The Eurofurence Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

News:

Eurofurence 25 "Fractures in Time" - Estrel Hotel Berlin, August 14-18, 2019Follow eurofurence on Twitter

Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: My Andel's Vienna House experience from 2017  (Read 301 times)

VulpesRex

  • Regular Member
  • Country: us
  • Offline Offline
  • Gender: Male
  • Posts: 163
My Andel's Vienna House experience from 2017
« on: 07.08.2018, 09:12:01 »

Greetings, everyfur!

   Last year I failed to reserve a room at the Estrel Hotel, and also failed to make the cut on the waiting list; I gave the details of that sad story in a message on the "Feedback" forum (thread labelled "A Kind Word..."), but finished with the declaration that I was going to have fun at EF 23, regardless of where I wound up staying.  So I was bold and adventurous, and elected to stay at Andel's Vienna Haus, which is a few S-Bahn stations away, on Landsberger Allee.

   This is my report on what that experience was like - just in case the reader still hasn't secured a room at the Estrel (or anywhere else at the moment) - and may have been daunted by the distance and other unknowns.

********

   First of all - getting to this hotel was no trouble for me; I was travelling into Berlin via train, as is my custom, and disembarked from the Frankfurt-Berlin ICE at the Sudkreutz bahnhof, which has the upper platform dedicated to the S-Bahn and is part of the "Ring-Bahn" which circles the city.  Train travellers know that the Sonnen Allee (should that be one word?) Bhf is just about 150M from the Estrel, and is only the 4th stop from the SudKreutz Bhf on the S-42 (remember, S-41 clockwise, S-42 counterclockwise).  Perhaps 10 minutes on a busy day.

   Well, the Landsberger Allee station is just the 5th stop beyond Sonnen Allee, and takes about 12 to 15 minutes typical; on a busy, hot summer Saturday (and we had one last year), the system might slow down to stretch that out to 22 minutes...and in my case, I hadn't looked at the destination sign on the front of the train as it came into Landsberger, and so didn't realize that it would end its journey at the Treptower park station, where people had to get off and wait for the next train; my bad!  MOST of the S-41/S-42 Ring Bahn trains will travel directly through from SonnenAllee and LandsbergerAllee without requiring a train change.

   OK, easy enough - just remember that whether you go to Andel's or to Estrel, you get off at the fifth stop.  While the Sonnen Allee platform is elevated above street level, the Landsberge rAllee platform is in an open cut below street level.  It is covered to provide some shelter from rain or hot sun, and has a kiosk where a vendor sells cold drinks, snacks, newspapers, tobacco products, and at the the southern end of the platform is the overpass which is Landsberger Allee.  There are multiple sets of stairsleading up to the street; the first set to go up to Lansberger Allee west-bound, the middle set go to the Tram - a bit more about that later - and the furthest set onto the east-bound side of Landsberger Allee.  These are the ones you want if You are staying at Vienna House.  At the top of the stairs, the big building just on your right is the hotel.

   It is a rather LARGE hotel - and the entrance is towards the end of the block, but before you reach the street corner - a distance of perhaps 50 meters or so.  Pedestrian entrance is on the street front; if you are driving into Berlin, the hotel parking entrance is around the corner, on the east end of the building.

   As you walk in from the Landsberger entrance, the lobby expands before you; it is spacious, but doesn't have the feel of Volume which the Estrel has, due to the attached atrium/food court there.  The reception desk is in front of you, against a wall with windows looking up at the central open space.  The decor is minimalist modern.  The ceiling gives way to an atrium space extending up perhaps 3 floors or so, with a curved stairway on the left leading to the breakfast hall and other accommodations (there is a "Wine Cellar" dining room, among other things); the waiting area or Foyer between the entrance and the reception desk is meant to look and feel like a home study or library, and has a cozy feel to it with couches and bookshelves and a fireplace, but is much bigger then the equivalent area at the Estrel.  There is a desk (rather than a counter) for the hotel concierge on the right, as well as a (very) small gift shop, and an ATM -a "Geldautomat" I think is the german name for it - in a niche next to the gift shop.  Behind the  concierge desk is a bank of elevators to take you up to the rooms, and beyond that is Event Space, various sized rooms and halls for presentations, seminars, parties, also a weight room/spa.

   The layout of the building is in the manner of a walled inner-courtyard or quadrangle, so rooms either face outward towards the streets and the city, or inward towards this open space.  This space is not accessible to the public, it provides open access to the vents and mechanics of the building's garage and environmental equipment.  Most of the space which is visible seems to be covered with soil and natural long-stemmed grasses - sort of like a wheat field, or at least as much of it as I could see from my bedroom window.

   This is a Modern hotel; it was built out in the mid-2000's or so, and the appliances and fixtures and electrics and room environmental controls all work quite well.  The rooms are also quiet, but they are appointed in sort of the same fashion as the rooms in the Estrel - perhaps a notch nicer.  Most of the decoration is black, white, and chrome, with Yellow and Black as the prime color asset for the cassock, and perhaps pink for the throw blanket on the bed.  The room had a nice flatscreen TV, digital TV reception, and a desk phone upon a desk; the storage nook/wardrobe had a personal safe and a refrigerator set up as a mini-bar...in which I stashed a couple bottles of Coca-Cola and some mineralwasser, purchased at the Aldi just around the corner past the petrol station (which also sold such things).

   ...As to ICE - as with most German hotels, there is not a publicly-accessible ice dispensing machine, however a simple request at the reception desk always got me a plastic bag of ice, suitable for my needs (I travel with one of those cheap, collapsible "coolers" for keeping canned beverages cold; and since I have NEVER owned one of these which was totally leak-proof, I usually carry a supply of 1-gallon sized sealable freezer bags, which I will half-fill with ice to cover my cans, rather than just dumping the ice over them.  Also lets me keep the ice sanitary for putting in the drinking glasses)...

   The bathroom - badenzimmer - was perhaps the most interesting thing about my room.  Large ceramic tiles on the floor, both the toilette and the shower in separate, individual glass-walled enclosures - and a separate bathtub, with its own shower-wand and a mirror for the long wall.  The "sink" consisted of a large, heavy ceramic bowl, like a hemispheric basin, mounted ON TOP of the counter instead of being set within it.  The ammenities - shampoo, body wash, handsoap - were set on a shelf above the splashboard, and the normal mirror space had a frosted glass wall with a mirrored surface set in the middle of it, like a picture within a frosted glass frame.  The other side of this wall is the sleeping portion of the room, so this is in fact a frosted window.  Leaving the light on at night provides substantial "nightlight" illumination in the room, and a light in the room allows one to see what one is doing without turning on the light in the bathroom.  In the daytime, with the curtains open, enough light comes in through this frosted glass to allow you to do anything except perhaps shave or apply makeup.  This is an energy-saving feature of the room, but there are flourescent lamps along each side of the mirror/frosted window, and ceiling-set mini-floods which provide ample light if you prefer or need that.

   And Hot Water was always available whenever I needed it; no wait for the boilers to struggle against the entire hotel to provide enough hot water for a nice long shower.

   temperature controls were simple and worked quite well; I was able to chill the room down after a long hot afternoon of museum-visiting, rather quickly.

   Bed was quite comfortable.  The "comfy chair"?  Not so much, but I wasn't planning to sleep on that.

   Many hotels have a simple card which requests guests to consider rehanging towels/bath linens for re-use, rather than having the housekeeping staff replace them with fresh ones -to cut down on water consumption and power, a further attempt to make the hotel more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.  Andel's does one better - set a small card outside on your door, along with a small fabric sack, and if you have followed the request, you receive a small "bribe" for your efforts.  Nothing fancy, something like an apple or an orange, or a couple of candies.

   During my stay, the hotel - did I mention that this is also an event space/convention center of sorts? - was not filled to capacity.  As a result I had no trouble nor long wait to access any elevators, and my room was QUIET.  There were a few corporate training seminars hosted there, and a group or two of bus-transported tour groups, but all in all I didn't feel the place was crowded in the least.

   ...Except at Breakfast.  Breakfast comes with the room price - at least the price I agreed to - and is served in a large breakfast hall on the second level.  Climb the stairway off to the left of Registration (or take the elevator from your room floor to the second level), display your room card to the person at the door (or simply tell her your room number, I did that twice) and walk in.  There are counters set up with the traditional breakfast buffet items, including scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, bacon, sausages of the Nurnburger style, trays of thin-sliced meats and cheese, pickled fish, yoghurt, muslix, and other dry cereals, milk, fruit juices, and sparkling mineral water...Oh, and coffee and tea, of course.  There is a large basket of various rolls, and waffle-bread and bretzel buns, also whole loaves to carve off slices for toast or to spread butter or nutella, and trays with fresh fruit slices and strawberries.

   Overall, I would say that the breakfast is on a par with what the Estrel serves up, and the kitchen staff are constantly scurrying in with fresh trays of both hot and cold foods so there is little wait.  The two things which I did miss were the small meatballs which the Estrel claims are a Berlin specialty, and perhaps BratKartoffeln - the fried breakfast potatoes mixed with bacon and onion - which I don't recall the Estrel as serving, either.  Sit down and eat your fill!  Room size perhaps seats 200 at a time, at tables and booths, but I never got a sense that the room was filled.  Food arrayed along a counter and a serving "island", rather than the multiple set-ups/buffet tables which the Estrel uses.

   Besides the breakfast hall, there are at least two other dining facilities within the hotel - possibly 3, as I didn't adequately explore all of the dining options, although I'm sure that the reception staff would have been happy to provide me with floor and room numbers, and hours-of-service.  There is a Sky-lounge and bar at the top of the hotel, with a panoramic view of Berlin at night.  I did not visit this, as I had most of my non-breakfast meals either at the EstrelStube, or at small bistros or DonnerKebab stands in Neukoln or downtown.  I did have a meal at MAVERICK'S, which is a "California Surfer"-themed restaurant on the ground floor, meant to look like a Malibu or Santa Monica diner, but just a tad too classy to pull off that illusion.  The sandwiches I had there were good, but not typical beachcomber or surfer fare; and like most hotel food, a bit on the pricey side...

   ...(this was an important consideration for me, as I had made a major mistake in my preparations for the trip: I informed my bank that I would be travelling out-of-country, but I did it the day before my journey started - a MAJOR error on my part.  My ATM card was refused the moment I arrived in Frankfurt, and I needed the magic of the Andel's concierge - who knew someone who knew someone at the Frankfurt branch of Bank of America - to get a "fix" worked out.  NO THANKS TO DeutscheBank, who are supposed to be partners with BofA...oddly enough, I happen to own stock in both banks)...

   IF you happen to stay at Andel's, and miss the serving hours at their restaurants, take note that there is a BURGER KING on the opposing corner from the hotel - so if you are desperate (or just want to indulge a taste for an American-Style "Fast Food" burger), there is that.

*********

   I mentioned the closeness of the S-Bahn platform to the hotel - much closer than the Estrel is to the Sonnen Allee platform - and mentioned just in passing the presence of a tram platform, in the middle of the street, directly across from the entrance of the hotel.  This is a wonderful link to the core of Downtown Berlin.  Literally at your doorstep - you just walk out the door, go to the corner, and cross to the middle of the boulevard - and you are at the end of the Tram platform.  There are two plaforms actually, with dual tracks running between them, so it is important to know which direction you wish to head, so that you are on the proper platform to go the way you wish to travel.

   Some of these tram stops are dual-track platforms, usually located just at or before a branch of the line, so if you wish to travel on one of the branches - or wish to avoid travel along one of the branches - you would change trams at these major stops.  At other locations - such as in the middle of Alexanderplatz - there is just the one track in the middle of the street or square.  At the major stops there are timetables showing which trains pass by and what their end destinations are, and a map to show where any particular train is going, and an electronic signboard showing trams arriving or about to arrive, and a tram number and destination displayed above the driver on the front of the tram, so with a little study you can find your route to practically anywhere - for major destinations, there is usually a tram every 15 minutes or so going your way, so don't sweat missing one, or getting on the wrong one - you can get off, and take the next tram going back the way you came, and continue your journey from where you strayed.

   You need a ticket to ride the tram.  IF you purchased a multiple-day ticket to use the S-Bahn between Andel's and the Estrel, don't worry - the same ticket is good for the tram.  There is no turnstile or conductor to show the ticket to - but there are ticket inspectors, special police who will board random trains and trams and can demand to see your ticket.  If you cannot present one, there is a hefty fine.

   At the S-Bahn, tickets can be bought from vending machines.  The ticket needs to be validated - stamped with a date, time, and location where and when it was validated - to be a valid ticket.  On the S-Bahn and U-Bahn (subway) platforms, there is usually a small red box with a slot in it, mounted to a pole, either within two-arms length of the ticket vending machine, or sitting at the top of the escalator leading down to the platform, prominently marked (at a busy station you will see people putting their ticket into the box and hear it stamped, as they make their way onto the escalator.  You only need to do this Once, as it marks the beginning of the period (or distance) your ticket is good for.

   Getting back to the tram - the ticket validator is inside the tram itself, a big yellow box mounted to a support railing.

   Myself?   I usually purchase a "Berlin WelcomeCard", which consists of a travel pass, guidebook showing where discounts are available for various goods and services, and a map.  The ticket states how many days it is good for, and can be used for discounted or free admission to various museums, as well as discounts for busses, tours, and restaurant dining.  I've bought mine from the conceirge at either Andel's or the Estrel, and they are usually available at the tourism offices throughout the city.  I get it validated the first time I travel with it.  NOTE:  for discounts, a "card" consists of both the travel pass AND the WelcomeCard booklet; both must be presented or displayed when ordering to claim your discount.

   ...(I arrived in Berlin on Sunday afternoon before the convention; I spent both Monday and Tuesday playing tourist, and on Tuesday took the tram in to see the Aegyptian Museum on Museum Island; I wanted to see the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti.  Getting off the tram and walking to the museum, I saw two long lines of people formed to buy tickets to get into either the Aegyptian, or the Museum of Art.  I spent twenty minutes in that line, and looked to spend another 45 minutes to an hour at the rate it was moving, when I decided to ask the young couple in front of me to hold my place, and walked across the square to ask the admissions guard at the door if I had been in the proper line to buy an addmission ticket for the Aegyptian - and showed him my travel pass.  He took one glance at it, smiled, and said "No need to wait in line or buy another - your WelcomeCard travel pass is good for full admission!"  And he waved me right in the door)...

   Public Transportation - the S-Bahn, U-Bahn and street tram - are heavily used by the People of Berlin.  The S-Bahn cars are older, and are not air-conditioned, except for cross-ventilation from windows on opposite sides of the cars.  During busy PEAK hours, you will probably find standing-room-only (for which there are overhead straps and railings to grab onto), shared with bicycles and pet dogs.  It requires a sense of Patience - and a certain Tolerance - to take advantage of these transports.  But hundreds of thousands of Berliners do rely on them each day: Businessmen, Students, Government workers, Tourists, Shoppers, Pensioners, and just plain volk loafing about on hot summer days.  Mostly they mind their own business, and do not intrude upon the thoughts of their fellow passengers (of course there is always the exception, the person with a radio or holding a loud phone conversation - but they can be tolerated for the short time you will be in their company). The opportunities that such a cheap and easy means of transport provides to you makes the choice for using it a no-brainer, enabling you to see and do things beyond just our convention, beyond our event hotel.

**********

   ...So when I once again failed to secure a room at the Estrel, I had no hesitancy about booking a room at Andel's, "way out" on Landsberger Allee, just 5 station stops away.  If you too failed to get that Estrel room, and may be considering selling your convention ticket because of it, please consider joining us at Andel's Vienna House.  If you have a sense of Adventure, I think that you will be able to overlook the minor inconvenience of the extra travel - and get a chance to explore this amazing 670-year-old city, where so much history - both ancient and modern - has been made.

PS - Don't forget!  EF has made some sort of arrangements for a shuttle service for when the S-Bahn isn't running, during the wee hours of each day during the business week - extending your time to party!


      NOTE:  Edited for spelling and grammar (at least what I spotted)...7/8/2018

2nd NOTE:  Edited the actual name of the "Berlin WelcomeCard".  Despite having three of these things in front of me for 2015,
                2016 and 2017, I was calling it something else.  Further information about the visitor's guest card can be found at
                visitBerlin.com (https//www.visitberlin.de/en for the english page) midway down the page.  I feel like a fool...8/8/2018

« Last Edit: 08.08.2018, 03:38:15 by VulpesRex »
Logged
Vulpine fortunes are precarious; people wish either to build monuments to us - or to hang us.
Pages: [1]   Go Up