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The Greatest Hotels in the World – THE HOTEL ADLON KEMPINSKI

The Greatest Hotels in the World – THE HOTEL ADLON KEMPINSKI

The Hotel Adlon owes its name to its original owner, Lorenz Adlon, a native of Mainz and a Berlin restaurant manager of good repute. Adlon invested 20 million gold marks and two years into the creation of the hotel, which opened on 23 October, 1907.

Lorenz Adlon’s vision was to create the most opulent hotel in the world, setting standards previously unseen in the hotel industry. Guests were amazed by the sophistication and comfort: facilities included hot and cold running water, gas and electricity and a refrigeration and cooling system linked into a fountain. There was even a power plant which provided electricity to the 110-volt light bulbs produced specially for the hotel. Shortly after opening, Adlon’s vision was realized when the Hotel Adlon was acknowledged to be ‘one of the most beautiful hotels in the world’. Its architecture, interior design and advanced technology were praised across the globe.

The Adlon’s first guest and most loyal patron was the Emperor Wilhelm II. He demanded no one put a foot in the hotel before him and treated the hotel as one of his palaces. He paid an annual retainer to the equivalent of €75,000 to guarantee rooms for his personal guests as required. If his bill exceeded this amount, he made up the difference, but if the sum was unused the hotel made a hefty profit. Everything about the Adlon delighted the Emperor and there was hardly anything that he did not want to have in his palace. He was particularly impressed by the beautiful marble and, when told that the palace marble was just as nice, replied: “but mine is not as shiny and nicely polished”. The superior technology of the hotel also fascinated him. He would play with the light switches or turn the hotel water on, just to check if it was still working. The first private dinner here was held by the Crown Prince, for his brothers, and the bill came to a total of the equivalent of 75 Euro.

The hotel quickly became the most fashionable meeting place in Berlin for royalty, diplomats, politicians, artists, actors and international dignitaries. Embassies moved their offices to the hotel; ministries preferred the Adlon’s magnificent Kaisersaal (‘Emperor’s Hall’) to their own reception halls. Some royal families even sold their winter palaces in Berlin and resided at the Adlon instead.

Businessmen also stayed at the Adlon but were invariably unaccompanied by their wives, for fear they might come under pressure to redecorate their homes in the same exorbitant style. Unless well-known to the management or owner, women travelling alone were permitted to stay only if they were formally ‘announced’ in most cases; ladies were introduced by their families or by the secretary of an established company.

Notable visitors to the Hotel Adlon include Greta Garbo, who whispered her most famous catch phrase, ‘I want to be alone’, during the filming of ‘Grand Hotel’, which was shot on the property. Albert Einstein often waved to passers-by from his corner window on the Pariser Platz, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate. Charlie Chaplin always stayed in suite 101-114 and nearly lost his trousers as a crowd of fans jostled him when trying to enter the hotel on the night of the premier of ‘Lights in the Big City’. Other famous guests have included tenor Enrico Caruso, Teddy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, ballerina Otèro and Thomas Mann, who stopped at the Adlon en route to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.

The unique ambiance of the hotel owes much to the high calibre of staff employed by Lorenz Adlon. One member of staff with unusual terms of employment was a concierge, who, instead of receiving a salary, actually paid a monthly fee, the equivalent to around 1.500 Euro today, to work at the hotel, executing duties such as organising flight and train tickets and arranging flower deliveries and laundry services. The entrepreneurial concierge also owned and ran the private limousines and, as a result of all these services, earned ten times as much in commission as he paid to work there.

Occasionally, unsuitable personnel slipped in. One undesirable case was employed a year before WWI. He was discovered when the only daughter of Emperor Wilhelm II was to marry the Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneberg in Berlin. Everyone wanted to stay at the Adlon, including the King of England who, according to protocol, had to reside in the Emperor’s palace. During the preparations, Lorenz Adlon discovered a plot to assassinate the Czar of Russia using a bomb hidden in the hotel. Investigations led to the unfortunate employee who collaborated in order to pay off some debts. When confronted with his betrayal he committed suicide, discreetly so as not to attract any adverse publicity to the hotel.

The Hotel Adlon remained open and fully functional in the run up to and during WWII, operating to the professional standards for which it was known, despite the inevitable shortages and problems of that period. The Hotel Adlon survived WWII, but burned to the ground soon afterwards. Soon after Germany’s reunification, the land on which the original Adlon once stood was acquired by the Fundus Fond.

With the blessing of the Adlon family, who had refused to lend their name to another property unless re-built on the original site, a new Hotel Adlon opened on 23 August, 1997. At a cost of approximately €245 million, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin reflects the classic style of its predecessor and is setting new standards in five-star hospitality that other European hotels find hard to follow.


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