10117 Travel Guide
Problematic packers, you know who you are.
You can’t zip your suitcase without your entire family doing a tap dance on top of it. At the airport, people congratulate your Samsonite and ask “how far along” it is. When you unpack at the hotel, your once-neatly pressed wardrobe looks like someone was trying to teach themselves origami with your conference outfits.
There is help for people like you, and his name is Ivica Tot-Genz. As the laundry manager at Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome in Berlin, Tot-Genz has become the Yoda of luggage management. He’s an interesting guy, a trained bespoke tailor (eye for measurements) who used to fold parachutes for stowing under pilots’ seats in his native Croatia. And his “professional packing” service is inclusive for Hotel de Rome guests.
To give us a taste of his experience-gleaned ideas, Tot-Genz shared with us ten of his Top 10 Packing Tips:
Not going to Europe this summer? This might tempt you. Stay two nights at a Rocco Forte Collection hotel (with 12 to choose from in places you’d like to be anyway, like Rome, Prague, Berlin and St Petersburg), and they’ll throw in a third for free.
The only caveat – the offer is only valid for stays during high summer, between July 27 and September 4. Unfortunately, that’s also when most of the locals will have deserted places like Rome for the seaside – but hey, at least the buses will be a little less crowded.
With this offer, the Hotel de Rome in Berlin costs $861 per room for the three nights – not so bad for $287, given that it includes breakfast (although it excludes VAT). Brown’s Hotel in London, meanwhile, will set you back $950 for the full stay. So now all you have to do is choose which one.
It may be the Berlin hotel of choice for visiting dignitaries, like Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama, and it may occupy a sweet spot next to the Brandenburg Gate, but the Hotel Adlon Kempinski suffers from a serious case of inflated ego.
Perhaps they'd remember that it was out of their windows that Michael Jackson dangled his baby? Or maybe they'd take a second look at their less than 5-star website? But no, the Hotel Adlon sure loves itself and knows that when you pay some 1,900 Euro for one night, you too are head over heels for their snooty exclusivity.
For the reason that the Adlon simply can't imagine that their guests would stay with them and be able to continue living without a hotel-monogrammed cheeseboard, you will find the hotel's very own store around the corner on Wilhelmstrasse. If you think the W Hotels' stores are a bit much, then please stay away from the Adlon.
By now it's probably obvious that no matter what world city in which we find ourselves, we will be willing to sniff out a great hotel tea service. If we're not staying at the tippy-top 5-star hotels, oftentimes a drink in the bar of one or indulging in some afternoon tea is the way to go to still have access to the luxury experience. Our recent visit to Berlin is no exception, and we found ourselves headed to the rooftop bar at the iconic Hotel de Rome.
Just off the main drag of Unter den Linden street, the Hotel de Rome sits at the back of a tourist-filled square, but the busloads have come to see the platz's sunken memorial to the Nazi book burning and not the stately hotel only steps away. For this reason, the Hotel de Rome is pleasantly quiet, and its rooftop bar seemed to sit just as many locals as visitors.
With one of those fancy-looking chandelier and marble lobbies, you can guess it's going to be a bit pricey and considering the fact that accommodation prices in Berlin are usually really reasonable, a starting rate of 315 (US$490) for the basic "superior guest room" is quite a lot.
Is it worth it? The location at the Gendarmenmarkt is pretty classic Berlin, and you can walk to many of the best spots of the city. Service is nearly always impeccable and the rooms are both large and full of neat stuff.
Perhaps the only complaint we'd have is that it all sounds a little bit too formal and even a bit on the pretentious side. In a city as fun as Berlin, that might not be exactly what you're looking for; but if you are happy with luxury and a regal feel, then the Regent is what you need.
Luxury in Berlin sits right next to the oft-photographed Brandenburg Gate in the form of the Hotel Adlon Kempinski. The original Hotel Adlon first opened in 1907 and it joined the Kempinski group in 1997, making this year a big one, with a tenth birthday and a centenary to celebrate.
If you want to see Berlin in style, then Adlon's jubilee package isn't a bad way to go. Birthday celebrations go all the way through to December 28 and include all kinds of extras. Starting with an airport pickup in the specially designed BMW Adlon limousine, through dinner and drinks in the evening, and all with the view of the Brandenburg Gate right there. The jubilee package also includes a personal shopping tour at Berlin's trademark department store KaDeWe with a personal shopper and a 10% discount on whatever you buy--sounds like they're expecting you to stock up big.
Back at the hotel, relaxing at the Adlon Spa is included. But all at a price, with the bill coming to 1660 Euro (over $2200) for two nights and two people. And while the birthday party's on, there's also a museum-style display about the hotel's history. Being in such a historic site, it must be worth a look.
The Hotel de Rome, which despite the name is in Berlin, has all the trappings of a top-notch downtown hotel. The building is a converted bank, with the vault now turned swimming pool. Rooms are super-huge with price tags to match. And the bathroom is full of schmancy products and heated towel racks.
But that didn't do the trick for Denny Lee, who recently checked in for a New York Times article. Maybe it was the lack of WiFi, or the insane $26 a day fee for wired internet that got him miffed. Or it could've been the dicey service:
An empty minibar shouldn't require three follow-up visits and a dozen apologies delivered with sheepish grins. More regrets came when breakfast (omelet and coffee for 16 euros) arrived 15 minutes past the promised time of 7 a.m. The front desk, to its credit, removed it from the bill without prompting, but not before issuing another apology.
Rooms at the Hotel de Rome start at $555. $555? Pass the Jack Daniels Denny.
Tallinn, the gorgeous capital city of Estonia (home to exotic looking fashion models on runways worldwide), recently made it onto Lonely Planet's Bluelist of the hottest up-and-coming destination cities for 2007.
On our last overnighter through Tallinn we picked the Reval Hotel Central and if you're not a fashion model who has a sugar daddy paying the bill, this is a pretty good budget stop.
Neat and clean rooms, internet access, a decent bar and a more-than-adequate restaurant made it one of the better value hotels in Tallinn, a city where everything's heating up and old Soviet blocks are being converted to 4 and 5 star hotels. Reval Central only chalks up three stars, but it's definitely at the top end of this.
The Central also promote themselves as a hotel for all--business travelers and families with small kids are welcome and equally well-catered for, they say. If you fall into one of these categories (hopefully the former), let us know if you agree.
The other plus point the hotel uses in their marketing is their central location, which is definitely true. In a matter of minutes you can be right in the rickety, cobble-stoned Old Town of Tallinn, snapping up souvenirs or just snapping pictures, model or not.
· Reval Hotel Central reviews [TripAdvisor]
· Views from Hotel Olumpia [HotelChatter]
Sorry guys, this one's not for your eyes (and that's not a ploy to get you interested).
Sometimes hotels are just for women. In Berlin there's more than one women-only hotel, and your experience can be good. In particular, the almost hostel-priced Intermezzo Hotel for Women isn't fancy, but has a lot of pluses. Location is the first bonus: in the heart of the center of old East Berlin, walking distance to Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial or the Postdamer Platz, and still near public transport like the subway (U-bahn line 2) and the tram (S-Bahn).
Berlin's generally a safe city for tourists anyway, but sometimes its size and constant day-or-night buzz can be a bit unsettling for women traveling alone, and that's why we rate these hotels highly. Intermezzo features relatively basic rooms--definitely no luxury--but with the extra touches that make you realise it's made by and for women. Cotton face-wipes, for example, replace the mini-bar scotch bottles, and more useful cupboard space is built in. And everything has this special quietness, cleanliness and fresh smell about it that's sometimes even missing at a 5-star.
Simple but good--sounds a bit like a healthy breakfast cereal.
It's kind of hard to fathom that there's a Westin Hotel in Berlin. But one frequent guest assures that the place is modernized and that some rooms have been entirely renovated, despite the building having been built in the "Eastern Germany Days."
I was here many times before and have seen all kind of rooms (make sure, you get an renovated one with Heavenly Bed!). Due to my SPG Platinum Status, this time I had a corner suite with a great view, but it was a old interior... Try the breakfast, its fantastic, but expensive (25). Beside the location the best thing is the atrium lobby ... very old fashioned, but a great spot!
Indeed, the hotel gets pretty stellar reviews with the location, off Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, being the first thing mentioned. As with all old hotels, beware the small rooms especially the ones built during Communist days.
· Westin Grand Berlin [TripAdvisor]
Located at the feet of Brandenburg Gate in the middle of Berlin, the hotel was constructed in 1907 with the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It impressed the Kaiser, and now it impresses anyone with a bounty on their head.
Staying in the hotel's newly refurbished Presidential Suite, also means privacy from paparazzi: the suite has two private elevators with direct access to an underground garage. As for those who worry about being bombed anywhere they hide (ahem, Osama), this suite has been designed to withstand outside attack with bulletproof windows, doors and walls.
But it doesn't stop there. Dick Cheney would admire the room's own security hub with video monitoring, power supply, and telecommunications system with secure DECT handsets. The hotel's general manager notes
The need for security and the expectations regarding equipment levels have grown tangibly, and we are meeting that challenge.
Could this be the start of the latest trend?
Did you see the Bourne Supremacy? Truth be told we thought the movie was about 15 minutes too long--maybe we were just particularly grumpy that night. Anyone who did see the movie might recognize the hotel pictured to the right, the Westin Grand Berlin, which made a cameo in the movie. This place looks stellar--nice central location, just a few feet from checkpoint charlie, and the German's take their customer service seriously, so you shouldn't feel neglected.
Oh, and if you stay here, you will get to try out one of the highly touted "Heavenly Beds" for yourself. Beds are a fairly personal piece of furniture, thus it shouldn't shock you to learn the feedback on the Heavenly Beds can run the gamut. Most people we have heard from love 'em, however one recent Trip Advisor user felt differently:
Looking at the 'heavenly bed' we found a hole in the linen (it was torn). The very friendly house-keeping changed it when we asked for it. The mattress was ok, but the pillows nothing spectacular at all. Compared to the sleeping experience at the Hilton Berlin, this bed was good average, but no heavenly average.
Thoughts? What do you think of the Heavenly Beds? Tried 'em yet?
· Bed Wars Rage In 2005 [HotelChatter]