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As the economic weakness in southern Europe continues to make headlines, all eyes remain fixed on Germany, home of the most robust economy (and, as a result, most of the political sway) in the euro zone. Clearly, Berlin knows a thing or two about business, but it’s also Europe’s unofficial contemporary art hub, so it wouldn’t hurt to know your Gerhard Richters from your Sigmar Polkes.
Photo: Wilkosz + Way
Lay of the land: With several new locations slated to open this year, Berlin’s already hot hotel scene is primed for quite the designer upgrade. The gleaming 31-storey Waldorf Astoria Berlin is the hotel group’s first new building in Europe; it’s due to open in September, and will be home to French culinary master Pierre Gagnaire’s debut restaurant in Germany, Les Solistes. The Hotel de Rome, however, remains the reigning address of choice for the business class. A former bank dating back to the 19th century, the hotel impresses with its original stone walls and neoclassical architecture, set off by a bold palette of reds and blues, art-deco furnishings and enormous mosaic marble bathrooms.
Make your pitch: At Café Einstein, aproned waiters, leather banquettes and warm wood accents exude old-world Berlin, and while this Unter den Linden outpost is not the famed original, its location near the government offices makes it a hot spot for politicians and lobbyists talking shop over morning coffee. For a fancier first meeting, Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer in the Hotel Adlon Kempinski is a Michelin-starred dining room frequented by ambassadors and heads of state. Book a table in the cozy Library Room, which has a killer view of the Brandenburg Gate.
Seal the deal: Wine lovers should book one of two private spaces in the back of Margaux, an avant-garde French dining room known for its extraordinary wine cellar, which houses, appropriately, several rare vintages from Château Margaux. Hugos is Berlin’s most sought-after reservation, thanks to its renowned chef, Thomas Kammeier, as well as its location; it takes up the entire top floor of the Hotel InterContinental, giving the main restaurant and its three private dining rooms panoramic views of the city.
What to read: Goodbye to Berlin is a fictionalized memoir of author Christopher Isherwood’s experiences in 1930s Berlin. Told from the perspective of a writer who describes himself as “a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking,” it depicts the lives of Berliners, from prostitutes to wealthy Jewish store owners, during the Nazi rise to power.
First person: “In North America when you meet someone, you’re on a first-name basis right away, but this is not the case in Germany. You should always address a man as “Herr,” a woman as “Frau” — or “Doctor” if they have a doctorate—followed by the last name. You could be working with somebody for 10 or 15 years and continue calling them “Frau” and “Herr.”—Sylvie Bourdon, vice-president of legal affairs and bid approval for Bombardier Transportation in Montreal. She has been travelling to the group’s Berlin headquarters on business since 2001.