Tuesday, 16 June 2009

claerchen's ballhaus

if i had to pick one thing, only one, that represents berlin for me, it would have to be clärchens ballhaus. it's the east and the west, the old-fashioned and the hip, the old and the young, the past and the present. it's very berlin. 

clärchen's is not just a ballroom, as the name would suggest, it's also a restaurant with a garden up front. in summer, you'll sit in between the flower beds for a pizza al fresco and a glass of wine, or a boulette (typical berlin meatballs) with potato salad and a beer, if you prefer. you can come for lunch, but my favourite is the evening, when dusk is settling late and slowly the lights come on, you hear the chatter of the diners and the footsteps of the waiters on the gravel paths. 

when i came to take pictures, i asked one of the waiters for their opening times. he just looked at me as if i was out of my mind: "why, we don't have any. we open around 10 in the morning and then...". it's open end, you see. you wouldn't think this kind of thing could happen to you in germany, land of the over-organised, but the times they are a'changing... great!

inside, the old ballroom comes to life in the evenings. the gentlemen staffing the ticket box (entry is something like 2 or 3 euro), the cloakroom and the doors inside must be in their late seventies and are suitably grumpy, but easily pleased when you buy your ticket and hand over your coats. this being former east berlin, the crowd is amazingly mixed. come early (say around 9pm), and there'll be plenty of couples in their fifties, ballroom dancing to old-fashioned eurovision-song-contest-style music. the later the night, from eleven/midnight onwards, the higher the proportion of young and hip media people and artists, dancing along freestyle - i've never seen anything like it. 

saturdays, there's live music, quite often with a swing band. you can also take dancing lessons in clärchen's amazing, morbidly chic spiegelsaal (mirror hall) upstairs. wednesdays, it's swing for beginners with lotta. the spiegelsaal is also hired out for weddings, parties or photoshoots. sundays, they often hold concerts (check out their website for dates and contact).

clärchen's located in the middle of berlin's gallery scene in mitte and not far from shopping hot-spots hackescher markt and alte schönhauser straße, so you could easily come for lunch or dinner after some inspiring gallery visit or rest your feet after a shopping spree. i love clärchen's, and chances are you will too.


Simple pleasure said...

Wat een mooi oud gebouw, ik heb net de film shall whe dance gekeken met mijn dochter, het sfeertje hier doet mij er wel aan denken.

Chiara.u said...

what a particular place... so fascinating!! Die spiegelsaal makes me so curious :)

epe said...

wow! i visited this place when i stayed in berlin! it's cool!

Polly said...

this sounds fantastic, very quaint, I love the fact that there are no formal opening hours, so not-German!

and die spiegelsaal makes me curious too

I really like the photos, especially the ones where you see the contrast between the old building and the fresh green garden. thanks!

n a t s u m i said...

Oh, it's great place to hang out ! I would love to go there when I visit Berlin!

Have a great weekend! oxox

Jeannette said...

Und wieder ein Top-Tip! Das kommt auch auf unseren Must-go-and-see Liste. ;)
LG, Jeannette

Maya said...

The dancing and pizza may be good but the service was awful. We waited half and hour to order, had three different waiters who later confused each other. Our food all came separately and only after an hour and a half. My meal was cold and my fish was very dry. When I told our waiter, he shouted at me when he could have been more polite. He said that even if I didn't want to eat it, I had to pay. I left my money with my friends and was leaving the restaurant. At the door the same waiter grabbed me and yanked me back inside saying I couldn't leave until I paid. The staff was generally rude, angry and had terrible customer service.

kristina - no penny for them said...

hi maya, reading your comment made me very sad. i can't believe you were treated so badly.

i've never had an even remotely similar experience there, the service was a bit slow, but fine. i would never recommend places i don't personally like - i'm an independent writer and don't write up nice reviews for people who ask me to.

i will bring this to the attention of the management of the place from a press point of view.

thanks for taking the trouble of letting me know.

i seriously hope this experience didn't spoil your entire time in berlin.

a berlin blog of the more personal sort.

if you are looking for a personal take on germany's buzzing capital, you are just about right here. i've been living in berlin for over ten years now and will update this site with anything i happen to come across, have liked for a long time or just feel like sharing with you. hope you enjoy!

take a look at the links posted below for more comprehensive overviews or useful info on berlin.

also take a look at my other blog no penny for them.

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