Kia Sorento: This wonderful car is my loyal companion for my upcoming journey. On a journey of five to six hours comfort is key. Seeing as I am a 6’4” feet (1,93 metres) giant, head and leg space is essential. I don’t want to arrive at my destination with cramped and aching limbs. Apart from that, getting to my destination quickly, but even more so safely, is the top priority.
Next point; I also need lots of space for my luggage. Taking these ‘musts’ into account the new top model Kia Sorento 200 PS is right up my ‘street’. The latest version has been on the market since March 2015 and so the trip to the Ritz Carlton is a good test. I am looking forward to fast-paced motorway driving, comfy country road tours, site seeing in the capital and two nights at the noble Ritz.
The Kia takes me by surprise. To start off with, its sheer size! I have rarely had so much space in a car as I have now in this huge white automobile. This third generation car from the Sorento collection has been extended from the previous models by no less than 10 centimetres to 4,78 metres and has grown by 15 millimetres in height. Kia’s chief designer Peter Schreyer (formally at Audio and Volkswagen) has given the new model a dynamic facelift, making the car look both sleek, powerful and elegant.
The sense of space is overwhelming. The windscreen feels ginormous, letting in a lot of light into the inside of the car. The high quality black synthetic dashboard has highly aesthetic curved stitching, giving the cockpit an elegant leather-look. The large multimedia display and the air jets are chrome framed and the instruments, switches and buttons handle well and are also of a high quality. The look and feel is convincing.
And off we go!
Seatbelt? Check; ignition? Check; instruments? Double Check. The Kia Sorento greets me with a short melody and its display lets me know that its system run-through has been successful. So far, so good. The navigation system is easy to use and tells me I have 550 kilometres (343 miles) and roughly 5 hours of driving ahead of me. As I drive off, the doors lock automatically with a ‘click’. The on-board computer lets me know when it’s economically best to change gears and getting used to the sixth gear is easy. Later on, the navigation system kindly reminds me of delays and traffic obstructions, recommending alternative routes. Advice, which I would definitely recommend everyone take, saving time and nerves. No stress, no fuss.
Through Frankfurt city and on to the A5, A4 and A9 motorway direction Berlin. The Kia’s reliable and environmentally friendly start-stop function not only reduces the diesel’s exhaust emission at the red light but also its noise emission as the stop-and-go function takes over. Also impressive is the Kia’s horsepower on the motorway. The two tonne Kia Sorento only needs 10 seconds to get from 0-100 km/h (0-62 m/h) and has well over 160km/h (99 m/h) torque for overtaking. Where other cars would fail to get going, you are literally magnetised to your seat as the tempo is upped to a top speed of 160 to 200 km/h (99 to 124 m/h). During which, the motor is pleasingly quiet and the Sorento feels secure and steady on the road, even at top speeds. The Kia almost glides over the motorway, the steering wheel does not judder and the breaks are reliable and react quickly. Impressive, and it’s surprisingly noiseless in the car, even at 200 km/h (124 m/h).
The navigation system is calling. A lorry has broken down on the road ahead and it suggests an alternative route. Wonderful! I am led off the motorway and driven conveniently along country roads. I discover fields of wild flowers and bright yellow canola along the way.
The white Kia is a nice contrast to the green and yellow of the countryside. The Sorento does a good job on the small bumpy roads. Good suspension and chassis and comfortable seats. Occasionally I get a glimpse of the avoided traffic jam as I cut across parts of the A4 motorway, and a feeling of immense satisfaction overcomes me at not being one of those in the gridlock. An hour later I am back on the A4 and I have the green light direction Berlin. The Ritz Carlton is calling!
Thanks to the high SUV seat position in the Kia, it enabled me a superb view of the roads on the motorway as well as in the city. The seat itself felt like a wellness session for legs and back. It isn’t often that I feel so relaxed arriving at my destination.
And right on cue at the Ritz at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin’s most famous doorman Terry Green welcomes me most warmly. I give him my car key and reliable as always, he settles the car into its slot in the underground car park and lets the luggage be taken up to my room. Only a mere hint will ensure that the car is parked back around the front of the hotel. I love this service.
The Kia Sorento infront The Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Potsdamer Platz
The Ritz belongs to one of the noblest hotel addresses in Germany. Last December 2014 the 5-star superior hotel was presented with the ‘Best Luxury Hotel in Germany Award’. So even more reason to put a name to a highly prestigious award and spend some quality time there.
For those who value luxury, first-rate service and an elegant ambience you will feel right at home here. And for those of you who would like to enjoy those comforts within the historical settings of a grand hotel, encompassing recent German history, then staying at the Ritz Carlton in Berlin will be exactly what you are looking for. The hotel is situated in the new centre of Berlin, a place with an intriguing past: The Potsdamer Platz.
The Ritz Carlton in Berlin, open since 2004 is part of the Beisheim Centre: A huge 19 floor and 70 metre high real estate complex including the Hotel Marriott International, two office buildings and the exclusive Tower and Parkside Apartments. The Beisheim Centre’s concept: Living with a 5-star- plus hotel service. Which means that the apartment tenants who live above and next to the hotel can take full advantage of the excellent services and infrastructure provided by the hotel.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel (middle) at Potsdamer Platz
The facade of the hotel reminds me of the Art Deco high-rise buildings of New York and Chicago in the Roaring Twenties. Its interior design is in the classic style of a grand hotel. The lobby stretches over two floors and guests are received by a magnificent marble staircase, upon which melodic tunes from a very grand piano and in comparison, a tiny pianist, can be heard every afternoon.
On the ground floor, passing the reception on your right and the nearby lift area, you will reach the Tea Lounge. A paradise for tea-lovers where traditional afternoon tea is served between 2-6pm. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of reception and accompanied by the subtle piano music from above, no less than 40 different types of tea are presented here by professional tea experts. You can choose English or French style of serving. For the indecisive of you, I would highly recommend to guide your nose to the ‘Schnupper Schachteln‘, literally translated as the sniff -boxes. A selection of wooden caskets whose scent knocks you for six in delicious aroma. In such a case a glass of champagne or a brandy is the perfect digestif depending if you have ordered the ladies or the gentleman’s tea.
And regarding gentlemen, turning left behind the marble staircase and directly next to the tea lounge is the Curtain Club. A hotel bar in the style of a British gentleman’s club. Every evening from 6pm, and accompanied by the chimes of a Big-Ben-like clock, the heavy curtain is opened by a traditional Beefeater (Tower of London guard); hence the name of the bar. This is Arnd Heissen’s territory. The chief barman here and whose bar was elected the ‘Best Hotel Bar’ at the renowned Mixology Bar Awards.
The Curtain Club Bar
The Curtain Club is one of the hotel’s highlights. Heavy leather chairs on thick carpets, low-key lighting, excellent service, live music after 9pm, Wednesday to Saturday and an inexhaustible choice of cocktails and champagnes. The icing on the cake is Heissen’s cocktail-art of fragrance cocktails. Extravagant drinks mixed like perfumes. Cocktails with impressive aromas from flowers, teas, herbs and spices. Creations with names like Hypnose, Herba Fresca or Aqua di Gioia. These cocktails cannot be missed. And because of the success of Heissen’s creations there is a second bar, Fragrances which opened in 2014. Fragrances is the first bar which has devoted its cocktail art to the world of perfumes.
Armani Cocktail at the Fragrances Bar
All 303 rooms and suites of The Ritz Carlton in Berlin are excellently equipped. Rooms start at 40 square metres and the suites are up to 200 square metres. All rooms have touchscreen technology, used for the light switch, a Do-not-Disturb sign or room service for example. Besides being awarded ‘Germany’s Best Luxury Hotel’, the hotel was honoured with the title ‘Germany’s Leading Business Hotel’ at the World Travel Awards in Athens. The Oscars of the travel industry, you could say. And in 2013 the hotel was honoured with the Reader’s Choice Award as ‘Northern Europe’s Best Hotel’ by the US edition of Conde Nast’s Traveler Magazine.
But for me it wasn’t just about the hotel itself, but the combination of facilities, service, comfort and location. The Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the other historical sites are all within walking distance. 10 minutes is all you need to reach the Holocaust Memorial. Many embassies and museums are nearby, the Martin-Gropius Bau isn’t even 10 minutes away and to Checkpoint Charlie, 15 minutes. Berlin’s newest and biggest shopping centre, the Mall of Berlin is only a stone’s throw away at Leipziger Platz. And not forgetting, the historical Potsdamer Platz is on your front doorstep.
This is the cities old new centre; the heart of Berlin. A perfect location for such a wonderful hotel and ideal to see all the sites.
You can reach many of the tourist spots on foot or using the S-Bahn train. But unfortunately, seeing that the trains were striking, I took the initiative and set out in my Kia Sorento. I visited several places including the Brandenburg Gate situated at the Pariser Platz and wonderfully illuminated at night. Opposite is the Chancellery and from the main entrance of the Paul Loebe House, belonging to the Bundestag, a view of Merkel’s Control Centre can be seen.
The Kia Sorento infront of Brandenburger Tor
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Visiting the Bundestag (Reichstag)
If you drive along the Unter den Linden Boulevard in the direction of the Alexanderplatz, you will get to the construction site of the Berlin Palace at the historical Schloßplatz. The former ‘Palace of the Republic’ stood here before the war and during the GDR. Now the Humboldt Forum is being built here. The sheer size is incredible and the Kia looks miniscule in comparison.
At the buidling site of Humboldt Forum (former Berlin Castle)
Only a few minutes from the ‘Alex’, on an island on the Spree River is the Museumsinsel or Museum Island; a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. The group of buildings include the Pergamon Museum, the Old National Gallery, the New and Old Museum and the Bode Museum:
Returning in the direction of Potsdamer Platz, I would highly recommend visiting the Gendarmenmarkt with its concert house on the left and the German and French Cathedral on the right:
After three days and two nights in the capital my journey continues. This time to Hamburg, where a very different hotel is waiting for me. Doorman Terry Green drives the Kia to the front of the hotel and then helps me load my photo equipment, tripods and various cases into the SUV. I have never experienced so much luggage space in a car before. The back seats can be easily folded down to allow for additional storage. In other words, a whole extra level and two square metres of storage space – 1.732 litres of luggage. That’s more than in a VW Touareg!
Bye bye Ritz-Carlton!
Ignition on, the 200 PS diesel engine purrs, my on-board computer has checked in and my navigation system tells me that I need 290 km (180 miles) to my destination or two hours and 40 minutes; without delays.
A last look in my rear view mirror at my favourite Berlin hotel, the Ritz Carlton at Potsdamer Platz and off we go. Hamburg is calling.
Many thanks to Bianca Demsa for the translation!!
The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin
Potsdamer Platz 3
Phone: +49 (0) 30 33 7777
Places I visited with the Kia Sorento:
— Peter von Stamm (@petervonstamm) 14. Juli 2015