by Ron Bernthal
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and visitors continue to be impressed with the dramatic changes that have taken place in the former East Berlin section of this now reunified German capital. One of the more startling development projects was the conversion of the 1889 Dresdner Bank, located just steps from East Berlin’s largest boulevard, Unter den Linden, into the 5-Star Hotel de Rome.
The 146-room hotel, which opened in 2006, is a remarkable property that has preserved its historic past in unique ways, while offering a modern, full-service, and high-tech guest experience. My room, on the 5th floor, was not part of the original building, since much of the upper floors were destroyed during World War II. But the “mud-beige” and “pompeii-red” interior colors, the soft linens and bed coverings, and the large walk-in glass shower, provided comfortable surroundings, and the heated towel rack is a wonderful amenity still found in some European deluxe hotels. There is a charge for in-room Internet access, but free Wi-Fi is available in the hotel’s lovely Bebel Bar. It was also nice to be close to the roof-top sun terrace, with chaises, tables, chairs, and a small bar that offered snacks and beverages. The elegant Mediterranean-Italian restaurant, Parioli, also serves as the hotel’s breakfast restaurant, with a full buffet or a la carte service.
The suites on the lower floors, the former offices of the bank directors, have high ceilings and original wood paneling, including WWII grenade fragments still embedded within the walls. The former bank’s cash vault is now used as one of the treatment rooms in the below-ground spa, and the indoor swimming pool area, restored with golden Bisazza mosaic, once housed the bank’s huge jewelry vault. Other original elements include a two-story ballroom, with Terrazzo mosaic floor, two staircases with wrought-iron handrails, and marble columns in the lobby.
After 1945 the building became the Communist-run East German State Bank, with little renovations done to its 19th-century interior design. Now part of the Rocco Forte hotel chain, the Hotel de Rome faces the historic Bebelplatz, and is around the corner from the restored State Opera. A short walk leads to the Brandenburg Gate and new Reichstag building with its rooftop glass dome.
During my first visit to Berlin, in 1964, the hotel building was on the East side of the wall, where stern border guards patrolled the gloomy and grey cobblestone streets. Today, it is surreal to see well-dressed tourists and business travelers strolling down the Unter den Linden, shopping at high-end stores and dining at gourmet restaurants, everything tucked inside the beautifully renovated former East Berlin office and bank buildings.
Contact: Hotel de Rome
D-10117 Berlin, Germany
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