I travel for the Culture

Love Letter: Berlin's Hotel Adlon

by Robin Epstein

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Adlon Kempinski

While traveling alone in Berlin, one woman finds that cultural and emotional gaps can be bridged with a slice of cake. 

BERLIN – As my birthday approaches, I'm struck with a stomach-churning malady that causes me to re-evaluate and regret every major life decision I've ever made. There's one reliable cure for when the feeling gets so acute that I begin sketching Tippy the Turtle in hopes of starting anew at art school: I run as far away from the situation as my frequent flier miles will allow.

That's why one year I zeroed my account for a business class ticket to Berlin and gifted myself with a stay at Hotel Adlon, one of the city's grandest hotels. Hotel Adlon is famous not only because it is steps from the Brandenburg Gate, feet from where Ronald Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" — it is also the hotel out of which Michael Jackson infamously dangled Baby Blanket. It's a hotel rich with history. And, according to the website, it also had a mack-daddy lobby bar.

When I told my parents that I'd be spending my birthday alone in Berlin, they were concerned. Not by the alone part — I almost always fly solo. "But Germany?" they questioned. "Why?" Our people are from Germany, I reminded them. There's even a town called Eppstein. "Yes," my dad confirmed. "They took the name as a souvenir while fleeing the country."

But I knew I'd headed in the right direction as soon as I arrived. I was struck by the filmic quality of the setting. The hotel's green copper roof matched the color of the charging horses atop the Brandenburg Gate, which was, indeed, mere steps away. As I walked into the majestic hotel lobby, I was greeted by a rather stern-looking concierge.

"Passport," he barked. I handed it to him and he scrutinized the inside cover. "Miss Eppschtein," he said, and I smiled, trying to suppress a momentary twinge of terror. "I see it iz your burthsday tomorrow." Yes, I nodded, suddenly forced to confront a genuine threat: aging. "And you are staying here alone?" I nodded again. "Well, happy burthsday!" he said with a smile. "Let us show you to your room."

The dark, wood paneled room was the size of my New York apartment, and the bed onto which I dropped felt like it was made from the feathers of a magical goose. When I awoke the next morning, a year older and feeling Rip Van Winkle rested, I left the hotel for the day to take the Insider Tours Hidden Berlin, a four-hour walk-and-talk. When that ended, I went to the Jewish Museum. On my way back, I strolled along the Spree River to see the city as night fell. By the time I reached the Adlon, I was physically and emotionally exhausted and needed to lie down before heading back out for dinner.

But my nap would have to wait. When I opened the door to my room, I saw a beautiful chocolate cake adorned with roses, a candle, and "Happy Birthday Miss Eppstein!" written in icing. If any doubt remained about whether I was where I was supposed to be in life at that point, it vanished with the first bite.

FIND IT

Hotel Adlon Kempinski
Unter den Linden 77
10117 Berlin, Germany 
+49-30-22610  

MORE ON FATHOM

See our guide to Berlin.

Robin Epstein

Robin writes books and video games, and teaches sitcom writing at NYU. She travels for the conversations with strangers.

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