Armed with Franz Hessels cult guidebook, Walking in Berlin, published in 1929, Vanessa Thorpe is transported back to the citys decadent period
Time travel is still a long way off as a short break option, but merrily there are some good approximations. Last month, in a very chilly but sunny Berlin, I opened up a transcript of Franz Hessels cult 1929 guidebook, Walking in Berlin: A Flneur in the Capital, and, sure enough, the jaunty, literary tone of the book , now published in English for the first time, is just a private invitation back to the citys most beguiling era.
Hessel had an appetite for cafe culture and people-watching, although his own life was easily as colourful as the life he observed around him. His open relationship with his wife, fellow writer Helen Grund, inspired Henri-Pierre Rochs famous mnage-a-trois novel Jules et Jim . He was, to use his preferred French term, a flneur a man of means at ease in the cosmopolitan hub of Weimar Germany.
My tour in his footsteps starts simply off Kurfrstendamm on the edge of Charlottenburg. My base is a room in the smaller, bohemian hotel, Pension Funk, once the apartment of the Danish silent movie star Asta Nielsen. Its 19 th-century lifts, high ceilings and walls hung with images of the decadent Nielsen perfectly capture the Weimar mood, as does the grand Literaturhaus cafe across the road, standing next to an equally stylish museum dedicated to the artist Kthe Kollwitz.
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