Hotels in Germany

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Askanischer Hof Hotel

by Sarah Shuckburgh

Time has stood still at the Askanischer Hof, and a uniquely authentic atmosphere of pre-war Berlin lives on. The extraordinary, quirky decor of this small hotel makes one feel that one is staying with an eccentric great-aunt, in her private first-floor flat. This elderly relation has a penchant for pink and gold plush upholstery, illuminated fishtanks and shelves of quaint knick-knacks, but she also seems to have had hundreds of showbiz friends - the walls are covered with framed black and white photographs of pre- and post-war beauties with indecipherable signatures. More recent celebrity guests of the Askanscher Hof include Kafka (who wrote a book in Room 12), Arthur Miller, Anthony Quinn, Helmut Newton, David Bowie and Tilda Swinton.

Taxi drivers find it hard to spot the modest hotel entrance, which nestles between designer shop-fronts on the swanky West Berlin shopping street, Kurfurstendamm. But beyond the jostling pavement, another world awaits you. Enjoy the faded grandeur of the Art Deco lobby before you climb (or take the lift) to the hotel reception on the first floor. The building dates from 1910 and its Art Nouveau leaded windows, embossed ceilings and glass chandeliers miraculously survived the devastation of the Battle of Berlin in 1945. The fifteen bedrooms come in varying shapes and sizes, but all are filled with early twentieth century furniture. Large windows look on to bustling Ku'damm, or over a peaceful inner courtyard.

The dining room is splendidly kitsch, with gold flock wallpaper, an ornate gilded ceiling, patterned velour upholstery in a dozen shades of pink, fringed lampshades, ruffled net curtains, and - on every surface - jugs of pink plastic flowers. Scalloped lace cloths cover the many layers of pink damask on every table. Your feet will hardly touch the floor as you sit on the huge, overstuffed armchairs, reputedly once owned by Kaiser Wilhelm. The breakfast buffet offers a delicious selection of pastries, black and brown breads, cheeses and cooked meat, muesli, yogurt, fruit - fresh and dried - and nuts and seeds, as well as hot dishes to order.

The biggest and most impressive bedroom is number 15. Thirty feet long, this light, airy room has an original sculpted ceiling and huge, elaborately draped windows. The period furnishings include leather sofas and a heavy wrought-iron chandelier.

Although much of the Askanischer Hof appears to be unchanged since the 1930s, every room is equipped with the latest ISDN telephone systems, with answerphone, fax and modem, cable TV, mini-bar and safe. The ensuite bathrooms are spotless, brightly lit and luxuriously appointed.

First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd

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