Phil's Travels - Berlin, Germany (03.16)
Phil's Travels - Berlin, Germany (03.16)
My flight to Berlin was cut pretty close as the first two tube trains of the day at 05.15 passed through my station as "Not In Service" ghost trains and at Victoria the ticket machines were heavily congested with tourists trying to figure out the machines' instructions (the ticket desk was still closed at pre-dawn). My cut was sliced even more finely when I was refused entry at the boarding pass checker machines at Gatwick and it took my sleep addled brain a few more precious minutes to realise I was trying to pass with my return boarding pass instead of the outbound. Suffice to say I made the flight and thanks to James Bond, the First Officer, we landed safely and on time in Berlin.
I was booked into our regular Berlin hotel for the International Hotel Investment Forum, the Motel One Tiergarten. Having stayed here over a number of years, I would like to share my guide to managing the dysfunctional features of a Motel One bedroom (amazing how such a small room can have so many issues):
1. Issue: there are no sockets near the desk.
Solution: move the mobile desk from the wall under the TV to under the window and within a cable's reach of the room's only sockets next to the bedhead.
2. Issue: the third of a test tube of multi-use detergent.
Solution: steal a second from the housekeeper's trolley. For a follicly challenged chap like yours truly, such limited soap-cum-shampoo-cum-shower-gel can just about be rationed to last a day, but for anyone with hair, do steal from the maid's trolley.
3. Issue: the self-closing bathroom door that irritates.
Solution: place spare toilet roll in front of the open door so it catches on the carpet. Don't use the plastic bin as it slides on the carpet and carries no weight.
4. Issue: TV-projected fire that sounds like the room has sprung a leak.
Solution: try as you might to turn the TV off from an actual TV channel with people rather than an endless looping simulator fire with leaky water noises, the TV will still restart with said grating artificial fire. Therefore, ensure you press "mute" prior to turning your TV off and then at least you won't have to search the room for the implied leak when you return to your dysfunctional Motel One bedroom.
Whilst in Berlin I visited Das Stue, the former Danish Embassy building converted into a design hotel. Stunning! Beautifully executed and full of fun surprises, including the bar's close-up view of ostriches and antelope in the adjacent Berlin Zoo.
When in Berlin a visit to the food hall on the penultimate floor of KaDeWe is a must. What a venue for foodoholics and beverage lovers. Founded in 1905, KaDeWe covers 60,000sqm of sales space over eight floors and attracts some 50,000 visitors per day. The food hall on the 6th floor covers the best part of two football pitches and offers a cyclopean range of delectable consumables.
Not quite on the same scale as KaDeWe's food hall, we hosted a very relaxed and fun "Bier und Bratwurst" evening at a Berlin bier keller belonging to the oldest brewery in Germany. As Tobias said: "Seesage you there in the wurst case!"
My final event of the trip was an unforgettable meal at Berlin's Classic Remise. This vast venue opened in 2003 in an historic, 11,000sqm former tram depot, originally built in imperial times. Today, the trams are long gone and this expansive structure is filled with some of the world's most stunning cars. The depot is filled with a mixed use melange of maintenance garages, dealerships and secure storage areas for private owners of classic cars. The cars for sale are lined up along the depot floor, the walls are lined with dealers' shop windows and anyone can enter, walk around and go up close to these gorgeous machines. The other side of this vast shed is back-to-back garages, five in total (one English, one French, one German, one Italian and one US). Funnily enough, the English garage was the largest, perhaps a reflection of the reliability of mid to late 20th century English engineering? The privately owned cars are stored in shed-long, double decker, fingerprint secure, glass boxes that visitors can view but not touch. When an owner wants to go for a Sunday drive, the automatic system will move the cars around until the owner's precious baby is in place for a glass door to open and the car able to be driven straight out and on to Berlin's classic car friendly strasses. In the middle of this automobile nirvana are a number of shops selling €100,000 handmade models and other car stuff, a restaurant and a splendid event space (where 80 of us had a fabulous dinner). Thank you very much to Andrew, Joachim and the team.
Highlights of the Classic Remise had to be: the specially designed curvaceous Volvo truck used for the personal delivery of Rivas around Europe; the all black Bullit-famous Dodge Charger in the US garage (my favourite US muscle-car); the two gun-metal grey €2m gull-wing-door Mercedes; and the €6m Horch that was locked behind thick glass doors in a dealer's showroom. For any car enthusiast this is a must see visit. Enjoy!
Final thought from Berlin - how can such a great city and the capital of one of the world's most successful countries create such a remarkable car emporium on the one hand and still suffer with one of the world's crudest airports at Schönefeld on the other? Will they ever complete their long delayed state-of-the-art airport and complete the profile of a major global city?