Liza Minnelli immortalised the character of Sally Bowles in the film Cabaret.
But Sally Bowles really existed, albeit under a different name. She was a true-life friend of author Christopher Isherwood. He did not have to invent her nor did he have to invent the places she used to haunt. He just changed the names a bit for his famous short story 'Sally Bowles' in the 'Berlin Stories' anthology, the basis for the Oscar-winning movie 'Cabaret'.
"Divine decadence" was the self-proclaimed lifestyle of his unforgettable character, Sally Bowles, "one of those individuals whom respectable society shuns in horror".
And assuming you know where to look, it is possible to trace Sally's wayward and wanton footsteps through the heart of Berlin - far from the route taken by sightseeing buses.
To find Sally, just imagine you are Michael York in the opening scenes of 'Cabaret' and step off a train at the Friedrichstrasse station and look for a double-decker bus while Liza Minnelli takes her bows at the Kit-Kat.
Friedrichstrasse is the heart of Sally's Berlin. Berlin is not a charming city. In fact, it is downright scruffy. Friedrichstrasse is the epitome of Berlin scruffiness - and always has been.
In Sally's day, when you stepped outside the train station you found yourself on a shabby street lined with cheap hotels, sordid bath houses, vaudeville theatres, beer halls, nudie peep shows, sleazy cafés, fly-by-night movie studios and lurid nightspots like the Kit-Kat Klub.
A short way down Friedrichstrasse, businessmen could stop off at a certain coffeehouse where topless stenographers took dictation for four groschen a page.
Sally Bowles would have known about that place. And she would have known about the ToBis film studios, which were headquartered in a building just across Friedrichstrasse from the train station. Sally knew all about studio producers and their casting couches.
The ToBis building is gone now, destroyed along with the casting couches in the war. But there's no missing the adjacent Admirals Palast theatre which is still standing, its five-story Doric columns a landmark for the better part of a century.
Sally Bowles was based on a real-life friend of author Christopher Isherwood.
In Sally's day, the Admirals Palast housed a large music hall, a nightclub and a café, as well as the marble-lined bath house - all under one roof. Incongruously, the baths were located over the music hall.
Franz Lehar would be conducting his operetta 'The Merry Widow' downstairs while, upstairs between acts, tuxedo-clad operetta-goers would pay an extra admission to ogle naked bathers through peep holes in the changing rooms. Divine decadence, indeed.
The Admirals Palast is now in the process of being restored by a new owner who promises to recreate not only the auditorium but also the elegant turn-of-the-century bath house using the original marble and ceramic tiles that were packed away and saved from destruction.
For a special Sally Bowles thrill, walk parallel to the elevated train and take in some very Sally-like smoky pubs and cafés located in the trestle arches directly under the rail line.
Keep on going and you arrive in no time at the Museum Island complex of galleries and museums. Later this year the famous Berlin Egyptian collection, one of the finest collections of Ancient Egyptian art in the world, will be relocated to the Museum Island for the first time since the war, so you can see the collection just as it was in Sally's days.
A few blocks in the opposite direction and you come to the Brandenburg Gate and the rebuilt Adlon Hotel, in whose lobby Sally waited in vain one long afternoon for her gad-about father to show up. By the way, when Liza is in town she always stays at the Adlon out of respect for Sally, who made her a star.
It is easy to see all these sights on foot or by double-decker bus or tram, just as Sally would have all those years ago. And as one might expect, there is a divinely decadent hotel to serve as a base of operations.
The artist's home away from home, Artist Riverside Hotel & Spa caters to film and TV production companies, actors, performers, writers and the like whose artistic needs are not easily met by more conventional hotels - at a reasonable sliding rate.
You don't have to be an artist to get a room at the Riverside, but being one qualifies you for a special room rate.
Liza Minnelli always stays at the Adlon Hotel out of respect for Sally.
Located on Friedrichstrasse on the banks of the River Spree just one block from the train station, the Riverside is part of the 1980s Friedrichstadtpalast theatre and nightclub complex built by East Germany in a vain attempt to rival Broadway and the West End.
Like the Admirals Palast, the Riverside is a labyrinthine hodgepodge and you need a map to find your room. Part of it used to be lodgings for performers, while other parts were restaurants and nightclubs. The hotel breakfast room, for example, used to be a cocktail lounge featuring lap-dancers. Divine decadence again.
Buttgereit's love of Art Nouveau is reflected in the design elements and warm colours and potted palms throughout the hotel's custom-designed interiors.
And after a long production day, you can relax in the new health spa adjoining the hotel's Wellness Oasis bistro - all of which overlook the Spree with its barges and river boats. Sit there wrapped in a towel and pretend you're Sally and wave to passing bargemen.
The hotel's website address (www.great-hotel.com) was inspired by movie star Ed Harris, who was here for the Berlin Film Fest and who said of the Riverside: "This is really a great hotel!" Sally Bowles would have agreed.
What you need to know about German schools and daycare.
Want to move to Germany but haven’t figured out the details? Check out Expatica’s overview of the German permit system.
In part one of our two part series, we cover the driving culture in Berlin, where to park and buy gas and, most importantly, the laws.
Our comprehensive guide includes information on how to find work, recruitment agencies, employment contracts and labour law.