At first thought, Berlin brings about images of Prussian military prowess, unfathomable destruction during the Second World War, the division of its inhabitants through the 155km long Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification and renaissance. Our guests think of the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial or the Eastside Gallery. They visit the confines of Friedrichshain to see the monumental Stalinist architecture and wander the streets of Kreuzberg, once dubbed the sixth borough of New York City, to experience a piece of alternative Berlin. Today, we will travel elsewhere.
A lesser known borough
Having lived in many different parts of the city, I spent my most important years in Schöneberg. Located in the southern part of the city, it is predominantly residential and what I would consider wholesome Berlin, far from the reaches of tour groups and buses. However, shadows of Berlin’s flamboyant and rambunctious past, things we are famous for and have since redefined, are tangible and spread throughout the Gründerzeit neighborhoods of the Bayrisches Viertel (Bavarian quarter), Viktoria-Luise-Platz, Nollendorfplatz or the Rote Insel (red island). Here many of the most famous Berliners and temporary Berliners had their residences, be it Marlene Dietrich, August Bebel, Albert Einstein or Iggy Pop and David. Schöneberg also set the precedent for Berlin as an inclusive, welcoming city, home to everyone and anyone but was simultaneously the site of Goebbel’s famous speech, “Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?!” (Do you want total war?), at the former Sportpalast. Cabaret and decadence openly clashed with the rising Fascism. Nonetheless my Schöneberg is not marred by the specters of war and destruction but rather is green, vibrant and full of life with many amazing restaurants, cafes and small shops.
A day in Schöneberg
My favorite part of Schöneberg starts in the Akazienkiez, in my eyes a perfect manifestation of Berlin. I get my coffee at Double-Eye, a local artisanal coffee shop, pop by to chat with Heiner Schneider, my favorite menswear aficionado and owner of the eponymous boutique, ultimately heading over to the Schöneberg city hall at Rudolph-Wilde-Park, a place where you almost forget you’re in a city. Most know John F. Kennedy’s famous words “Ich bin ein Berliner”, though even many Berliners simply drive past the location where these very words were uttered on June 26th, 1963 – Rathaus Schöneberg (city hall). A perfect evening is spent at Faelt, a cozy Michelin Star restaurant and epitome of Schöneberg, unassuming and minding its own business in the small side streets. Because the night is young and there is plenty to do, after dinner I would head over to Salut! Bar, a wonderful cocktail bar focused on quality over quantity, while relaxing on big chesterfield sofas. When I am here, it seems worry has no invitation and I know I am home.
Julien Gentle is a candidate for the 2023 Les Clefs d’Or Award. This article has been published in its original form.
I was born and raised in Berlin and although I might seem biased, Berlin is my favorite place in the world. It took living away in other countries to really appreciate what Berlin has to offer, what makes it special and how since my return in 2013 it has really flourished and grown. However, it took becoming a concierge to really understand this city and all of its nuances, though becoming a concierge was not something I had planned, but rather something I slipped into naturally. I began an apprenticeship at the 5-star superior Hotel de Rome in 2014 and completed the apprenticeship in 2017. During this time I quickly realized that a life in Food & Beverage was not for me but my time at the concierge was something I absolutely cherished, due to the diversity one encountered every day and the idea that no knowledge is useless. The daily engagement with our guests and helping them make their stay memorable and unique was something I was very drawn to. Fortunately, a position opened up, prompting me to start out as a porter, though I simultaneously acted as a Junior Concierge due to my experience at the desk during my apprenticeship and also because of my status as a native Berlin and English-speaker. Through hard work and lots of patience and assistance by my mentors, I am proud of the concierge I have become and will continue to be. I finally reached my goal of becoming a member of Les Clefs d’Or in 2021 after my initiation was postponed due to the COVID Pandemic. To this day become a member of Les Clefs d’Or is the proudest moment of my life.
Hotel de Rome, a Rocco Forte hotel, housed in the restored former headquarters of the Dresdner Bank of 1889, is unique in its combination of architecture and contemporary design, coupled with the highest level of comfort and personal Rocco Forte service. As one of the few luxury hotels in an original historic building, the five-star superior hotel reflects the destination of Berlin in a special way. With only 145 rooms and suites and its unique location on the historic Bebelplatz, it is an architectural jewel in the heart of Berlin and guarantees a private and wholesome atmosphere. The Hotel de Rome is part of "The Leading Hotels of the World" and is the only hotel in the capital to have been awarded the coveted "Five Star Award" by the U.S. travel magazine "Forbes Travel Guide 2022".
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