Hotels used to be open for ‘the season’: when a wine dealer opened a hotel on Munich’s Maximilianstrasse in 1858 he wanted to stress it would be open year-round, for all four seasons. What is now Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski was thus the first ‘four seasons’ hotel…
And it is very much a luxury hotel for the year-round market. Looking out of the two open windows of lovely room 106, facing out over Maximilianstrasse, I can see, from left to right, such boutiques as Yves St-Laurent, Hermès, Cartier, Chanel and Dior.
This is shopaholics’ paradise, nip across the road, reserve something, nip back for a glass of Dom Pérignon in the hotel’s majestic lobby lounge (overhead, an eight metre-wide circular stained glass window, a burst of colours of the African veld, or the Fall trees of Vermont). Back again, for another bout of retail, and so on.
It is also culture-vultures’ town. As well as regular masterpieces in the Alte Pinakothek – Bruegel, Dürer, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Tintoretto, Vermeer and so many more – there is a fascinating Perugino – Raphael’s Master – exhibition running through January 15th, 2012 Coming forward in skills, the BMW-Museum Munich shows the history of the Bavarian Motor Works (yes, girl, that is what BMW stands for).
I have a full-wall blow up of a Vermeer (I think) as I write, here in room 106. My MacBook Pro sits on a red wood desk with gold fluted edges and gently-curved legs. Light comes from a rectangular stainless ‘sculpture’ that sits on said desk. With the Vermeer (I think) behind, this is royal, ancient and modern. Actually room 106 would be suitable for a majestic girl. Some bits of walls, including behind the bed, are sandalwood-coloured suede, and full length gauze curtains can be pulled around to give a four-post feel. I love the satin-smooth all-wood floor, and the well-lit bathroom.
I am in Bavaria, so I eat Bavarian. My room service dinner starts with beef carpaccio and salad, goes on to Leberkäse, Bavarian meat loaf which is not, as its German name implies, cheese or liver but finely-minced beef and pork, flavoured with nutmeg. But I am also in Europe, so I pair this with a glass of Chianti Classico Isole e Olena 2008, a satisfactory Italian, and I eat off Luxembourg china (Villeroy & Boch).
This morning, I start the day with a good work-out on the Italian wave machine (Technogym) in the sixth floor rooftop gym, followed by a lovely swim in a 15-metre pool with a reflective roof over. Breakfast is truly magnificent, a buffet that shows just how many different nuts and seeds can be squeezed into breads before the whole caboosh crumbles, and there must be eight fresh juices with a chef ready to squeeze anything else you want. And for those who stick with Bavarian, there are würst sausages galore, to be eaten with fine-grated radish and, of course, pretzels.
I am being looked after by a great young team, in lederhosen and dirndls but I guess this is only for the current Oktoberfest. Kempinski’s classic Lady In Red hostess – a kind of Girl Friday blended with concierge cum personal assistant – greets, in a royal-red dirndl that matches my desk top, and some corridor carpeting inscribed with M for Maximilian. All this is run by the exuberant German GM, Axel Ludwig, who points delightedly at his latest addition, a 1.5-metre wide medallion outside the front entrance that combines the shield of Bavaria with the hotel’s arms.
Yes, this is something of a royal palace. It sits on the thoroughfare named for Maximilian I of Bavaria, 1756-1825, it opened in the time of Ludwig II of Bavaria, 1845-1886. Were there still a Bavarian throne, it would be occupied by Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern, a 78-year old who is considered by ardent Jacobites to be legitimate heir of the House of Stuart, and thus ruler of England, Scotland (no mention of Wales) – plus Ireland, and also, for good measure, France. He is obviously a man of taste. On 1st October this year he bought back, from the state, the Nymphenburg porcelain manufactury that once only produced fine pieces for his ancestors, not for mere commoners. What will he do with this name, and brand, now?