It is that time of year again, when the gal actually spends three nights, yes THREE nights, in one of the world’s most iconic luxury hotels, the Adlon Kempinski, Berlin. There is a reason for this prolonged stay, as will become clear. On arrival, a most exquisite and elegant English aristocrat is holding court in the lobby, beneath the famous stained glass dome. She spends six months a year here, apparently. It is her second home (it is also the gal’s home, for three nights a year). It is lovely to be back, up the four red-carpeted steps from Unter den Linden and into the lobby. Look straight ahead at the extraordinary 12-foot tall black fountain that has elephants among its appendages.
Look up, too, at that dome, which never changes. But aha, there ARE some changes this year. Kempinski’s signature Ladies In Red, intelligent hostesses who act as bridge between consumer and reception, and consumer and concierge, are wearing delightful little scarlet hats with matching veils (more than fascinators but, nonetheless, the height of luxury fashion). Is this fashion new, permanent? Only for ITB, they say. Let us hope they forget to take them off. ITB, for those who have just arrived on the first plane coming in from Outer Space, is the nightmare of the world’s biggest travel fair and anybody who is anybody and everyone who is not is here, though thankfully not all at the Adlon.
Other accents have been introduced for ITB time. The gym opens at five. At the rear of the lobby, surrounded by flower displays and black and white photos of former guests, all in covetable silver frames, a pianist plays, even quite early in the morning. This evokes a feeling of yesteryear, which is also being stressed with the hotel’s monthly tea-dances, a partnership with Tanzschule Peter Steirl. This hotel is really so elegant. As you check in, a silver bucket stands ready with champagne, if you would like a glass (if not, there is orange juice) and, of course, the Ladies in Red are there. They will be delighting the Virtuoso travel agents who arrive for their yearly ‘international’, meaning outside the USA, gathering, April 26-30, 2014.
The framed photos around the hotel remind me of the collections I saw in two other luxury hotels, in Madrid, only a week ago (are we all hankering after the past?). Here, in my favourite room 518, looking out over Unter den Linden and, to one side, with a clear view of the Brandenburg Gate, my silver photo frame holds a likeness of Teddy Roosevelt. Did he ever come here, I wonder? More recent names include Michael Jackson, whose visit is best forgotten, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who moved in here when he was released by Putin after those years of imprisonment. Since then the Russian has started travelling the world. On March 4th, 2014, he was in Zurich, invited by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra to hear Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Los Angeles Symphony, which he wrote and dedicated to Khodorkovsky in 2008.