Berlin, mother of all German cities. Diverse as it can be. An amazing melting pot, combining the old charm of formerly communist East Berlin with the modern developments of a city striving to be at the forefront of architectural recognition.
And what an effort it has made. Apart from trendy Mitte, which has seen the transformation of run down, damaged buildings into fashionable restaurants, galleries, and clubs, Berlin has seen more world class architects erecting buildings in the last decade than any other major city. There are Sir Norman Foster’s redesign of the Reichstag, Zaha Hadid’s Otto Bock building, Meinhard von Gerkan’s Central Train Station and Tegel Airport, and David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum just to name a few.
And then there is Potsdamer Platz, the result of a bold idea to create a new city center from scratch. At one time Europe’s largest construction site, the square not only features the Sony Center, a futuristic 40000 square foot multimedia complex, but a complete 360 degree panorama of new buildings. In the middle of it all are a few graffiti-splattered remnants of the once mighty Wall, which divided this great city for nearly four decades.
One of the buildings, all 17 floors of it, is subtly reminiscent of the Art Deco skyscrapers of post turn-of-the-century Chicago or New York. I am looking at the Beisheim Center, or more appropriately, I am looking at The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. The building’s Art Nouveau façade continues with Art Deco features inside. A majestic marble staircase unwinds into the elegant Lobby. Cologne-based Peter Silling’s interior design tastefully reflects the influences Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel had on Berlin in the early 1800s. Those influences can still be seen in many of the city’s famous buildings. As I make my way from the Front Desk to the elevators it is clear how The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin pays homage to the late Empire style; antique decorative items blend in with elements reduced to plain geometric form. After a smooth and friendly check, I am being escorted up to my Junior Suite on the 7th floor. The room has a spacious layout and modern technology gadgets go hand in hand with Art Deco furniture. Further, Schinkel’s influence continues into each of the 303 rooms and suites, which I learn are distinguished by original watercolors created by famed German 20th century neo-expressionist artist Markus Luepertz.
I make my way up to the 10th floor Ritz Carlton Club for some snacks and following the private Concierge’s recommendations I dive into the surrounding area of the hotel, conveniently located less than 10 minutes walking from the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s undoubted landmark building. After a refreshing walk I am drawn into the hotel’s Spa where La Prairie treatments compete with further discovering Berlin. As I head back up to my room a few hours later I notice how the square is covered in a white layer: it has been snowing all afternoon long and so I decide spending this evening in. After a delicious dinner from the excellent Room Service menu, accompanied by a bottle of excellent Bordeaux I ooze away in my fabulously comfortable bed.
A gentle wake up call brings me back into reality the next morning. While the bed is a delight, I do have to get up. My eyes gaze over Potsdamer Platz and it’s young skyline, as the city below starts coming to life, no sign of tourists taking pictures of the Wall pieces yet.
Ronald Reagan once famously requested Michael Gorbachev to “tear down that wall”. The Wall is long gone and a new Berlin has emerged, a whole new Germany actually. Thinking about that, another famous quote comes to mind, John F. Kennedy’s legendary: Ich bin ein Berliner!
But while I am not, the Ritz Carlton definitely is.