Hotel Zoo Berlin
Berlin has been undergoing a steady transformation for some time now. Welcome changes in recent years include, but are not limited to: friendly customer service replacing that which was previously punishing; English as an almost fully accepted second language; and restaurants whose cuisine can compete on an international level. And for its frequent visitors, this growth has ushered in a new breed of luxury hotels citywide, which cater less to the old guard and more to a younger generation of the financially fortunate. The recently resurrected Hotel Zoo seems to be one of these establishments (the hotel reopened this year after an extensive renovation).
It is said that in the 1950s, the Zoo played host to the party animals of the motion picture industry, and its revamped interior design by Los Angeles and New York-based Dayna Lee attempts to reinvigorate this glamour with generally successful results. The vertical glass entrance to the hotel sits directly on Kurfürstendamm, Berlin's most densely packed luxury shopping strip, and feels almost ecclesiastic in its stature. The interior's grandiosity seems to demand soft steps and hushed voices from visitors, but the extravagant decor feels more as if Lewis Carroll forwent writing in favor of interior design with an endless budget. Animal print rugs, garish sculptures, and a giant three-story door which may or may not be functional are immediately viewable from the lobby. The staff here have a warm and generous feeling, though they are perhaps a bit eager. Upon check-in, one guest was mistakenly welcomed repeatedly by a nervous receptionist to one of London's finest hotels (the previous employer of the desk attendant).
Playing off the generously-sized architecture of Berlin, the rooms here are quite large, decorated in muted tones. The bathrooms are equally expansive but feel slightly incongruous, with a feeling leaning more towards the utilitarian. While the rooms here are visually calming and tastefully subdued, the veritable gauntlet of an elevator one must pass through to reach them is unfortunately anything but. Unsuspecting guests enter slowly, their bodies and luggage dragging wearily over the carpet, and as the doors close, a seizure-enduring barrage of scattershot white light flashes from all sides, immediately bringing into focus the walls of the ascending metal box, which houses a series of photo-realistic paparazzi with blinking camera flashes, flattened behind a thick layer of plastic and a shameless velvet rope which doubles as a handle for those who are about to expire. This startling assault has more wrong with it than one could possibly attempt to discuss here, but thankfully this mild lapse in judgment is the worst you'll experience during a stay at Hotel Zoo. It isn't all champagne and roses, but let us applaud a commendable effort and another interesting and unexpected step toward the future of Berlin's growing hotel scene. JR