By Roland Wildberg ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends
Friday, 18th January 2013
Exclusive Feature: The Waldorf Astoria Berlin is the fourth hotel of the traditional luxury brand in Europe; the interior of the newly opened hotel surprises with restraint and elegance.
The new hotel tower in the old West Berlin might remind one to Dubai, and this is almost correct: The 118 Meter measuring "Zoo Window", named after the direct opposite, 170 year old zoo is a work of the Arab Investment Company Harvest United Enterprises Abu Dhabi.
It speaks for the understatement of the top brand of Hilton that the name "Waldorf-Astoria" on the gray granite colossus is barely noticeable.
Only who walks toward the portal, will become aware of the gold-colored lettering and subtle art deco lamps next to it. Berlin had to wait long on this super-luxury hotel: in the mid-90s the planning started, the opening was supposed to take place in spring 2012 and was suspended for twelve months.
Whether it was worth waiting, visitors must find out themselves - a few days after its official opening, the house has received a lot of criticism, but also a lot of praise.
Definitely it leaves nobody unaffected. This is due to the location: where now pierces the clear structure of the hotel tower into the sky, was so far not a very good address.
"Inspiring environment", it is officially called by the management, and the deeper meaning behind this is rather courageous than ironic. Pointing out that the neighborhood was once very bad, our friendly hotel guide replied factually, the neighborhood is still lousy.
But that will undoubtedly change: Ten years ago, entire districts of Berlin were lousy, which today are heavily hip. The city is not in vain world famous for its rapid transformation, and also around the Waldorf-Astoria is being built like crazy. Perhaps the bulldozers and cranes are the "inspiring environment" meant.
But even more inspiring than bulldozer at the construction sites and or beggars at the derelict Zoo station just around the corner rather, is the hotel itself: The Waldorf-Astoria takes the functional style of its exteriors into the interior and experiments with it. Like in the famous headquarters in New York City, its central elements dominating the lobby are the famous clock and the mirror wall, which is something like the hallmark of this mother of all luxury hotels. But playful embellishments or lush neo-baroque, as it is almost taken for granted in big luxury properties, the guest does not find at all: The luxury of the Waldorf-Astoria Berlin is reluctant, but thanks to covered hues and soft lighting yet elegant.
"We are opening just a hotel," said General Manager Friedrich Niemann in full restraint facing a huge audience at the official press conference on 11th January. But he knew of course that it is not just any hotel. Not every house, not even in any of the already existing 25 five-star hotels in the German capital, has beautiful gold leaf decorations in their lobby and suites. Nor there is one with tons of imposing black marble boards at the walls around the lobby, which is one of the most expensive in the world. The carpets are as deep as the non-swimmers area in a pool.
But despite this opulence the Waldorf-Astoria Berlin is more reminiscent of a cozy boutique or design hotel but of a grand hotel. Unlike, for example, the The Caledonian in Edinburgh and The Trianon Palace Versailles, located in historic buildings and modeling the glorious past in their interior, the newest branch is dedicated to the present: "embracing the future with a classic, timeless approach , the famous and masterful service and modern conveniences "that is mentioned in the Waldorf-Astoria home.
And this motto the house can meet in almost every detail: The long bar, which is run in true American style, and after a few days recorded good visit already, the French restaurant "Les Solistes" with the team of Pierre Gagnaire who in Paris holds three Michelin stars, and especially the 1000-square-meter Guerlain SPA, with its huge oval pool, above a golden cloud seems to hover.
The spa was most popular among walk-in customers: thousands of Berliners saw the interior of the official visit days with interest. To open the hotel was a risk, but it has brought the house great sympathy among the population. As well as the adoption of a giraffe in the neighbouring zoo. From the nearby College of Art acquired the investors paintings and drawings for many rooms and corridors.
All wise investments in a good neighborhood, which are vital for just a luxury hotel. The onslaught of the neighborhood, the staff coped with a smile. A year the recruitment of the luxury hotel staff did take. And ten apprentices already are here to learn the intricacies of good hospitality.
John Vanderslice, Hilton Worldwide's Global Head of Luxury and Lifestyle Brands: “We watch just recently a significant growth especially in luxury hotels.” The new Waldorf-Astoria property, he adds, will be an ideal completion to the yet existing portfolio. Luxury in many examples is displayed by pure size: The Presidential Suite for example on the 31st Floor of the tower has 280 square feet of space. The price is 12,000 euros per night - as unique as the views of West Berlin; from the bathtub one looks directly at the flamingo enclosure at the zoo.
Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.
Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info: www.4Hoteliers.com/itb