Hans D. Baumeister

Hans D. Baumeister

Motel One Potsdamer Platz, Berlin ***

Stayed: August 2017

One always happy to try something new, I opted to stay at the Motel One at Potsdamer Platz during my last Berlin visit.

This Motel One is a bit different from others I've stayed at, as only the reception area and the elevators are at the ground floor - the rest of the hotel starts on the 3rd floor. The entire reception's back wall is one huge "movie screen" made up of a matrix of multi-color LEDs. I've seen this type of "screen" at other MotelOne hotels - usually behind the bar - but never anything this huge. It really is quite impressive.

The Hotel is part of the Berlin Mall, a huge US-style shopping mall and my room was to the side of the hotel, looking over one of the main passageways in the mall. There is a large structure almost like a hallway separating the hotel rooms along this passageway and separated from it by fixed windows. You can open your window to this hallway, but it doesn't do you much good because I didn't get the feeling that there is fresh air circulating through it. There were even some painter's gear (ladder, pails, etc.) leaning against the hotel wall within this space.

Both the bar and the breakfast restaurant are also on the 3rd level. I'd kept breakfast optional when checking in and that was a good thing, as I had a look at around 8:00 AM and the place seemed solidly packed. I hadn't visited the bar the night before, so I can't comment on that.

The entire area around Potsdamer Platz was - though this likely depends on the time of year, completely overrun by tourists. You get used to tourists in Berlin, but this was rediculous. Having the mall right there probably doesn't help. Also, if you're looking for bars and restaurants that aren't tourist traps, you need to walk quite a ways out of the area.

While the room and the bathroom were typical MotelOne standard (which is just fine for me), I likely won't stay here again just to avoid the masses of people.
Subsequenly, I'm giving three stars not because the hotel isn't ok but because the area is pretty annoying (unless you're a shopaholic).

Room Tip: The rooms to the mall are - after closing hours - very quiet.


Comments

Superbude Hamburg St. Georg **

Stayed: June 2017

This has got to be the most flippant hotel (hostel?) I've ever stayed in. The decoration is, well, different, though interesting.

The hotel is located on the edge of the St. Georg district in Hamburg, on the super-busy Spaldingstraße. I had a room to the inside courtyard - luckily, as I would probably have had issues sleeping with a window to the street. Not only is there a lot of traffic (which you still hear in the courtyard), but also very busy train tracks just behind the street.

My room (202) was tiny and very cramped. It lacked a desk, which was annoying as I did have some work to do before my evening appointment. I ended up lying on the bed with the laptop on my lap - not super comfortable. The hotel provides free Wifi which seems fast enough but filters out certain protocols, such as Dropbox - annoying if part of your work is making files available externally using that service.

The window can be tilted but is locked so it cannot be opened completely. According to the note on the bed, they're keeping the window locked to keep pollen out, but that's ridiculous, especially if you can tilt the window. You can get the key to the window at reception, but I didn't bother.

The window is the only way to get fresh air into the room, by the way - there is no A/C. The bathroom has a vent in the ceiling, but I never heard a fan going, so I expect that all the nasty smells coming from the toilet only exit through the window if it is open. I ended up opening and closing the window multiple times throughout the night, as people seem to go a little crazy in the evening (close) and at 5AM (on the dot!), loud cleaning noises start from below (close). I ended up sweating a lot.
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MotelOne Am Tierpark, Berlin ***

Stayed: March, 2017

Okay, there isn't usually much to report on differently with a MotelOne - they are all very similar and I've never had a problem with a room before in one.

Here, mostly consistent with my previous experiences with this chain, however there were some ups and downs.

The hotel is located on a very busy 4-lane street that is frequented 24/7. While I know from my frequent stays at the MotelOne Waidmarkt in Cologne (in 2013), sometimes with a room overlooking the Blaubach street that the soundproofing of their windows is nearly perfect, I still prefer a room away from the street if at all possible.

They offered me a room on the ground floor that faced the back of the hotel (E-19). The location was fine - it was located in a shortish run of hallway that was separated from the reception area by a glass door.

Slightly annoying were the two gigantic and artistically pleasing lamps that sat on the grass, as they stayed on all night (why??), causing a bright streak of light to shine over the ceiling. Also odd was that the AC only ran while actually heating, so no fresh air otherwise. Lastly, the air evacuation from the bathroom didn't work.

On the flip side, the personnel in the bar were very attentive and friendly - definite thumbs up for these two guys. The choice of "pub grub" was quite restricted - more so than I remember from MotelOne hotels, but it was ok.

Another caveat is the poor connectivity to public transit. With other MotelOne hotels in Berlin, you're either right on or very near a U or S-Bahn station. Not here - you have a good walk of about 500m to the next station. With luggage a real chore.

All in all, ok to stay in, though I have other MotelOne hotels in Berlin I prefer.
Comments

Bristol Hotel, Frankfurt ***

Stayed: February 2017
 
The hotel is relatively near the train station, so walking there isn't a problem even with luggage - about 5 min. for anyone good on their feet. If you take track 24 about halfway to the rear and exit, you are right on the street the hotel is on (more convenient than walking from the side exit of the train station).
 
It is also near the fairgrounds (the reason I picked it). As it turns out, getting to the fairgrounds with a reasonable amount of effort means going back to the train station and taking the S-Bahn... You can walk there from the hotel, but it is quite a ways (about half an hour).
 
My room (120) faced the hotel's own conference center, so it was quiet at night. The street side is relatively busy and has a tram going by it that turns a corner, so you get noise from that as well. As it turned out, it was logistically well placed: I had the stairway and a "private" elevator just around the corner; the stairway went straight to
the breakfast room.
 
There was a strange, scraping noise at times - after the fact, I think it might have come from that elevator, but I'm not sure. I woke up from it at around 5:30 in the morning and kept waking up whenever it occurred. Annoying.
 
My room was an "Economy Single" and boy, was it ever small. My guess is 2.5m wide and maybe 6m in length, though when you enter you have a long "hallway" with a small bathroom to the left and then the sleeping quarters. With a backpack and an open suitecase (I was travelling through), the room is just plain too small for comfort.
 
However, everything was spic and span, the room has a large heater which does a good job in the winter. There is also AC, though I didn't use that . The bathroom is small but functional and also clean. There used to be a second door from the hallway to the sleeping section, but unfortunately, it is not there anymore (it would cancel out some of the noise coming from the hallway).
 
Nonetheless, I found the price to be too high for such a small room. To be fair, there was a trade fair going on, but it was a very small one. No reason for the pricing, in my opinion.
 
There is free Wifi in the room; connectivity was fine and the transfer speed good. Download speed started at a strong 26MBit and went down during the test (daytime) to about 17MBit. Upload started at 10MBit and went down to 7MBit. These are fantastic values for a hotel wifi connection!
 
An annoyance is the location of  a mains outlet at the desk - it is all the way at the back of the desk underneath, quite a bend-and-reach. Why one isn't built into the desk itself is beyond me.
 
Breakfast was included in the room rate and was very good. Anything you might want was there, from warm food to cold food to yoghurt, smoothies, cereals, fruit.
 
Summary:
I would stay here again in a larger room, though I'm afraid that will be priced too high in comparison with other hotels in Frankfurt, some of which I've stayed in and found to be quite ok. If you do stay, ask for a room to the back or be prepared to put ear plugs in.
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Ibis Münster City ***

Stayed: Feb. 2017

The Ibis in Münster is a typical Ibis hotel, which is fine since you know what you're getting (and what you're not getting).

The room was clean, I'd asked the lady at reception for a quiet room and she put me in 512, which faces to the rear (the street in front is medium busy) on the top floor. Thank you for that!
The only complaint I have is that the mattress was unnecessarily hard. Since I'm currently getting over some bruised ribs in my back, the night was not pleasant. Without pain, the bed is serviceable but I would prefer a softer mattress.

There is only one elevator, so during peak times be prepared to wait (or take the stairs).

I didn't have breakfast, as €11 seemed a bit steep, though I don't know what is on offer here. I've had breakfast at Ibis hotels before and never paid that much (nor would the offering have been worth it).

There is a free wifi connection available, albeit a slow one. It was fine for what I needed to get done (emails, calls on Skype) but if you're looking to stream video, you'll need to shell out €6 for the faster option.

The hotel is easily reached on foot from the central train station (5 min. walk) and isn't far from the start of the old city either. There seems to be a parking garage available, but as I was here by train, I can't say anything about it.

All in all a good place to stay in a town that doesn't offer much in hotels (or offers them at rates that make you think you're in a city on the level of London or NYC). I would stay again (once my ribs are back to normal).
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Cavete, Münster ****

Located in the "Kuhviertel" (Kreuzstraße 37/38, 48143 Münster), my hopes for an interesting experience were high. Bars and restaurants in this section tend primarily towards students and "Die Carvete" is the oldest student tavern in Münster (run by students). It is a shame I didn't know this, as I found a small table in the front at a window and didn't look at the back section (though tumultuous jabbering could be heard from there). It calls itself the "akademische Bieranstalt" (the academic beer institution).

The menu is actually quite extensive for a tavern and food is - well - student-oriented (meaning very attractively priced and mostly quite simple). Nonetheless, the quality was absolutely ok. They also offer several types of beer as well as wine and other drinks.

The service was friendly and very attentive. The decoration (at least in the section I was in) is extremely interesting and a must-see (I won't give it away).

The only negative thing was the Wifi on offer. It was necessary for me, as Vodafone only offers GPRS here and I had a couple of emails to write. Getting on the Wifi is unnecessarily difficult - you connect and are then directed - very slowly - to a Facebook page, where you have to "take your pants down" (luckily you can tone down the exposition a bit), then you have to like the Tavern and then you are given access. I've never quite experienced an onboarding process quite like this. To make matters worse, the connectivity is unfathomably slow. Sure, you're not supposed to be on your phone while you're here.

So forgetting about the Wifi experience, the Cavete is a place you need to go to if you visit Münster! Be aware, though, that they don't open until 6PM.
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Enoteca L'Angolino, Berlin****

Knesebeckstr. 92, Berlin

Great little Enoteca, very good selection of offered foods, comfortable seating and small enough to be cozy.
Great value on lunch offers.
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FFFZ Hotel Tagungshaus, Düsseldorf ***

Stayed: August 2016

I picked this hotel as I had an early morning flight to Zürich and didn't want a long drive to the airport. Also, it was drastically less expensive than similar (and worse rated) hotels in the vicinity. I don't think there were more than 5 guests the night I stayed - I presume the place fills up either for trade fairs (the fairgrounds are very close) or for events in the adjoined conference center.

The room was spacious and seemed relatively new (or recently renovated), with plenty of storage, a mini bar, a decent sized bathroom and a double bed. It also had a relatively large flatscreen TV (I've seen smaller in more expensive hotels!). You are very close to the airport and the windows are only double glazed, i.e. you'll get air traffic noise. You also hear the nearby tram if you have the window open (my room was to the back, not to the street). But you can't have everything, right?

There is no A/C, so a room to the south is probably not a good idea. There are only 47 rooms, so the place will likely not be buzzing even when full.

Honestly, though, I've never seen Wifi performance this slow in a hotel: 1.59 MBits downstream and WHOPPING 220kBits Upstream (here are
my results as saved on speedtest.net)! Just check out that Ping time…! It was so slow, I had to view a simulcast from our CEO using my mobile phone as a hotspot. This was so annoying, that I'm taking a whole star off my rating just for that!

I didn't have a chance to test the breakfast due to my very early flight the next day. There is a parking garage, which costs 9€ per night (this charge is not to be found on the website, which I didn't appreciate).

I'd certainly stay here again if I needed to be near the airport or the fairgrounds, though if you're looking to go out in the old town, you'll need to take a tram (stop is nearby) and change once - it's at least a 20 Minute ride.

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Hotel Otto, Berlin ***

The hotel is located in a part of Charlottenburg that is chock full of restaurants, bars and small stores, so you’ll always find someplace close for lunch or dinner. Also, you’re in walking distance of Bahnhof Zoo. If you’re not keen on walking there, you have just a few minutes to the next bus station.

The hotel itself is a nice albeit older hotel. The rooms were apparently renovated in 2008 (believable) and are nice enough. The only criticism I have about the room are the windows, which probably predate my birth by 10 years. They are ancient, badly closing and offer very little noise abatement (I was on the 5th floor towards the street - it was relatively loud). They probably transmit heat better than titanium due to their dual single-pane construction. Expect these to „radiate“ cold into the room during the winter.

Also, if you’re unable to drag luggage up or down stairs you need to know that the elevator stops at half-levels, i.e. there is a stop between the 4th and 5th floor and between the 5th and 6th, so you’ll always be walking half a staircase to get to your floor. On the other hand, it pipes birdsong (instead of Muzak) and has a „surprise“ button. Obviously, I’m not going to reveal the surprise here - you’ll just have to try it out.

I don’t recall A/C in the room, though to be fair at this time of the year I wasn’t looking for it.

Breakfast is on the top floor and offers about 1/5 outdoor seating, so if you’re lucky to get a table and the weather is good, you’ll have a nice view of Berlin roofs while eating. Breakfast is excellent, with superior service. It costs 15€ - normally I wouldn’t spend that amount on breakfast, but here it really is worth it.

All in all a hotel I would recommend (with the two caveats I mentioned) and will be staying in again.
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Hotel Savoy, Berlin**

The location of the hotel is excellent, as you’re not far from the Kurfürstendamm as well as lots of restaurants and bars you can walk to within a short distance. The Berlin Zoo trainstation is close enough to walk, even with light baggage.

Fasanenstrasse is currently blocked off at the northern end due to a major construction site, so the street is relatively quiet. My room was to the rear of the hotel - usually a good thing as far as noise goes, however the hotel sports a rather large restaurant that has seating in the rear, so you’ll get lots of noise when the outside seating is open, until about 11PM. 

You can tell that the hotel used to be quite posh (and probably quite a bit more expensive), but despite some renovation, the run-down feeling doesn’t leave the place. For example, in the bathroom has new tiles and sink area, but it looks like they used the old sink as this is stained and cracked. Behind the shower curtain there is a tiny tub and a shower that has the most finicky tap I’ve used (move it just a hair and it goes from yucky cold to scalding hot) and a window that is quite obviously an „original“ - there are two windows, both single-paned, right after one another (a construction used in the early 20th century), one of which is intransparent. This window leads to a sort of inner vent that goes along the entire hight of the building and is open to the top. If you open the top of the window, you’ll hear all sorts of noised from all the other bathrooms that also open up to this „vent“.

The room window is of the same construction, albeit see-through and wider. I’m going to guess that in the winter, you can probably get pretty ice flowers on the inside, as the insulating value of dual single-pane glass windows is pretty low.

The bed was quite comfortable and there was enough closet space. There were no power outlets to be found along the entire desk, even power cables of the TV (to the left of the desk) and desk lamp go to a hidden area below, where there is some sort of outlet. That tends to be really annoying if you’re trying to work on a laptop that doesn’t have enough battery power left. 

I didn’t bother with breakfast on either of the days I stayed. At 20€ per person, this just seemed completely unreasonable to me.

The free wifi is completely unusable - very slow and with lots of connection issues.

All in all, it is a hotel you can stay at, but it has a lower comfort level than some of the other, more modern hotels in the area (that you can get for about the same price).
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Sausalitos, Berlin **

When you’re used to the Tex-Mex quality of a Chi-Chi’s, a visit to Sausalitos will leave you hanging a bit. Since it was „happy hour“, we ordered a Mai Tai and a Mojito and were very surprised to have these delivered with a stick in them on top of which were a marshmellow and some sort of gummy fruit piece. 
When we asked the waiter what that was all about, he said that they used to make them the regular way, with a lime for the Mojito and a pineapple for the Mai Tai, but management had decided to „standardize“ the garnish to save cost. Wow! Considering the regular cost for the drink is 14€, I’m not sure if this is the right way to go.

I’d ordered a Cesar’s Salad with Chicken. What came was no Cesar’s salad. It was a bowl filled with coarsely cut iceberg lettuce absolutely drenched in some white dressing with two pieces of soggy bread that was supposed to be garlic bread (but just tasted like toasted white bread). The salad was garnished with five pieces of chicken, no larger than about two by one inches. To finalize my disgust, there were a few pieces of salad stalk mixed in that the prep cook hadn’t bothered to get out.
My colleague indicated that his ordered dish (taco chips with meat and cheese) didn't make the grade, either.

Add to that the loud main street right next to your table (if you sit outside) and you’ll have a dinner you won’t forget.

Food and drink are very expensive, which would be just OK if the quality was excellent. This restaurant is absolutely not to be recommended!
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Hotel Indigo Ku'damm, Berlin ***

Stayed: September, 2014

Here, Nomen non est Omen, clearly. The hotel isn’t on the Kurfürstendamm (“Ku’damm”) in Berlin - it isn’t even in a sidestreet. It is on Hardenbergstrasse 15, which is northwest of the “Zoo” train station, and a good 800m from the Ku’damm on foot.

I was excited at first; the
Indigo brand is part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, so that, combined with the price, left me with high expectations - after all, I was to “live” here for a workweek. Unfortunately, my expectations weren’t met - perhaps they were set too high, once again.

For one thing: for a hotel at this nightly rate in Berlin (where I’ve stayed in hotels costing €27 a night
including breakfast and lived to talk about it!), you get a pretty small room! The room (503) was decorated along “modern lines”, but that doesn’t necessarily help much.

For one thing, the desk (it’s actually a board held up by two trestles) sports not a single power outlet anywhere near it. Damn the architect! In fact, the bathroom boasts a plethora of outlets - some in bizarre locations (above the toilet... what am I going to plug in here?) while the rest of the room has them hidden in areas that makes you think the designer found them to be dirty, disgusting holes in the wall.

In order to “submerge” the TV (from under which protrude two plastic tabs that probably serve to hold it to the wall - very pretty), a huge, framed panel section was screwed against the entire width of the wall at the foot end of the bed, wasting a good 18cm of badly needed room. Turn 90° and you will inadvertently slam your foot into the base of the chair, which sticks out so far that it leaves barely 10cm space to the bed.

The chair fits the “everything is a designer piece” image and, while it is actually quite comfortable, it can’t be pushed under the “desk” to make more room due to its height. I ended up swapping it with a low, backless “sitting box” that had been placed just after the door.

There is A/C, but even at the lowest fan setting, I felt an uncomfortable breeze across my face as I lay in bed (that’s asking for an earache in the morning), so I ended up turning it off. You can only tip the windows open; i.e. they are locked at the bottom and can’t be opened completely. Even tipped open, you get the full blast of noise from the largish construction site that is situated right in front of the hotel. The acoustics are such that even on the 5th floor, it sounds like they are working right outside your window, but at least it gives you some fresh air in the room.

Following the trend, your bed is completely covered in pillows of various kinds (my room had a queen-sized bed and sported no less than 8 pillows!), as well as something I call the “suitcase cover”. There is no other place than the bed to lay down your suitcase as you pack or unpack it - and to keep the sheets from getting dirty, I put it on this blanket. Apparently, though, it serves as some sort of decoration, as room service ardently puts it back on the bed when they make it up.
Ah yes, that brings me back to available space: there isn’t any place other than the floor for all those pillows and the “suitcase cover” when you’re ready to go to sleep. Personally, that irks me, because I’m going to presume the floor to be dirtier than the bed, but who knows.

Available space is also an issue when you try to hang up / shelve your clothes. If you’re only here for one night, it isn’t going to be an issue, but if you’re here for a week like I was, it is: there aren’t enough hangers in the tiny closet (I asked for more, it took three tries) and one of the two drawers is completely filled with a blanket. Also, they give you four hangers for pants, but you’ll not be able to squeeze more than three into the narrow “deep end” of the closet. The rest is so small that you’ll have issues with longer shirts hitting bottom.

The bathroom is the next painful experience from an ergonomic standpoint. It closes with a sliding door (there would be no room to have a regular one!), but because it has under-cabinet LED lighting that you can’t turn off, you’ll be annoyed by wide swaths of light at night. Said LED lighting is necessary, because the light switch is
inside on the far wall of the bathroom (wanna bet it was the same designer that also put a power outlet above the toilet?).
The shower is weird - I’ve never seen one like it, and I’ve been to a lot of different hotels in my time: the shimmering tiles on the back wall are, surely, a matter of taste (yuck!) but the “floor” of the shower is special: half of it is at a felt 30° angle down to the drain, the other half is completely flat. Water won’t flow away from it - every time I showered, I was afraid I would douse the bathroom. It really is a lot of water up there; I ended up trying to get most of it down the “ramp” with my feet...

There are two elevators, one you face when you walk in from the main entrance, and one “tucked” in to the left of it, which is considerably smaller. As soon as you hit your floor button, you are innundated with “feel good” instrumental music, which is a tick too loud and annoying. When you reach your floor, a squeaky female voice asks you the floor number (the tonality makes the “statement” into a question), which continually serves to amuse me. Less amusing, perhaps, is the loud *crack* you hear between the ground and first floor every time you take the “little” elevator up.

Breakfast is actually quite okay, with most things you’ll be looking for, albeit the medium-sized restaurant gets really crowded during peak times.

All in all, I can’t shake the feeling that IHG is trying to position the Indigo brand against Radisson’s BLU. This is an utter fail, however; don’t even try to make the comparison.

I would stay here again if I couldn’t find another hotel.

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Andor Plaza, Hannover ***

The hotel is conveniently located close to the central train station, though it is a bit confusing to find. It is basically once around the block from the back entrance to HBF.

The decoration in the hotel and room is pretty standard fare, nothing exciting, but clean. The room (I was in 345) had two single beds that likely could have been moved together, though there was a nightstand in between.

There was a desk along the wall (with outlet!) with a single chair, a place to put your suitcase, a soft chair, a good-sized flatscreen TV and a closet with a few hangers. Nothing special, but quite ok. No A/C, though! There is a mini bar, but I didn’t even open it to see what was inside. Off-putting was the charge for a large water bottle I bought from reception: €6! Seriously, this hotel is okay, but it doesn’t have the class to charge the same as 5-star hotels for water...

The room had a window to the inner court, which was nice because I was able to leave the window open all night without having much noise at all come in from outside. Wether or not I had “neighbors”, I don’t know - I didn’t hear anything from next door or the hallway all night.

The bathroom is rather simple, as well, though it does have a walk-in shower (nice) but unfortunately, without a thermostat (not nice). A bit annoying were the two fluorescent bulbs that were mounted vertically left and right of the mirror - they were encased in clear plastic which gave off loud cracking sounds, probably due to the heat.

Breakfast is on the 2nd level in a rather large room with a surprisingly large buffet. You’ll find a small selection of warm breakfast, fresh fruit, muesli, the usual cold cuts and cheeses as well as different breads. There is a huge section with different teas - never seen so much buffet real estate taken up this way before (great if you’re a tea fan). There is also an orange juice machine (the kind that runs oranges through right before your eyes to fill your glass) - great taste!

All in all, I would stay here again, but I would certainly buy my water elsewhere!

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aappartel Bielefeld ** (revisited)

Mainly due to the fact that Bielefeld doesn’t seem to have many hotels in the city (at least there aren’t very many available on HRS), I stayed at this hotel again. If you look at my review from 2013, you’ll find I wasn’t very positive about my last stay.

This time ‘round, I stayed in Room 405 (which is right near 406, which annoyed me last time) but towards the back. The window faces a garish building facade made of extremely attractive concrete (that’s me pouring on the sarcasm, folks), maybe 2-3m away. At least on this floor, you get a large piece of sky to look at - certainly not the case for the rooms below.

The bed was a regular one this time, at right angles to the wall. The room is without A/C, and even though it faced north-east, it was plenty warm when I got there at around 18:30h. I yanked open the window to cool it out. Due to the building just across the way, you get sound coming from the neighboring buildings reflected right at you... you name it, you’ll hear it. Needless to say, I closed the window over night.

The shower in this room also has a curtain (annoying).

Compared to just over a year ago, the room price has increased by €3 and breakfast has gotten a tick more expensive as well. Breakfast was ok this time round, though I don’t feel it is worth what you pay (I’ve had better for less). Still no fresh fruit, but at least they had yoghurt available - and the scrambled eggs were ok.

WIFI access costs €2; the reason for charging for this is beyond me in a hotel of this type, where it is generally free of charge, but there you go.

I’m going to stick by my summary from my last visit: if the place wasn’t quite so expensive (for what you get, €64 without breakfast is just too much for a town like Bielefeld), I would recommend it. It has its caveats, but it was clean and the location is quite ok. At this price, however, look elsewhere.
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MotelOne Köln-Mediapark, Cologne ****

Having stayed so many times at this hotel’s sister hotel (Waidmarkt) as well as at other MotelOne’s around the country, I basically knew what to expect.

The room wasn’t any different than any other MotelOne, of course, but the personnel here seemed friendlier. Since I had booked the hotel via HRS, I entered a (positive) review on this hotel. I was very surprised to get an email from management, thanking me for that. I’d reviewed the Waidmarkt location before, noting on the negative side that the hallways (carpets?) always smelled strongly like some chemical soup. No response there.

The location of the hotel is quite good - you’ve got an interesting section of the Hansaring (B9) very near, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars, all very colorful, flanked by a park with a narrow lake. At the beginning of this section is a subway station, reachable by foot within a few minutes.

The Mediapark area isn’t really that interesting IMHO, despite the huge effort to integrate business, living, restaurants and shopping, as it seems to mostly die out after about 6PM. There are some restaurants there that will feed you just fine, though all of them are chain outlets.

You can walk to the hotel from the central train station in about 15 minutes (I made it in 12, but I probably walk faster than average) - with luggage!

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ODEON Cinema, Cologne ****

ODEON Cinema, Severinstrasse 81, Cologne

Often, small, non-franchise theaters are grungy, with uncomfortable seats, a small screen and horrible sound. Not so at the ODEON. The seats are very comfortable and seem relatively new. The screen is - for the size of the theater (I was in theater 2, there is also a theater 1) - excellent: it doesn't seem any smaller than in one of the huge theaters from somewhere in the middle of the room.
The sound is excellent; I'm not sure which system they use - it probably isn't 1.000 channel surround, but for the film I saw it was more than adequate.

The nice thing about the Odeon is: they show movies you'll likely not see in the big places, either because they are not mainstream or because they're independent pictures. Often, international films will be shown with the original soundtrack and subtitles, so your chances of seeing an English-language film here is quite high.

Another nicety is the café that is right inside the main foyer: it is comfortable and the prices are excellent. Speaking of prices: the theater ticket itself was cheaper than at one of the multiplexes. Unfortunately, they seem to have lost their liquor license, so you'll only get alcohol-free beer (which is good quality).

The only annoyance is that they don't have numbered seats; i.e.: you can pick any place to sit you like. This may be an issue if you're visiting a popular film in a group that wants to sit together (if you're late).

The area (Severinstrasse) is also a great place to visit, especially in the summer. It is one of the few areas in Cologne that has its own subculture. You'll find plenty of restaurants of every type within just a few minutes' walk from the Odeon.
Comments

Star Inn Hotel Frankfurt ***

Last stay: March 2014

The hotel is close to the central train station and should be easily reachable by tram as well, as the tram line runs right in front of the hotel. You’ll walk two blocks to reach it, but it’s in a decent neighborhood, so no worries.

The room (425) looked freshly renovated and was quite spacious with a large bed that was quite comfortable. Lighting is adequate and simple enough to operate. The room does have air conditioning (which I had turned off).

There are outlets built into the desk, but all save one were in use (TV, etc.). I ended up unplugging the TV in order to plug in a charger as well as my laptop.

While the windows - like the rest of the room - looked quite new, someone obviously saved a buck by not putting in sound abating panes. This is a real problem for any rooms facing the main road as you get quite a bit of tram traffic here and boy, is it loud! There was a T-intersection right below my window (which faced a smaller side-street; unfortunately one that the tram ran down as well). When the trains run over this intersection piece of track, you can feel the shake while lying down in bed - on the 4th floor!!!

This is most unfortunate, because everything else about the hotel is “right” - good breakfast, good price, good location. If you aren’t a light sleeper, you may be fine (though I doubt it); otherwise bring some ear plugs!

Breakfast was good as well, by the way - not overly diverse but everything you expect to be there was there and the coffee was great.
Comments

ibis Frankfurt Centrum **

Stay: March 2014

This hotel is located right on the Main river, about 400m from the central train station. You’re walking right along one of the more busy roads in Frankfurt, so you should be fine even arriving at night.

Right across the hotel is a fascinating building that looks a bit like someone took the Gurken of London and flattened it out (thereby shrinking it a bit). If you like taking extended walks, you’re in a prime location - the walkways along the Main are a true joy, especially in the summer when a lot of people are out.

Unfortunately, the hotel isn’t worth the relatively high room rate (I paid 65€ without breakfast). The rooms exhibit the usual ibis “flair”, with the usual, odd architectural highlights. For example, the toilet is squeezed into a section of the (tiny!) bathroom that has a wall cutting diagonally into your thigh as you sit (see picture below). If you’re very tall and heavy, you will NOT be sitting on this toilet - it’s annoying even for a 5’10” jobber like me!

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The bathroom door opens the wrong way, something owing to the architecture as well, but annoying as anything, as you’ll be either having to open the door fully (flat against the wall) to enter the bathroom or squeeze by the desk and chair to get in:

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Looking out the window (I was in room 242, right along the right edge of the hotel), you get a nice view of the river ... and of a four-lane bridge that has traffic pouring over it for a good 20 hours per day. Unfortunately, the window is so poorly soundproofed, that I checked to make sure it was closed when I first got into the room. If you’re a light sleeper, you’re in for a lovely night wearing ear plugs.

The ear plugs are warranted anyway, since the rooms are very “open” to sounds from the hallway (due to a very poorly gasketed door) and from rooms kittycorner to your own. At 3:30 AM, someone next to me turned on the TV and I was yearning for those ear plugs.

Another highlight is the complete lack of a trash can. Of course, you don’t get tissues in the bathroom either, so if you need to blow your nose, toilet paper it is - to be disposed in the toilet... thanks, ibis, it IS pollen time right now!

You do get a relic from the 90’s though, a phone with a modem jack:

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One day, I’m going to quiz my kids on what that jack is for, just to see what outlandish ideas they come up with (“charge your laptop?”).

Breakfast is okay, though likely not worth the 12€ they charged for it. At least the coffee is good, though!

All in all, certainly a hotel you can stay in if everything else is booked, but neither cheap nor really great.
Comments

Arthotel Munich *****

Stayed: Jan. 2014

This hotel seems a ways away from the train station entrance, but really its very easy to reach: you walk along track 11 inside the building for about 100m. When the train station building ends, you’ll walk across a bridge and then you have an escalator down on the left. Take that, cross the street and you’re less than a minute from the hotel.

The hotel is really worth a stay: the rate is excellent (mine included breakfast), the rooms are completely renovated (as is the entrance hall and, seemingly, every other nook and cranny of the hotel), though you can tell its an old building by the extra high ceilings.

You have a short hallway in your room (with a door to the bathroom) and a door separating this from where you stay, so you should have no noise coming from the main hallway at all. My room was towards the back (which is a courtyard), so I had no street noise at all.

The room is big, the furniture all new and modern. There are paintings on the walls to freshen things up. Enough room for a desk big enough to take a laptop plus whatever else. And, much to my extreme joy, there are two outlets right on the desk:

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Yes, that is an iPhone docking clock thingie under the TV...

The bathroom is fantastic, the only thing that irked me is that the air exhaust fan turned on and off with the light switch (instead of with a delay), but that’s just me.

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My room had newly-installed A/C, so you should be ok in the summer as well.

Really unusual was the pillow; at first I throught I had grabbed the wrong one, as it seemed unusually hard, but it was certainly more the pillow for the night than the other one that I’d found on the bed. The hardness persisted and was somewhat of a challenge to get used to. However, I slept exceptionally well on the pillow - so well, in fact, that I took it out of the case the next morning to find out which brand and type it was:
Ikea Gosa Hassel.

Breakfast had everything I was looking for and took place in a nice restaurant-like atmosphere on the ground floor.

I can absolutely recommend this hotel to anyone looking to visit Munich. The vicinity to the central train station is great, you’re not in a street with half of Munich’s red-light district on it and it is a quiet street, so even a room to the front shouldn’t be an issue.

Comments

Hotel Drei Kronen, Cologne**

The hotel is very close to the central train station and the cathedral, the building is first-row to the Rhine river. While this is nice for going out at night (if you’re keen on visiting one of the tourist-trap restaurants in that area), but getting there from the train station is - if you have a lot of luggage - a pain. Don’t take a taxi, they will hang you by your feet for waiting an hour for a passenger and then driving 800m. On foot from the train station, you’ll either have to walk up and back down some massive steps (you have to get over the cathedral “hump”) or circumnavigate the entire cathedral, adding a good 500m to your journey.

Most of the rooms go off to the rear or side of the building, only a few are to the front, facing the river. I really don’t recommend you get one to the front, however, since it tends to be quite noisy until late at night. And, you haven’t come to Cologne to sit in the hotel room and look on the river, right? Also, in the summer - when you’ll tend to have to keep the window open at night to let in cool air (no AC) - you’ll likely be surprised at how loud river boat traffic and the trains going across the large bridge just across from the hotel can be.

My room was to the rear (Room 54), which was fine, as rooms to the side will look onto other buildings standing no more than 2m away (not to mention various noisy compressors mounted to the walls)… unfortunately, the curtains were quite light in color, letting light pass in nearly unhindered. Even for me - I prefer waking up in a lit room - it was so bright that I woke up about an hour before the alarm. If you’re used to sleeping in a room without any light at all, you’ll have a hard time.

The room itself is okay in size, the furnishings look pretty new and are functional. A major pain is the fact that there is no power outlet anywhere near the “desk”. I had to slide the laptop all the way to the left and turn it slightly (great for your back) to be able to use power from near the window.

The bathroom smelled - pretty badly - like a bathroom does when one of the waste-water seals isn’t sealing anymore (toilet or sink). Running the shower to get water into the siphon didn’t work this time. One of the shower towels had a black hair on it, yuck, and the shower had a shower curtain - my absolute favorite way to keep water in the shower - not! The radiator had strange pinkish splotches on it and the aerator in the tap was so full of calcium, it sprayed water this way and that. All things that can be taken care of pretty easily, but unfortunately - in hotels of this type - never do. Without this issue, I’d have given a star extra.

Also, although the room has another room between it and the elevator (which only goes to level 4 1/2), the motor from the lift was quite noticeable. The “entry system” is “old-style” - a key with a huge fob on it. You have to take the key with you in the evening, as reception closes at 10PM. I ended up taking the key off the fob and putting it in my wallet.

To be fair, the price was quite good, I paid €59 without breakfast (+10€). Also, they have quite a fast Wifi access for free - definitely a plus! Breakfast, on the other hand, is a complete joke: two small plates of cheese and meats, some yoghurt, that’s it. Not even worth half the price.

So would I recommend the place? The bathroom smell might just be a problem in this room - if that is the case and you don’t have a lot of luggage and you don’t eat breakfast, then the hotel is okay. With luggage, I would definitely go elsewhere.

Comments

Sandmann's Hotel, Cologne ***

Sandmann’s is a small hotel-cum-lounge type of place. My room was 1-2, which is on the first floor and to the street. The entire hotel only has 11 rooms, and all are non-smoking. Despite the busy street, the windows did a good job of keeping most noise out. Mind you, there is no A/C and I doubt I would be able to sleep without earplugs should I have to keep the window open at night.

A bit annoying was the way the curtains were set up: they weren’t completely closable, leaking quite a bit of light from the street into the room. It was bearable, though.

The room is in “sahara deco” - as I would expect for them all to be - the hotel’s name makes that a requirement I guess. Nice touches everywhere, with a garish contrast provided by nearly neon pink stuff (like the chair, the wastebasket, the shampoo bottle).

I didn’t have breakfast, but it looked pretty good albeit somewhat simple, to be consumed in the small lounge portion. It didn’t look to be a steal at €10 extra, though.

The bathroom was clean (as was the room) and functional, though the shower sported my favorite accessory (not!): a shower curtain. Also, no thermostat control, it took a bit to get the temperature right.

My only real gripe is the bedframe: either the frame is too high or the mattress too low - in any case, you can’t get in or out of bed without getting some pain setting into your thighs from the wood. Also - but I attribute this to my personal clumsyness - the rear panel of the frame is about 5cm higher than the rest, so when I went around the bed and dodged the chair, I smacked my knee right into the corner of the board, not to my amusement, I assure you.

The location is pretty good, very close to the central train station and the cathedral.

Comments

Hotel Villa Oriental, Frankfurt ****

This hotel is a visual treat. You enter, and you’re in Arabia. The theme is continuous throughout the entire hotel and rooms. Room was quite big, but to the street (Baseler Strasse), which is excessively busy. Even though I’m sure the windows are pretty good at keeping noise out, you have a continuous noise level coming in from the street (I was, however, able to sleep). There is A/C, so there should be no need to open the windows in the summer.

The location is great, of course - you’re very close to the central train station, to the river and to the central part of the city. Also, there is a tram station right across from the hotel.

One major gripe I have is the tap in the shower: the handles are huge (which goes with the decor) and you almost can’t avoid hitting the cold water lever while showering, which will turn the water way too hot (if not scalding). The shower head, too, is a touch too simplistic, the water distribution would be much better with a modern one. The tiled floor of the shower seems to be pretty much level, which causes a pretty lake of standing water once you’re finished.

Breakfast was relatively simple (but ok), though I was delighted to find an oriental-style omelet available.

All in all, I would recommend the place, the price is okay. Try to get a room away from the street, if posible.
Comments

Hotel Esplanade, Cologne **

The hotel is located near a tram station (Zuelpicher Platz), from which you can get straight to the central train station or take one of two lines that form an inner ring, so you’re very well connected.

Also, a lot of shopping and some attractions are within easy walking distance.

The hotel has a lift, the room I was in (43) had the bathroom in a short hallway that ended in a second door to the main room.

The room seemed large, but it turned out to be too small to use the provided chair at the desk to work - there simply isn’t enough room between the end of the bed and the desk. Sitting on the end of the bed works, but not very well. This isn’t an issue if you’re a tourist, but if you need to get a bit of work done, doing it in the room might not be an option.

The room was to the street side - and Hohenstaufenring is
very busy, at all times of the day. Because of dual windows, however, noise was very well abated with the windows closed. If you’re the type that needs to have the window open at night, you will need to demand a room to the rear.

Also, and I’ve become quite used to this in older hotels, a lingering smell of sewage gasses inundated the bathroom. I tried my usual trick of pouring water in any siphon I could find (this bathroom had one in the floor), but that only worked for a short time. Also, much to my dismay, the bathtub / shower has a curtain, something I can’t stand. On the positive side, water temperature was regulated by a brand-name thermostat, so thumbs up there.

Breakfast was average at best, no highlights. One major downer became apparent when I lifted the lid to the hot foods (scrambled egg and bacon): a cloud of retched smell engulfed me, making me put down the lid as quickly as I could. Something was wrong, I couldn’t say wether there was a bad egg in there or the frying grease from the bacon was old, in any case I opted for the cereal instead. The visuals of the half-cooked bacon would probably had made me take the same decision even without the smell.

All in all, the hotel is ok for the price (an odd €61,61 for the room), although breakfast - which was included in the booking but priced separately at €10 on the bill certainly wasn’t worth it - if possible I suggest getting the room without breakfast, there are plenty of eating opportunities “just around the corner”.

One more tip: if you’re looking to take the tram due south on school days at around 8AM, don’t bother: the trams are so packed full, I ended up taking a taxi.
Comments

Boutique Hotel Villa-Soy, Erlangen **

Stayed April 16, 2013

I ended up in Erlangen, because there were no hotels to be had in my actual destination, Nürnberg, due to a trade fair going on. Since Erlangen is only 15 minutes by train, it is definitely a good alternative. There is a much younger crowd (and less tourists) than in Nürnberg, which makes staying there quite a good experience.

Despite the posh name, the hotel is pretty simple - I have no idea what is supposedly “boutique” about it! The reception is on the first floor, my room on the 3rd. No elevator. The atmosphere in the hotel is clinical at best.

The room was ok, though the bathroom wasn’t very attractive or comfortable. Also, it had a really noisy and annoying ventilation unit that stayed on seemingly for ever after turning the light out. Oddly enough, the ventilator (and subsequently the bathroom light) was on when I entered the room, even tough the windows was on tilt.

When I came back from meeting a colleague that evening - I’d closed the window and turned the bathroom light off before leaving - I noticed a distinct and annoying smell of some sort (couldn’t identify it), which might have been the reason to keep the ventilator on before the guest arrived.

Breakfast was not something worth remembering much about, but it was included in the room rate. I did get freshly made scrambled eggs, which was quite nice.

The hotel is within walking distance from the central train station (about 10 minutes at my walking speed) and the surrounding area is quite nice with a whole bunch of restaurants.

All in all, an ok stay, perhaps a bit pricey for what you get.
Comments

Hotel Zum Bahnhof, Cologne-Dellbrück **

Stayed: April 11, 2013

Despite having an appointment in the south of Cologne the next day, I had to book into this hotel in Dellbrück (which is on the other side of the Rhine river, quite a bit east): there were almost no hotels left within my budget due to a trade fair going on in Cologne that week.

There is an S-Bahn trainstation right across the street, however, so getting there from the central train station only takes about 15 minutes.

The hotel has an attached restaurant, which was too expensive for my tastes; I ended up walking quite a ways through Dellbrück and dining at a Brauhaus. Breakfast is in the restaurant, but has a really poor selection with possibly the smallest rolls I’ve ever seen and jam only available in small plastic packets. While there is a good quality espresso machine for restaurant use, the lady looking after the breakfast was not permitted to make decent coffee for the guests; bitter tasting filter coffee had to suffice.

My room (top floor) was okay, the bathroom was quite large, mainly due to the position of the shower unit. Cleanliness was quite ok. It was outfitted with two single beds which were comfortable enough.

What is a bit of an issue - especially in the morning (probably starting quite early) is the noise from the trains, that run quite frequently. The double-glazed windows don’t seem to keep that noise out very well and I ended up waking up much earlier than my alarm.

All in all, if you’re not much for breakfast in the morning, this might be a good alternative, even though you’re quite a ways from Cologne. I arrived by train, which is about as easy as can be with the hotel so close to the train station. If you’re coming by car, I would guess you’d have an issue finding a parking spot.

Oh yea: no elevator!
Comments

aappartel, Bielefeld **

On first sight, the hotel makes a decent impression. Okay, the elevator is up one flight of stairs and the breakfast room isn’t particularly large, but that’s ok. The hotel’s location is quite good, very close to the old part of town, about 10-15 minutes on foot from the central train station (you can also go one stop by underground to Jahnplatz, it’s 100m from there).

The room is unusually decorated; mine (403) had two single beds arranged diagonally. This, unfortunately, has the effect of positioning the headboard of the left bed (which was unmade) at about the spot I generally have my elbow. Luckily, they aren’t cemented in place; I moved it out of the way.

Instead of a chair and desk, the room offers a longish wooden bench with matching wooden sideboard. The bench is somewhat uncomfortable and cold (strangely enough) - possibly, because the heating was completely turned off in the room. I had to rearrange a somewhat haphazard plug multiplier under the sideboard to give me room to at least plug in my laptop; there aren’t any outlets above.

The bathroom is large enough, however the shower stall has a curtain, something I can’t stand. Also, there are no hooks whatsoever in the bathroom, so towels have to be stuffed into the rungs of the heater. There is a soap dispenser next to the sink on the wall, unfortunately, not in the shower.

The bed was okay, but what took the cake was the apparent thinness of the walls to the next room - I was able to understand every word of the conversation the folks next door were having - as if there was a hole in the wall. Completely ridiculous. The elevator was built in 1962 (!), so while the place looks quite recently renovated, the infrastructure is certainly lacking.

Breakfast wasn’t a treat - while it looks to be quite well-stocked, the scrambled eggs were rubbery (I’ve never encountered this before in all my years of travel) and the bacon looked like it was merely passed over the pan. No yoghurt or fresh fruit.

Wifi isn’t free of charge, though the €2 for 24 hours aren’t an issue. What is an issue is that throughput is sporradic - at times, the connection seemed to stand still for 10-20 seconds at a time, then it would load very quickly only to stand still again.

For all that, the price seems too high, I really can’t recommend the place. This is a shame, because the location really is quite good.
Comments

Motel One Hauptbahnhof, Berlin ****

So far, I’ve found Motel One hotels to be quite similar in many ways all over the country. Its a fair deal, I sleep well there.

As with other Motel One’s I’ve visited, the room is very clean both visually and olfactoraly. The room isn’t large, but big enough for one person to stay a night or two. The fireplace-video that pops on the TV when you enter the room is a nice twist (the one in Hamburg had an aquarium video).

I’ve stayed at this particular Motel One before, and while I didn’t sign up for the breakfast this time, I did the last time I stayed. Breakfast was completely overrun, like a beehive, at primetime (when, unfortunately, I needed to be down there as well). A number of tables were empty but not cleared away and some of the food items were “sold out” and not replenished.

I’m not sure if that was because of some major event in town or if that is normal for this particular Motel One, but it made it easy for me to make the decision to eat somewhere else this time.

Other than that, the room is fine, as is the bathroom, no complaints. One exception: there isn’t an outlet anywhere near the desk, so if you have an aging laptop battery like I do with the need to plug in, you’ll be doing your work from the bed (which has outlets next to it).

All in all, I would recommend the place and will stay there again - you can’t beat the location, just kitty-corner across from the central train station. Maybe I’ll try breakfast again next time...
Comments

Seehotel Schlierseer Hof, Schliersee ***

Due to a conference in town (which I was attending), most of the hotels were already booked when I looked for a room. This hotel is very close to where the conference was taking place and directly on the lake, so at the price (€69 incl. breakfast), it seemed like a good deal.

To make things short: I’d booked at a room-to-the-street rate, which was absolutely ok, as there is very little traffic at night and the window does a decent job of keeping noise out.

Water pressure was very low both at the sink and in the shower, but this was fixed when I told reception about it. Also, water didn’t drain from the shower well at all (if I hadn’t paused my shower halfway through, I would have flooded the bathroom).

The shower head is an overhead type (no hand unit available), and in my room (310) it was in poor condition. The nozzles were of the modern, silicon type which generally are cleaned of calcite by just rubbing over them. When I did so (as the head was spraying water every which way), one of the nozzle bits broke off, so I ended up leaving it. The shower door didn’t close worth anything, so I ended up flooding the bathroom anyway…

The bed was ok (two singles pushed together), but the walls were much too “thin”, giving me input from both adjacent rooms.

Breakfast was great, the restaurant faces the lake which makes up for some of the annoyances.

Okay to stay in if you can’t get a room at one of the other places in town (which, in off-season, have similar price).
Comments

Hotel Tiergarten, Berlin **

The hotel is on Alt Moabit and only about 100m away from the bus stop “Kleiner Tiergarten” where the TXL bus (Airport Tegel to Alexanderplatz via Central Train Station) also stops - very convenient.

I had room 47, which is to the rear and at the very end of the corridor (and on the 2nd, not the 4th floor), so I was expecting a pretty quiet stay. Unfortunately, there is a relatively large gap around the door, so noise from the hallway comes in undamped, and the walls seem to be thinner than I would expect, so noise from next door was also quite prominent.

The room, which isn’t huge but big enough, has old-style double windows (not double-pane) which makes for nasty cold drafts due to the horrible insulation. I ended up sleeping “the wrong way” in the single bed to avoid getting the chills over night, with cold air literally pouring over my face (despite drawn curtains). The heating was on but not very hot, which made my room colder than even I like (and I prefer a cool room in the winter). The extremely high ceiling (estimate: 4.5m!) doesn’t help in keeping the heat where the people are.

To top it off, the water temperature in the shower varied widely, causing me to stop every 10 seconds or so to readjust. That is, after taking a felt 5 minutes just to get the hot water up to the second floor. I ended up stopping my shower short.

Breakfast is quite spectacular, especially for such a small hotel, with every kind of meat and a good selection of cheeses available, as well as different types of yoghurt, etc., rolls, bread, cake. Also, varied fruit including Mango and Rasberry. Excellent and completely unexpected. It certainly compensated some of the negative aspects of the room.

All in all, the location is a bit off the beaten path and considering the quality of the room, I felt the room rate to be too high.
Comments

Hotel Goethe, Munich **

A colleague reserved the hotel for me for two nights, because it used to be a favorite years ago with folks from Kleindienst Datentechnik and because it was relatively inexpensive, yet close to the Munich central train station.

It really is a relatively short walk (two blocks) down Goethe street, which isn’t as inundated with sex shops, etc., as some of the other streets in the area.

To make things short, I can’t really recommend the hotel, for a couple of reasons:
1) the toilet smelled - well, unclean - for my entire stay - as if it hadn’t been cleaned for a while.
2) the shower was annoying - the shower head didn’t fit properly into the holder (too loose), causing it to spray anywhere but where it was supposed to spray.
3) the heat was turned off pretty early in the evening (at least when I got in on the second day at around 10PM, it was already off). The heater in the bathroom didn’t seem to work at all.
4) there was a continuous swell of cold air “falling” from the window. Since the bed was right against the window, I needed two blankets to get halfway comfortable at night.
5) there is no elevator…
6) the fire escape stairs are fitted to rear windows in the stairway. While this is in general quite ok, here it isn’t, as the windows are more than 1m off the floor! I.e.: older folks probably would have serious difficulties getting up the window sill to get out in case of a fire, and children wouldn’t be able to open the window at all (see picture)
7) the lady at reception publicly bawled out a cleaning lady for doing a bad job cleaning the rooms (see point 1 above?) - since reception and the breakfast room are one big area, everyone in the breakfast room was party to this.
8) the hairdryer was “rigged” by running two copper wires (insulated, mind you) from the nearest outlet (see picture), which means: no connection to earth and subsequently no protection from electric shock whatsoever, should the hair dryer fail or get wet!

The hotel is run by a Turkish family, and breakfast is very much like it is in smaller hotels in Istanbul (which I thoroughly enjoy) - the only highlight in my opinion.

HairDrier

FireEscape
Comments

Hotel Topas, Frankfurt ***

The hotel is close to the side exit of Frankfurt’s central station. The lobby is like the rest of the hotel: very utilitarian and somewhat cramped. I had room 20, which faces a courtyard, so it gets no street noise.

While that was fine, the room is pretty cramped and the refrigerator sits right next to the bed, albeit in a cabinet. The fridge is completely empty but running, making low but hearable noises right next to your pillow. It can’t be turned off or unplugged. The pillow was way too fluffy, with no alternatives available.

The bathroom is ok - unfortunately, the shower doesn’t have a thermostat to control the temperature, and it took me a good two minutes to get the temperature of the water right. Also, there is a soap dispenser in the shower and an identical unit by the sink, but both are so tough to operate, that I would guess neither a child nor a normal woman would be able to get soap out of the things. Its a system I’ve never seen before - probably for a reason.

Breakfast is pretty simple, just rolls with jam / butter and a selection of cheese slices and cheap meats, yoghurt, some cereals in dispensers and extremely hardboiled eggs.

The place is ok - I would stay there again if better hotels (all in the same price range) in the area weren’t available.

I paid €55 including breakfast.
Comments

Juncker's Hotel Garni (Pension), Berlin *

Juncker’s Hotel
Grünberger Str.
Berlin-Friedrichshain

While the Juncker's also has a hotel section, I stayed in the "pension" section - so this review doesn't cover the hotel.

The room was extremely reasonably priced, but barely worth the money. It was very small with a single bed, a small desk and a sink in the room. The window went to a courtyard, so I hoped for a quiet night - but alas: there seems to be a bar of some sort in the square and quite possibly (I couldn't tell), the smokers go out back. Needless to say: rest without earplugs was a no-go.

The bathroom is off the hallway and is shared by all rooms on that hallway. While there are separate toilets for men and women, the showers (2) are not separate - not sure how that works. I had to get up early, so I had no competition for the shower, but I can imagine that during rush hour, this can get quite annoying. I counted 5 rooms on the floor.

The bathroom was in general quite run-down, though it seemed clean. The only irritating thing was a hole in the wall of the men's toilet with what looked like mouse droppings around it.

I didn't bother with breakfast so I can't comment on that.

All in all,
I don't recommend the Pension part. I've stayed for even less in small hotels that offered the bathroom in the room and - while you certainly can't expect a posh room - seemed to offer more in every respect.
Comments

Hotel Kraft, Munich ****

Hotel Kraft
Schillerstr. 49
München

I've stayed in a number of hotels in Munich's Schillerstrasse (part of the redlight district), most of them are surrounded by bars (the kind where drinks are expensive) and other establishments. The noise level tends to be annoying.

The Kraft Hotel is all the way down Schillerstrasse, in a really and surprisingly quiet section. Okay, it is a bit of a hike to the central train station, but if you're good on foot, that isn't an issue.

The room I had was spacious, the bathroom quite ok, possibly with the exception of the shower doors which are a bit annoying - they go all the way down to the floor (there is no tub) and somewhat difficult to adjust.

The room was decorated with very nice, old furniture and the bed was spacious and comfortable.

Had the breakfast included more than just factory rolls and the usual toppings, with cereal and yoghurt, I probably would have given the place 5 stars. I like a good breakfast and while this was ok, it was just that: ok.

All in all a very good value and to be recommended.
Not sure about parking (I travel by train), but that did look a bit difficult.
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Sebastianushof, Bad Godesberg **

The hotel is quite a ways up the hill from the town center of Bonn-Bad Godesberg.
I picked it because of an event at the Godesburg, which is about 5 minutes walk from the hotel.

The hotel is right across the road from a major construction site fitted with a huge crane, where they seem to be building a new house. Subsequently, the noise level starts to go up quite drastically at around 7AM. Throughout the night, noise from the street was relatively minor (not a lot of traffic).

The window however, looks just like the ones my grandmother had in her house, and those were from the 70’s. The noise abatement from the window is close to nil.

The bed is comfortable enough and you’re supplied a full-size and a half-size pillow, which is nice (I happen to be a fan of half-size pillows).

The bathroom is functional (no more!), though the drain in the shower was stopped up and quite obviously, no one had filled the siphon of the floor drain in a while, as the room reeked of sewage gas. Two glasses of water in the siphon and all was well. I always wonder just why on earth the guests always have to take care of something like that.

Breakfast is quite ok, with scrambled eggs as the “hot food”.

All in all, an ok place to stay, but at €75 (+€8 for breakfast) a couple of notches too expensive for the quality and the location.

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International am Theater, Muenster**

The reviews for the hotel seemed to indicate a good place to stay. As it seemed to be in a decent location for getting into the old part of the city, I booked it.

First impression from the outside: wow, what an ugly building. That partially has to do with the eminent architecture in the north of Germany: brick. If you’re not used to it and the masons didn’t put some twists into the design (i.e. Amsterdam style), brick buildings are all ugly. And: an ugly building doesn’t say anything about the hotel on the inside.

The location is quite decent - a short walk will take you to all the major sights in the old part of the city.

The gentleman at reception was nice enough, explaining everything and even proactively asking if one would like some tips on going for food - which, strangely enough, is pretty rare amongst hotel receptionists worldwide.

The room that was to be mine for the night (no. 27) was quite small, with a single bed. It smelled like spring cleaning of a college latrine, a smell that got worse when I went into the bathroom (which really could use renovation). The culprit was a huge dose of cleaning liquid on the “pan” of the toilet. Yep - you know, the type of toilet that lets you measure your success - with a ruler if necessary. The type of toilet I completely abhor. Mainly, because I never carry a ruler on travels.
Oh, and: shampoo from paper packages? Give me a break! Is it that expensive to put a soap thingie in the shower?

The window was difficult to open, mainly because the latch works differently than about 99% of all windows in Germany. The window is huge and looks quite old (I ventured a guess: 1970), but turned out to be from 1994, at least going by the date stamped on the metal between the two sheets of glass.

The area is relatively quiet - an advantage, as the closed window doesn’t seem to abate any noise from outside whatsoever.

Wifi is free for guests - unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect at all: “Connection timeout”, no matter what I tried.

Breakfast was simple, with fruit salad from a can, some yoghurt, rolls, bread, jam, various sausage / meats and cheese. Unfortunately, the sausage / meats weren’t cooled, so even though we were quite early for breakfast, things were already starting to “cloud over”. No warm foods except for boiled eggs.

All in all ok for a night, though I don’t plan on staying here again.
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Ramada Hotel Kassel City Centre ***

The Hotel is quite close to the high-speed train station (Kassel Wilhelmshoehe): 3 Tram stops.
The room is okay in size, clean and relatively modern. I had a room with two single beds that apparently were made for pushing together if desired.

Absolute highlight was breakfast. While quite pricy at €16, the buffet lacks almost nothing except perhaps a better selection of fresh (not canned) fruit. Excellent.

Less excellent was the shower - the fixture was impossible to operate to a decent temperature, it turned out either too hot or too cold, even when moving the lever only a few millimeters. Also, the showerhead didn’t stick properly in its holder, so it would turn to the side spontaneously (turn down the water pressure to reduce this problem).

All in all quite pricy (probably because the Documenta 13 is going on) but certainly comfortable and quiet.

Internet access via Telekom access point (great if you have an account, like I do).

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Thermenhotel, Bad Soden/Taunus *

The hotel had relatively good reviews on HRS, and there aren’t that many hotels available in the area, so I booked it.

I had room 8, which I absolutely CANNOT recommend. There seems to be the compressor/condenser unit bolted to the outside wall of the room, which makes the wall vibrate at a continuously changing, low-frequency pitch. For me, that meant sleeping with ear plugs, though which the noise was still slightly audible!

The bathroom seems to be a relict of the 60’s, in a rather negative way. The window in the bathroom is a single-pane job, which means that it will likely be extremely uncomfortable on a cold, winter day.

The window of the room (to the street) was dual-pane but imprinted with a manufacturing date of 1992 - subsequently, noise from the rather busy street (even late at night) is only slightly abated.

The carpet in the room seemed to be from the same year as the window - while it wasn’t particularly dirty, it gave off an extremely used sheen, especially around the door.

Breakfast was okay, but the room was much too expensive.

Rooms to the back are likely quieter.
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Parkhotel Kerpen *

Two things really annoyed me about this hotel:
1) they don’t have non-smoking rooms
2) nomen non est omen - not sure if there ever was a park anywhere in the vicinity - there certainly isn’t now. The hotel is in a commercial area that has all the flair you can expect from concrete buildings with colorful advertising signs.

Regarding the missing non-smoking rooms, this is the plakard they likely have in every room:

2012-03-22_07-40-12

What the heck does that solve? Keep your smoking to a minimum?

I had a chat with the lady at reception about it - after beating around the bush with exclamations like “what do you think smokers would do in a non-smoking room, not smoke?”, she admitted that they had no non-smoking rooms at all.

On the plus side, they put a high-tech looking ionization device in my stinky room for about half an hour after I left, which seemed to help quite a bit. And, luckily, no one to the left or right of me smoked at night (which tends to stink worse than when it happens in the same room).

Still, I cannot recommend this hotel to any non-smokers out there.

The bathroom was ok, with a thermostat in the shower. Even though the room faced the rather busy road, the windows did a fair job of keeping the noise out.

The next olfactory assault came about the next morning, when I distinctly smelled bacon and eggs - from bed!
That smell turned obnoxious as soon as I got to the hallway; apparently, the kitchen smells from breakfast drift straight up the stairs (I was on the 3rd and final floor), unimpeded by the fire doors as these were kept wide open, to collect in a smelly dinge at the very top of the building - which happened to be my hallway. Yikes!
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Hotel Jakoberhof, Augsburg *

There were three events going on in Augsburg, and I was unable to get a room in one of the hotels I usually stay in. The Jakoberhof was the last hotel in the city that had a room available on HRS.

It is an old hotel near the Fuggerei (but a ways from city center) that consists of a main building and two side buildings.
I was in building “37”, with the room facing the main building via the courtyard, but also the rather busy Pilgerhausstrasse, making for anything but the promised “quiet room”.

The room is ok in size, the furnishings are Ikea-quality, the bathroom seems refurbished within the last few years, and is seemingly clean. On second look, it shows its age, with this relic from the 70’s:
Pasted Graphic

Also, this “hack” was the only way to sleep:
Pasted Graphic 1

The door was so loose, that it clacked back and forth very loudly anytime someone opened or closed the front door.
Most likely, the door gasket was hardened, as the door also let through any and all noise from the corridor.

Breakfast was ok, they even had fresh fruit.

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Hotel Riegele, Augsburg **

Sometime late 2010, I stayed in this hotel before, and seem to remember not being very happy with the choice.
This time, I’ve decided to document the stay immediately as a reminder to myself…

The hotel is located straight across from the train station, and subsequently very near our Augsburg offices. So far so good.
It also has a restaurant in the same building (run by the same company) that serves up very high quality German food.

Due to its vicinity to the train station and two very busy roads (that intersection very near the hotel), a room to the front is absolutely not to be recommended unless you are hard of hearing. Even to the back, the road noise is prevalent, mainly due to the ancient, no: antique windows. These are 1950’s style: two separate single-pane windows in separate frames, which are put together in a single unit. Needless to say, they don’t just keep noise out very badly, they are also an insulation nightmare.

The room I’m in is actually quite nice: number 401, top floor, under the roof. The bathroom contains everything you need, but quite clearly in dire need of renovation: tiles are cracked and pitted, the shower is “old-school” (a good 8” off the ground). The entire bathroom is lit by a single lamp above the sink. The grouting and silicon in the shower itself is ill-fitting or missing, which gives it a bit of a yuck-factor. The ultimate disaster in the bathroom has to be the shower tap, however. I personally prefer a thermostatic system, where you give it a temperature with one knob and vary the water volume with the other. While these are still relatively rare, the usual system is one with a ceramic cartridge where you vary volume and temperature by moving a lever up-down and left-right. The one in this bathroom must have been from 1940: just two knobs. One for hot, one for cold. To make things even worse, they opened in opposite directions! Imagine my confusion while desperately trying to make the cold shower warmer without setting it to scaldingly hot!

Also, there are no electrical outlets anywhere near the bed. If you want to charge your smartphone overnight and use it as an alarm, you’ll need to plug it into the outlet at the desk and get set to walk across the room to silence it. Wait: there are no free outlets at the desk! There is a 3-outlet strip floppily laying on top, but all three outlets are used (Refrigerator, TV, Lamp). Out go the fridge and TV to make room for the laptop and mobile phone chargers…

Wifi isn’t free, by the way, but it only costs €2 for 24 hours. Unfortunately, something was wrong with the internet connection when I stayed - while the connection to the hotspot (with a password for the network AND a password for the hotspot!) worked fine, there was nearly no traffic in or out.

Breakfast, included in the roomrate, is okay. Fresh fruit salad, yoghurt, various rolls, meats, cheese, scrambled egg, bacon, etc. Everything is there.

All in all, the room is okay, assuming you can get one to the back of the building in order to keep roadnoise to a minimum. However, the room rate is absolutely too much (€85 with breakfast) for what you get. If they offered the room for, say, €55, then I would come back. For the current rate, I will go elsewhere.
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Intercity-Hotel Augsburg ****

The Intercity Hotel in Augsburg is right around the corner from the central train station.
The building complex isn’t what you would call attractive, but when you’re inside, all is well.
For some reason, this hotel is only rated 7.2 by people that booked via HRS and stayed here. I’m not really sure why. The rooms are large enough and quite clean. Yes, the bathroom fixtures probably should be renovated - I’ve had rooms with cracks in the sink, and most of the rooms I’ve had really needed a new shower head, but these little issues haven’t kept me from coming back.

Breakfast is really quite good, though it gets extremely hectic when there is a trade fair in Augsburg. Wether it is worth €14 to you is a personal decision, I’ve had certainly had similar breakfast buffets at a lower cost.

The hotel can be had for attractive rates when booking early - due to the prime location near the train station (and subsequently, not far from Munich, should the hotels in that city be full due to Oktoberfest or a trade fair). If you try to book it just a couple of days ahead, then it will generally cost more than €100. When I stay, I’m usually in the price range of €65-75.

While it is very close to the train station and subsequently, very close to my employer’s Augsburg office, it is a strong walk away from city center. A fast walker will make it there in 10-15 minutes on foot.

With your room key, you get a pass that allows you to use Augsburg-city public transport for free - and since the tram station is right in front of the entrance, this should alleviate the inconvenience of location for most people.

The street in front of the hotel is a main thoroughfare, subsequently I recommend you get a room to the back, if possible.
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Hotel Ost am Kö, Augsburg **

(Updates below)

A really pleasant hotel in the heart of Augsburg “downtown”. Clean and quaint. Very friendly front desk staff.

The breakfast is great, with a large selection of different foods.

I’ve had the luck so far to have a room towards the back - it is quite possible that the rooms to the front are a bit loud, as the hotel is on a main thoroughfare with quite a bit of car and tram traffic.

It takes about 5 minutes of quick walking to get to the train station and only about 3 minutes to get to the Rathausplatz.

I have booked the hotel via HRS as well as the hotel website.

The hotel has “regular” and “premium” rooms. I’ve had both (a free “Christmas gift” upgrade - thank you!) - the premium rooms are larger, other than that the regular rooms are just fine.

There is Wifi in the entire hotel, but it is run by T-Online, which means it isn’t free (unless you’re a member). There is free internet on a computer in the hotel lobby.

The hotel has a sauna, but I haven’t used it so far.

------------- Update March 20, 2012 ----------------

Stayed in the hotel again March 19-20 - this time I had a room to the front (room 20). While the noise level from the main street outside is actually acceptable (the windows seem to be noise abating), the condition of the room definitely was not. The bathroom could have used a bit more cleaning and the room itself was in a run-down state. The shower didn’t close properly (leaving a gap of nearly two cm), which ended up flooding a portion of the floor while showering.
It annoyed me so much, that I’ve taken the hotel from a 4* to a 3* rating.

Also, beware: the entire area around the hotel is a huge construction site. The Königsplatz is being torn apart, it is my understanding that the tram tracks will be put underground. When they work a section, they also do so at night, so you run the risk of having a major construction going on outside the hotel all night long.

------------ Update August 21, 2012 ----------------

Last night, I stayed at the Ost am Kö again, this time I had room 21 (right next to the one described in the update of March 20). Here, the window, while also triple-pane, certainly did not qualify for a noise-abating rating - and the Irish pub across the street (which, for a reason I can’t fathom, seems to have been open until 1AM), perhaps the frame was damaged and leaked sound. Also, the wall to room 20 was either quite thin or the guy next door had the TV blaring, for I could almost make out the program.
The worst, however, was the temperature - there is no A/C in these rooms (not sure if there is A/C anywhere in the hotel) and the room was blaringly hot.
Since I had to put my Fireplugs into my ears anyway, I opened up the window to let some air in; the desk fan just didn’t cut it. Taking the hotel down to two stars!
Not sure I’ll stay here again unless I can be guaranteed a room to the back.
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Hotel Park Inn, Berlin **

Since I was just in Berlin again, staying in two different places, I wanted to make sure I put a review of the Park Inn at Alexanderplatz in here.

I stayed at the place twice, and each time my colleague and I had some very interesting experiences. To be quite clear up front: unless it is exceptionally cheap, I will not book a room in this hotel again. Read on.

Via a friend of my colleague, we were able to get rooms at the Park Inn for €75 including breakfast, which is really quite attractive from a pricing aspect.

I will say this: the rooms are really quite nice, breakfast is fantastic. But that is where it stops.

For one thing, you will rarely see the reception desk without a huge line waiting before it. Why is beyond me, there are usually plenty of people at the desk (which is quite large, obviously, to accommodate everyone). Don’t plan on getting checked out and out the door with bill in hand within the time you expect from a „normal” hotel. Very annoying.

The first room I had at the hotel was somewhere on the 23rd floor. Again, nicely renovated, spacious, nice bathroom, large bed, clean. Normally: a joy. Except for that high-pitched noise that kept coming on and going off, coming on and going off. At first I thought something in the room was making it, like the minibar refrigerator or the smoke detector. Not so - I followed the sound out the door into the hallway. Just so you understand: this was a sound that will not let any normal person sleep or even work in a concentrated way.

It turned out to be the motor driving one of the elevators. My guess is that its mounting isolated so poorly, that the high-frequency vibrations, probably from its modulation, went across a cement beam running over my room. Whatever, I asked to change the room.

Apparently, my request to change the room was so bizarre to the girl at reception that while she complied with my request, she apparently felt it was necessary to talk to her colleague about it right in front of me. Folks, if a guest wishes to change his room, then he has a reason for it - if you think it’s worth joking about to your colleagues, do so without the guest hearing - just a thought.

The next time we stayed there, we not only received different restaurant cards for breakfast (even though we’d booked at the same time), but apparently, there was a technical issue with the elevators in the section where my colleague had his room. Only one of the elevators ran, causing us to be about half an hour late for our appointment. He actually phoned me, to ask that I tell reception about it, but the guy at reception said that the elevators certainly were running („you stupid guest”). They weren’t though. While waiting for my colleague to finally arrive, I watched a bank of three elevators in that section of the hotel (not all the elevators go to all the floors). All three didn’t budge in the 15 minutes I stood there.

If you’re in Berlin, try to find a hotel that is smaller than the Park Inn. There are much better places to stay, also from a location perspective, for similar or lower pricing.
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