Day 35 – the Adlon Hotel,
#77 (formerly #1) Unter den Linden, Berlin
This place is a microcosm of Berlin. Sitting in it, I can hardly believe some of the things that have happened here.
The most famous hotel in Germany, it was built only after the aid of Kaiser Wilhelm 2 was enlisted, who enabled the purchase of the site by Mr Adlon and the subsequent demolition of the existing Schinkel-designed building. ‘Germany must have a hotel to rival the Ritz’ – which had recently opened in both Paris and London – was his thinking. (This is the same chap who also figured Germany needed a navy to rival that of Britain’s thereby triggering the largest arms race in history).
The Adlon was also the hub of the bopping, buzzing, jazz-loving Berlin of the 20’s. And of course, in the 30’s the Nazis infested it. In the lounge where I sat, one afternoon not long after he came to power, Hitler came to meet the daughter of the American Ambassador. The horrific scene – you can read about it in ‘the garden of beasts’ – was essentially a potential match-up. He liked blonde women. One can only speculate on the effect on history should the dictator have taken a liking to this well-connected American girl. As it was, he found her a tad crass. Which seems a little ironic.
After the war, the hotel was all but destroyed. The East Germans used the only surviving wing for a while before finally tearing it down in the 80’s. They also renumbered all the buildings on Unter den Linden, which now fell in the east, and hence the hotel went from #1 to #77. The place was rebuilt completely in the late 90″s after the fall of the wall.
That’s just some of its history.
I went on a Monday night and it was very quiet. Cars can’t drive through the Brandenburg Gate so that end of the street is unusually quiet at the best of times. However, I’d just missed – by barely an hour – a protest of about 4000 people right outside the door. (See photo from the front page of the next morning’s paper)
It is a beautiful hotel – the first I’d visited with a fountain in the middle of the lounge, which has a very calming effect. (Roger Spoffin went well, in case you’re wondering.) When I left, it was late. I had to wake up my taxi driver. I took the photos of the building and left.
Then, on the very next street, I saw the riot police. They’d been watching me ever since I’d exited the hotel. Only I’d been looking the other way.
If its history tells you anything, Berlin will surprise you if you do that.
Today’s word count: 1702
Word count to date: 81,200