On June 1, the new, $300 million Adlon Hotel will open in Berlin on Unter den Linden at the Brandenburg Gate. During its "pre-opening phase" from June 1 through August 26, 1997, the Adlon is offering a special rate of 290 DM ($171) single occupancy or 360 DM ($212) double occupancy, inclusive of tax and service. To book call 800-426-3135.
The original Adlon opened in 1907 on this same site and set standards for hotels around the world: running water, 110-volt electric light bulbs and gas heating. Until it expired at the end of World War II (Russian soldiers, it is said, got drunk in the wine cellar and set fire to it), the Adlon was Berlin's headquarters for the rich, famous and powerful.
Thomas Mann stayed at the Adlon on his way to Stockholm to receive the Nobel prize for literature. Albert Einstein's corner room had a view the Brandenburg Gate. Charlie Chaplin nearly lost his trousers in a throng of well-wishers while trying to enter the hotel during a movie premiere.
The hotel was so popular and so luxurious that some royal families even sold their winter palaces in Berlin, preferring instead to stay in the beautiful suites of the Adlon.
American guests included Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mary Pickford, Doris Duke and assorted Rockefellers and Vanderbilts.
Though the Adlon may have been ahead of its time when it came to running water and electric lights, it wasn't so up to date in other matters. Women who traveled on their own could only stay at the hotel if they were recommended by someone or were well-known to management.
According to a press release handed out by their U.S. public relations firm, the 1997 Adlon will set a new European "grand hotel" standard:
• Arriving guests will immediately be taken to their rooms. Check-in will be handled by a floor steward instead of the front desk.
• Every guest will have a portable phone to carry throughout the hotel to receive telephone calls in any location within the hotel.
• All rooms will feature an electronic key card system which will turn on the lights, the air-conditioning and music, simply by opening the door.
• Each room will have its own fax and fax number, or guests can use the state-of-the-art machines in the hotel's business center.
• Rooms will also feature an interactive CD player, PC docking capabilities, two ISDN telephones with voicemail, satellite television, personal safes, minibar, personalized stationery and business cards and exercise equipment (upon request).
To understand that the prewar Adlon was integral to upper levels of Berlin's society, one has only to consult one or two of the many books written about this period in the city's history.
One story, told by Otto Friedrich in his book, Before the Deluge, A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, shows a different side of life at the Adlon.
During a time of violent unrest in early 1919, known as the Spartakus uprising, mysterious special delivery letters were sent to certain rich Berliners warning them that the government would be overthrown and all banks would be seized.
Ignoring sporadic gunfire along Unter den Linden, a 50-year-old mailman named Lange arrived at the Adlon with a letter for a Baron Winterfield, a hotel guest. A porter offered to take the letter but Lange, recalling the Baron had rewarded his last delivery with a ham sandwich, a prized tip during such hungry times, elected to take the letter himself. Poor choice.
Lange was found hours later, tied to a chair in a second-floor room, strangled with a curtain cord. He had been carrying 41 special delivery letters containing more than 270,000 marks. His mailbag was empty and the Baron, who occupied the adjoining room, was gone.
Three years later, a man named Blume was arrested in Dresden for the Adlon and other murders. As it turned out, he was a playwright who had had one of his plays, a comedy, performed at Dresden's Neustädter Theater. Following that success, he submitted a manuscript entitled The Curse of Retribution - a melodrama about the murder of a mailman in Berlin's Hotel Adlon.