Monday, June 24, 2013

Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin

Since we were flying today, we decided to go for a good walk in the sunshine. We passed the Jewish Memorial and through the Brandenburg Gate to Pariser Platz, where we decided that we had to visit the Adlon Hotel that features so much in David Downing's John Russell novels and Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunter novels. After all, Bernie worked at the Adlon as head of security at one time so we feel as if we know the hotel and it's owner.

The original Adlon was one of the most famous hotels in Europe. The Adlon opened on October 23, 1907 with the Kaiser, his wife, and many other notables in attendance. It quickly became the social center of Berlin. It was largely destroyed in 1945 during the closing days of World War II, though a small wing continued operating until 1984.

After World War I and the abdication of the Kaiser, Lorenz Adlon remained a staunch monarchist and thus never imagined normal traffic would pass through the Brandenburg Gate's central archway, which had been reserved for the Kaiser alone. He therefore never looked before crossing in front of it. Tragically, this resulted in Adlon being hit by a car in 1918 at that spot. Three years later, on April 7, 1921, he was again hit by a car at exactly the same spot, this time fatally. Lorenz's son Louis Adlon took over management of the hotel.

The Adlon was one of the most famous hotels in Europe and hosted many celebrity guests including Tsar Nicholas II. Following the war, the East German government reopened the building's surviving rear service wing under the Hotel Adlon name, before eventually turning it into a home for east german apprentices. The ruined main building was demolished in 1952, along with all of the other buildings on Pariser Platz. The square was left as an abandoned, grassed-over buffer between West and East, with the Brandenburg Gate sitting alone by the Berlin Wall. Finally in 1984 the building was demolished. The new Adlon, loosely based on the original opened in 1997.

Not only is the Adlon famous in novels, it also has featured in movies such as Liam Neeson's, "Unseen." It was the model for "Grand Hotel," where Greta Garbo famously announced, "I vant to be alone." It was from a window of at this hotel that Michael Jackson famously dangled his son Blanket.

We passed the huge pots of stunning white hydrangeas and entered the hotel. The marble lobby had a huge lounge in the centre with plenty of couches and tables for sitting areas. Most of these were full of people having drinks or very nice looking lunches. We carried on down the marble hallway passing large side rooms, somewhat resembling palm courts, that were filled with tropical plants. We decided to forego lunch as it was still quite early. Sadly, we didn't see Bernie or even Greta Garbo's ghost but next time the Adlon features in anything we read or watch we will visualize it perfectly.

We continued our walk up Unter der Linden. It is a beautiful street lined with Linden trees. There is a giant promenade in the middle. If it wasn't for all the construction it would have been quite imposing. We stopped in the Miele restaurant, tucked away at the back of the appliance store, for lunch. It was my first German meal, hot veal meatballs, a delicious cucumber and potato salad and a green salad. This was followed by a drink of rhubarb ice cream, honey and shaved ice. Very tart and delicious.

Our walk continued along Freidrichstrasse and eventually we were back at the hotel. Walking in Berlin can be tricky if you don't pay attention to the bike lanes marked on the very wide sidewalks. Many locals take advantage of these, speeding along on utilitarian looking, black, upright bikes. A healthy way to travel, but dangerous for inattentive pedestrians!

It was time to say Auf Wiedersehen to Berlin. With lots more to explore, I hope that we return.

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