Visiting the Danish, Italian embassy flags at IHIF 2019
Visiting the Danish, Italian embassy flags at IHIF 2019
11 MARCH 2019 7:33 AM

All the representatives of the global hotel industry were in Berlin last week standing behind the flags of their brands and chains during the International Hotel Investment Forum, a three-day conference that takes place among the grand embassies of the world’s nations. I visited two embassies during the conference.

The first two days of the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin for me were sandwiched between two visits to embassies.

I like embassies. Being slightly obsessive about anything geographical since I was six when I received my first atlas, I have always marveled at flags. They are silly pieces of cloth really, far too charged with patriotism, history and meaning, good and bad, but I like the colors, designs, Latin mottoes and emblems.

The area around the InterContinental Hotel Berlin, the host hotel of IHIF, is the Berlin embassy row, with the avenues of Klingelhöferstrasse, Kurfürstenstrasse and Tiergartenstrasse being full of the representatives of the world’s nations in Germany.

Some nations, with perhaps less budget for grand mansions, occupy office space and smaller buildings on the side streets, and I saw one office that contained separate embassies for Djibouti, Liberia, Lesotho and Mauritius very close to where I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Berlin.

During the three days of IHIF, the InterContinental collected all the ambassadors of the world’s hotel flags, along with their staff, languages and messages of world peace and understanding through travel and portfolio growth across numerous micro-nations, known to us as brands.

The first embassy I visited, along with Stephanie Ricca, Hotel News Now’s editor-in-chief, was the Danish Embassy, well, admittedly the former Danish embassy. It is now the SO Berlin Das Stue, part of the Accor empire, and it sits in a corner of a small, very prim, very nice residential district that I would not mind living in if money was no object so that I could run in the adjacent Tiergarten Park and see the herons and other wild birds that enjoy living at the lake next to the city zoo.

We attended a dinner, but before that began we had a chance to peruse our noble surroundings. Designed in the 1930s by Johann Emil Schaudt, who also designed Berlin’s famous Kaufhaus des Westens department store, the building also has been a training center for postal employees and became an independent hotel about a decade ago. Accor has been on the scene here only since last year.

It is a gorgeous building of light-colored marble, and a wooden crocodile now greets you as you are ushered into its comforts.

On the Tuesday evening of IHIF, I was invited to a reception at the huge Italian embassy on Tiergartenstrasse, which also was built in the 1930s, by the infamous Albert Speer no less, and officially opened in the early 1940s.

It sits next to the Japanese embassy, and both that and the Italian embassy were presents to those nations by Adolf Hitler. When World War II finished, both Japan and Italy sensibly made sure they retained this prime real estate, although that real estate—as was the case with the Danish embassy—suffered much damage in the last year or so of fighting.

Mostly, so it seems, the Italians could only use one wing of the building. It was fully restored at the beginning of the current century, but its architects—with the agreement of Italian politicians—retained the building’s fascist-era symbols of former Italian leader Benito Mussolini and, although I did not see them in the evening darkness, supposedly numerous bullet pockmarks along its walls.

Inside its light pink shell, today there are grand paintings by Italian masters and ornate, wide staircases, sumptuous living rooms—“Das Stue” means “living room” in Danish—and the sort of artistic touches that can only come from a nation that invented the Renaissance.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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