economic miracle” of the 1950s had brought espresso bars, elegant cafes and drinking establishments, live music, first-rate theater, and shopping to Berlin. In this article, Berlin emerges as a cosmopolitan city with an active nightlife and ample opportunities for consumption.

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When I came to Berlin, I knew that Berlin was a city without a curfew and the city with the highest suicide rate in the world. Now I also know that there are still a lot of pubs in Berlin that I haven’t seen yet. And I’ll probably never get to see them, since I am plenty busy frequenting the joints I know. But I can name the watering holes where you will always meet people who know all the other watering holes.

If it happens to be the afternoon, it is best to start by taking a seat at a sidewalk table in front of a café on Kurfürstendamm. The Berlin of old – so I have been told – was famous for its vaudeville theater shows. I can hardly imagine that the show was more exciting than the parade of girls that now marches past as you take your coffee break. For good effect, you pick the table outside Café Kranzler that stands precisely on the sharp angle of the left corner. There you’ll have the full enjoyment of all the knockouts coming from Bahnhof Zoo and also of the regular Ku-Damm strollers. Don’t say you already know. A new age cohort has just joined in, the skirts got shorter, the blouses tighter, the price of the coffee has stayed the same, and so it is worth the while. Another tip: sit down alone. If you are already in the company of the opposite sex, it will prevent your full enjoyment. You can then no longer imagine so readily that you are accompanying every object of your thirty-second burst of interest down the Ku-Damm for a little stretch. But if someone joins you at the table and suggests accompanying her to the “Old Vienna,” “Ricci,” “Paris Bar,” or the “Eden Saloon,” go right ahead and accept. “Old Vienna” is one of the few espresso bars in Berlin. The great espresso wave has not quite made its way yet to the Havel and the Spree. This is a free tip for enterprising entrepreneurs. I ended up at “Old Vienna” on the very first evening. Next to me a movie guy was in the process of building up the star career of a blouse-conscious Juliet. Her Romeo, meanwhile, was standing on the side and was starting to accept the fact that he would be part of the future stardom of his party-fairy only from a middle seat in the back. He did the right thing, since the movie guy left with Juliet and left Romeo behind with gloomy thoughts and a higher whiskey bill. Juliet consoled him – and presumably herself, too – with the remark that this was necessary for her future. Toward morning, I saw Juliet again, this time having a lonely hangover breakfast in the waiting hall of the train station. She had eyes red from crying and a tear in her blouse. Now she was looking truly photogenic. How flat you make your bed – sometimes that’s how flat the future falls on its face.

It doesn’t have to be Hollywood right away. Perhaps you are content to fortify your stomach and throat in “Old Vienna” for ambitions that are closer by. A substantial bite to eat – for example, a plate of spaghetti – can be had here for around two Marks. The interior decorator had a soft spot for shy people: the swivel seats at the bar are close enough together to ensure that you will make contact with your future fifteen-minute neighbor when mounting your chair. Silent gourmets immerse themselves in the mirror; the acoustically interested must content themselves with eavesdropping on their neighbors’ conversations – juke box, sorry, out of luck.

One likes to impress five-minute-old conquests with a change of scenery. The scenery at “Ricci” is well suited for this. The “Ricci” is made up of three parts: in front of the door, behind the door, and above the door. If you go up the stairs and sit above the door in the Café Salon, you’ll have a great opportunity to finish up your usual introductory spiel. Be careful, though, if you brag about having celebrities among your acquaintances. You see, they’ll manage to walk in. The other day I met Freddy Quinn there. He was playing piggy-back with Carsten from the Null-acht-fünfzehn movie. I found it silly, but at least it was better than if he had sung. And so I could stay comfortably seated and chat with the barmaid about French chansoniers, all of whom are much better than the German crooners. Still, Freddy Quinn did not do the piggy-back with me, from which you can gather that a tolerant tone prevails at the “Ricci.”

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