Berlin’s Fighting Spirit Proves It’s Still The Number One Post-Pandemic Destination For Artists And Creators

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As the world slowly adjusts to the post-pandemic new world order, the promise of unrestricted travel—being able to go where we please, without restrictions, to see new places, new people, and new experiences—feels tantalizingly close. The travel industry is steadily bouncing back from near-total devastation; a recent report from the World Travel & Tourism Council predicted the global travel sector is on track to reach $8.6 trillion this year, just 6.4% behind pre-pandemic levels. Now, those of us fortunate enough to have the means to travel are remembering the transformative power of new experiences.

The only question that remains is: where will we choose to go, now that we can go? Will we seek places we have visited before, that offer us comfort and emotional sustenance? Or will we seek entirely new adventures, opening ourselves up to experiences we may have once been too frightened to seek out? After more than two years of being faced with our own mortality, has the pandemic emboldened us with a new spirit of adventure?

For me, it was a little of both. Berlin has always held a special place in my heart: it’s the first place I traveled to when I was a young college student living in Australia, as part of a larger European trip where I did my best to soak in the continent’s rich history. Of course, the way a 22-year-old views the world is vastly different from the way a 37-year-old views the world, and while I have been back to Europe throughout the years for business trips and the like, I’ve always felt a pull to better understand more about Berlin’s artistic spirit.

So with that, at the start of April, I left the US for the first time in two years and landed in Berlin.

My first stop was the newly-opened Hotel Luc in Berlin’s central Mitte district. Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the 70-room, 22-suite boutique hotel is strategically positioned opposite the French Dom cathedral, showcasing the grandeur, elegance, and luxury of Prussian-era Berlin. This central theme flows through the hotel’s design, gastronomy, and personality, all bathed in a sensuous Prussian blue. Hotel Luc is as quirky as it is classy: nowhere in the world will you find a luxury boutique hotel that features potatoes—yes, you read correctly—as decorative items, for example.

There’s a good historical reason for this, of course: it is said that Frederick the Great popularized the starchy root vegetable during his reign in the 1700s when he was looking for an innovative new way to feed a starving nation. At first, peasants resisted growing potatoes because they thought them dirty and tasteless (they tried them raw, presumably), but Fred persisted, rebranding the potato as a “royal vegetable” and unwillingly kicking off one of the world’s first successful marketing campaigns. Of course, if it’s good enough for the king then it must be good for us, and so the humble potato began its slow path to dominance in German cuisine.

(Find out more about the hotel’s unique design in this Hotel Luc Q&A.)

Hotel Luc also offers guests access to Marriott Bonvoy’s Tours & Activities program, which allows guests to book experiences in cities all over the world. Earlier this year, Marriott Bonvoy—Marriott International’s travel program and marketplace that encompasses Marriott International’s portfolio of 30 hotel brands—launched a new global campaign focused on the transformative power of travel. The campaign is inviting people from all over the world to connect on social media and share their best travel memories; what’s more, it’s a concentrated effort to focus on how travel can change us—if only we allow ourselves to be changed. (The campaign aired during the NBA Finals, and also during the Olympics, the world’s biggest stage for global unity and connection.)

One of my main reasons for coming to Berlin was to learn more about why the city attracts so many young artists, designers, and creators. To learn more about this, I booked a private tour through Marriott Bonvoy’s Tours & Activities program, run by Travel Curious.

My guide, Finn, took me for a walk to discover the urban counterculture of the former East Berlin. Finn told me about life behind the Iron Curtain, how the Berlin Wall was erected and how it came down, and how Berlin’s post-war identity emerged through a focus on street art and self-expression. We visited a subterranean world of tunnels, storage rooms, air-raid shelters, and deserted subway stations that once smuggled people from East to West; graffiti-covered subcultural compounds, refurbished bookshops, art cinemas, and grassroots record labels; Soviet-era buildings and GDR-era relics; Cold War checkpoints between West and East Berlin; and the famous East Side Gallery, the longest open-air gallery of history and art in the world on the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall.

It was an eye-opening and heartfelt tour that left me in awe of Berlin’s spirit and resilience; this is a city that no longer runs from its past, but displays its scars and lessons with pride, for the world to see. On Finn’s advice, I also paid a visit to the Stasi Museum, which once served as the headquarters of the GDR Ministry for State Security, the secret police force that terrorized and spied on its citizens from the 1960s right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Among the many Soviet-era relics housed in the museum are wiretap recordings, propaganda asking citizens to inform on each other, and testimonies from dozens of former Stasi agents who were forced to spy for the institution.

Afterward, walking back to the hotel, I stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall potato cafe. Just potatoes. Baked, fried, mashed, you name it. There was a line outside. I thought about Fred the Great, and joined the queue.

And one more thing…

  • Berlin is home to not one, not two, but three major opera houses. If you’re in town, it’s worth checking out what’s playing.
  • German cuisine is great, but Berlin also has a large Middle Eastern community, resulting in a number of delicious Lebanese and Turkish restaurants. The absolute hands-down winner is Casalot Restaurant, which has the best kunefeh in Germany.
  • If you’re on the quirky hotels of Europe trail, make sure you check out another Marriott gem, the Moxy Amsterdam Houthavens, a stylish oasis in Amsterdam’s oldest working harbor that features a 24-hour bar, floor-to-ceiling windows, and all-day bike hire that gives you the chance to experience Amsterdam like a local.


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