Berlin Opening: Waldorf Astoria

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The Waldorf Astoria Berlin, the gleaming new tower on the Ku’damm, is unapologetically luxurious, particularly with the opening of Les Dolites: French culinary god Pierre Gagnaire’s first gastronomic temple on German soil, located within the hotel. The lushness of the space, awash in Italian silks and floral displays, extends to Germany’s only Guerlain Spa.

But this exceedingly posh Waldorf Astoria also pays tribute to the city’s more bohemian history; the Lang Bar is an encomium to Metropolis and M director Fritz, and the Romanisches Cafe (once a hang-out of Brecht and Grosz), has been revived as a chic new all-day dining spot, complete with a terrace overlooking the Breitscheidplatz. Book a room on a higher floor for views that stretch all the way to…Dresden? Perhaps.

Berlin Opening: Princess Cheescake

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Princess Cheesecake (Mitte) – Let them eat (cheese)cake.

Berlin Openings: Oukan 71, OnePiece

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  • Oukan 71 (Mitte) – Ultra-contemporary concept shop lures Japanese design back from the future.
  • OnePiece (Mitte) – The Scandinavian take on Snuggie style.

Berlin Opening: Flamingo

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Flamingo (Mitte) – West Palm Beach meets East Berlin.

The World’s Most Graffitied Hotels

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Once upon a time, graffitied buildings announced that you’d wandered into a sketchy neighborhood or an abandoned pocket of the city. You’d never have dreamed of seeing tagged walls in the kinds of affluent, high-end spots that attract the jet-setting glitterati. But in recent years, there’s been an influx of posh hotels that have commissioned both renowned and under-the-radar graffiti artists alike to add a vibrant, urban flair to their properties’ designs, from the walls of hotel bars to inside the suites themselves. Here, we pick our favorite homes-away-from-home, from a resort in Turkey to a boutique hotel in Los Angeles, that prominently and brilliantly feature the art formerly known as street.

Hotel Erwin Venice Beach’s Hotel Erwin (pictured top), which opened in June of 2009, has quite a lot going for it: The rooftop lounge, retro-chic surf-and-skate decor, and its location just yards from the beach attract quite the groovy clientele, but it’s most interesting feature is its graffitied name on the front wall, which was completed by tattoo artist Norm of Los Angeles’ Will Rise Studio. A striking combination of colors – red, pink, purple, green – against the stark black background make for an instantly recognizable nameplate that guarantees guests will never have trouble finding the hotel.

image Weinmeister Hotel One of the latest additions to the hospitality boom in Berlin, the less-than-a-year-old Weinmeister Hotel was unveiled during last Summer’s Berlin Fashion Week to accommodate fashionistas descending on the German capital. A member of the Design Hotel portfolio, the property deftly combines high-end amenities (in-room iMacs, anyone?) with unfussy decor. But unlike Hotel Erwin, finding the doors to the Weinmeister might take a minute or two. In a city where street art is rampant and graffiti is everywhere, the hotel’s tagged doorway, done by local underground artists GYF5, can be easily missed and mistaken for just another of Berlin’s inked walls.

image Villa dos Graffitis Like Berlin, Brazil is a street art paradise famed for its graffiti-ed facades. Villa dos Graffitis in the colorful coastal city of Bahia is the perfect microcosm of this national phenomenon. The inn commissioned 32 renowned artists (including Chivitz, Ramones, and Titi Freak) to tag all 26 rooms plus various other parts of the property, including a massive piece by the outdoor pool, which was the collective effort of all 32 graffitists. image 104 Art Suites Primarily a business hotel, Bogota’s 104 Art Suites is anything but your run-of-the-mill, highway-adjacent convention facility. The super bare, white-wash interiors are made strikingly colorful with various paintings and graphics done by Colombia’s most exciting contemporary artists, like Camilo Monsalve, Rodrigo Echeverri, and Paola Rico. Suite 503 features Giovanni Sanchez’s large-scale, mostly black-and-pink graffiti work in the living space’s two opposing walls. The cartoonish piece adds a bit of urban whimsy to the otherwise sleek and simple room.

image The Renaissance Providence Rhode Island might not be the epicenter of street art, but the Renaissance satellite in downtown Providence showcases a fully tagged wall in its Temple Bar. Housed in an old Masonic Temple that was abandoned for 75 years before renovation began to turn it into a Renaissance property in 2007, the hotel tapped sought-after street artist Juner to pay homage to the building’s artistic past. (While it was abandoned, local graffiti artists used to tag the building.) Because street art is actually illegal in Providence, the covert project took place overnight while the building was empty. The hotel left the payment on the bar while Juner completed the piece before sunrise.

image Marmara Antalya The Marmara property in the resort city of Antalya approached the graffiti trend differently. Known for its innovative qualities – it’s the only revolving hotel in the world – the Marmara Antalya might be the one place where writing on its walls is not only condoned but encouraged. In one of the hotel’s shared spaces is a graffiti column that revelers can freely write on. The staff provides the necessary writing tools so that all comers and goers can leave a message or picture or phone number to commemorate their stay.

DFA Artist Planningtorock Shows Us Around Her Berlin

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When Janine Rostron enters the offices of DFA Records in New York’s West Village one afternoon in April, the Berlin-based Brit, who goes by the stage name Planningtorock, is without costume, makeup, or her most endearing new stage piece: a structurally imperfect and strangely haunting prosthetic nose. “We’re working on a new silicone version that has the perfect shape,” she says. “We first started making a clay nose, but it was really heavy and it took about two hours to prepare because we had to make a new one each time.”

The curvilinear proboscis has become a trademark of Planningtorock’s avant-garde live show, a whirlwind blend of theatrics and visual art that caught the eye of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who invited Rostron to join the group on their 2007 Sound of Silver tour. “It’s exciting to attach a visual aspect to what I’m dealing with in my music,” she says. “The prosthetic is quite conceptual. It’s like playing around with my gender a bit.”

This month, Planningtorock releases W, the follow-up to her 2006 debut, Have It All, and which she modestly describes as having “a bit more of a complicated arrangement” than her previous music. Carefully crafted over four years in her Berlin studio, the 12 tracks are littered with saxophones, synths, warped vocal melodies, and, on the song “Living It Out,” drums courtesy of LCD’s Pat Mahoney. Rostron, a producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, has created a spooky but euphoric body of work that she says is inspired by her time living in the German capital.

“Getting to Berlin was just an accident,” she says. “I visited, really liked it, and then months turned into years.” Those years have since turned into a decade. In 2010, along with Swedish musicians the Knife and Berlin-based DJ Mount Sims, she co-wrote the electro-opera Tomorrow, In a Year, a musical journey charting the work and personal experiences of Charles Darwin as he crafted On the Origin of Species. “Berlin is a very inspiring city to live in because I’ve met a lot of interesting artists and musicians here,” she says. “Being here has really freed me from who I thought I was, and has allowed me to focus on my music.”

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Zeiss Planetarium – Prenzlauer allee, 80 +49-3042-1845 On the outside it looks like what you would expect from a planetarium, but on the inside it’s very East German, kind of lo-fi and spacey while trying to replicate the universe. It’s amazing. There’s something really innocent about it, almost like a school project. It’s a daytime destination, but hardly anybody goes there. It’s sad because it really is a remnant of the former East that just sits there without many visitors. image

Musikinstrumenten-Museum – Ben-Gurion-Strasse, 1 +44-3025-4810 I like instrument museums all over the world—when I’m New York, for example, I’ll try to find one—but the one in Berlin is especially beautiful. They have some fantastic instruments, like these walking sticks from the 1600s that you open up and there’s an instrument inside. It’s really far-out stuff, inventive and strange. A lot of the pieces here are antiques. There’s another piece that’s a strange hybrid of two instruments—a violin with a trumpet attached so that it amplifies the sound of the violin. You couldn’t buy that kind of thing even if you wanted to.

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Schneiders Buero – Skalitzerstr. 135 a, +49-30-9789-4131 They sell remade analog gear and support a lot of people who are making their own oscillators or synthesizers—people who aren’t making mass- produced products or effects. You can find some really unique sounds here, but I try not to come too often because then I ending up spending all my money.

Tajikistan Tearoom – am Festungsgraben, 1 +49-302-041-112 I don’t have much social time or downtime because I’m usually busy with my music, but this is a cozy Russian teahouse near the Brandenburg Gate. It’s like a crazy secret—you go into this big, white building that feels like an embassy, then you go down a set of stairs and suddenly you’re in this really dark, intimate Russian teahouse. There are no chairs, just carpets. It’s incredibly cozy and they have all of the teas you could ever want.

Pulse Percussion Graefestr., 4 +49-306-233-794 This is an upscale place, which is strange because the street is so quiet. I used a lot of percussion on the new album, so this store came in handy. They sell Chinese drums and all kinds of stuff. I live in Kreuzberg, which is not in East Berlin—it’s actually West, but it was very close to the wall, and when the wall was up all of the punks and squatters lived there, so it’s famous to this day for having a strong music scene.

Photography by Goodyn Green.

Historic Bridge in Berlin Gets Boozy, Annoying

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There’s a new nightlife hotspot in Berlin where tourists are congregating in droves to socialize, booze, and immerse themselves in wild, late-night fun. But it’s not a bar or a club or one of the city’s ever-so-popular unadvertised, underground warehouse parties. In fact, it’s a locale where the nearby residents would really rather you didn’t go.

The Admiralsbruecke, a 19th-century bridge in the popular Kreuzberg neighborhood, has recently become the favored watering hole for after-hours revelers. Apparently, it was listed on a tourist website as “where the locals go.” Now its swelling with 20-something, brown-bagging tourists who are seeking the “real” Berlin, much to the disapproval of the denizens who actually live near the bridge. As you can imagine, the noise worsens as the night progresses and the drunken behavior—pissing in yards, breaking beer bottles, electronic music—gets unruly. Just ask Rinaldo Kellner who lives on a ground-floor apartment no less than a stone’s throw from the bridge. Says Kellner, “Ridiculous things happen, like last week, when four young drunk American guys thought it would be fun to climb the trees in front of my house and flop into my yard. Do I really want to have to witness that at two in the morning?” Perhaps the only person who might make a strong argument against Kellner’s view is Sedat Uyulgan, who sells the cold beer at a news kiosk nearby.

PETA Thinks Knut’s Life Will Be Worse If He’s Getting Laid

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Poor Knut the polar bear. First he was born in a zoo. Then he was rejected by his mother, left to be raised an orphan. Then he became a cuddly international sensation, the darling of children everywhere. He had his own song and stuffed animals and throngs of adoring fans. Then he got bigger and less cute and people stopped caring about him, sorta like what happened with Britney Spears. Then, his beloved zookeeper, Thomas Doerflein, who was essentially Knut’s surrogate father, died suddenly. And now, PETA wants to castrate him.

Last year, Knut was given his cousin, the lovely Giovanna, as a companion, but PETA doesn’t want them to be more than friends. PETA’s “zoo expert” says that if they mate, the genetic diversity of the polar bear population in Germany would be threatened and the two polar bears would be subject to a condition known as “incest depression.” Now, we’re not “zoo experts” at Blackbook, but let’s consider a few things here. The polar bear is not native to Germany, so when we’re talking about the “genetic diversity of the polar bear population in Germany,” we’re talking about a handful of polar bears in zoos. And, let’s be frank. Aren’t polar bears in zoos sort of screwed? Is their “genetic diversity” really a big concern? They’re not being bred to be grand champions so they can win Best of Show at Westminster. They don’t need to be able to run quickly along the arctic tundra. They have to sit in a cage and splash around and look dopey. Maybe their offspring would be a little slow, but that would probably help them hate their sad zoo bear life a little less. Secondly, “incest depression”? Really? Aren’t zoo animals already pretty damned depressed? Could allowing them to mate, perhaps one of the few natural things they’re got left, really make things any more of a bummer for them? We’re going to guess not.

Fashion Reich: Vintage Shopping in Berlin

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While New York Fashion Week will have everyone from magazine editors to bloggers on tenterhooks searching for the next big thing, the most style-savvy fashionistas will be taking notes and packing their bags to head to the European hub of vintage shopping. When it comes to vintage style, no one does it better than Berliners. The quirky chic inherent to the Berlin street style ranges from the plethora of vintage stores to treasures troves of utilitarian design classics from East Germany’s socialist past. And with so many designers set to reference fashions from the 80s and 90s in their collections, the wallet-friendly approach that Berlin offers to vintage style is more than worth the cost of a flight.

Berlin vintage is unique as it encapsulates an era quite unknown to the rest of the world. While mods, rockers, hippies, disco dancers and punks came and went, East Germans were living quite literally separated from the rest of the world. In the bubble of Berlin, a strange fashion time warp occurred, from which knitted shirts, oversized leather jackets, twee tea dresses and socialist-friendly fur emerged. Berliners still embrace this unique style, sourced a second time around from the hundreds of vintage stores in the city. If you have the time and inclination to rummage, you can pick up vintage gems for a steal. Garage, situated in Schöneberg (Berlin’s liveliest gay district) sells clothes by the kilo. While a fair amount of the t-shirts, jeans and jumpers can be classified as second hand rather than pure vintage, there are DDR dresses, military headgear, leather coats and furs in abundance.

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Humana, another spot for dedicated rummagers, is a second-hand store to rival all others. Here one can find Escada blazers for 50 euro, Peter Pan collared shirts embroidered with edelweiss and high waisted, wool pleat skirts, as well as a superb collection of 80s leather jackets. Humana has an impressive selection of men’s fare, and it’s the spiritual home of the illustrious knitted polo shirt (the sight of which upon one of Berlin’s angular Aryans would have The Sartorialist scrambling for his camera). In Prenzlauer Berg, Stiefelkombinat-Berlin sits unobtrusively on Eberswelder Straße, its exterior often flanked with old school East German leather hold-alls. Inside the shop, the cramped front room gives way to a series of alcoves constructed from clothes rails and metal stacks. Here we find the real stars of the show: The Shoes. Hundreds, no, thousands of pairs of shoes are on every conceivable surface. Lined up on the floor, stacked on shelves, even hanging in uniform rows that seem to grow up the walls. At the front of the store, amongst a plethora of sunglasses and scarves, an in house cobbler ensures that every pair of shoes to go on sale at Steifelkombinat, does so in pristine condition.

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Just a few minutes away is the incredible Lunettes Brillenagentur, a glossy, well-lit shop that stocks hundreds of sunglasses and eyeglass frames. The specs, ranging from original 1900s frames to modern classics (Hello Clubmasters) are available for purchase or, get this, hire.

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My favorite of all the vintage haunts in Berlin is found at the back of a picturesque mews in Mitte. Sterling Gold stocks hundreds of dresses, from cocktail to black tie, most of which come from the 1940s to the 1980s. The selection is vast, the dresses sublime, and the incredibly accommodating staff will even tailor your chosen dress to fit you just right. It’s no wonder that Berliners are so effortlessly chic. It is their inherent sense of style that sets them apart — their refusal to submit wholeheartedly to fashion’s fickle whims. As Yves Saint Laurent said, “Fashions fade. Style is eternal.” And in Berlin, don’t they know it.