Just got back from an intense, albeit inspiring three day art focused trip to Germany where I stayed at one serioulsy cheap Berlin hotel. Of all the things I saw during the many hours I spent walking around Berlin, for some odd reason, the hotel Sickinger Hof stands out like a sore thumb. Let me explain…
As much as I enjoy guesting swanky boutique hotels with their thoughtfully decorated rooms and stylish, loungable public spaces, once in a while, I’ll actively choose to stay at a real dump. I do this mostly so I’ll appreciate my humble beginnings – and be reminded of when I spent months on end backpacking around Europe, the US and across Southeast Asia and couldn’t care less about where I slept – as long as the room rate didn’t exceed my frugally planned budget.
If I had to guess, I would wager that I’ve stayed in 350 different hotels, motels, guest houses and B & Bs around the world. I’ve spent a night in a rat infested dorm room in Penang (Malaysia), at a rundown, dustbin of a motel in the middle of Death Valley(Mojave, California) and, rented rooms with paper thin walls and crusty mattresses in one of Khao San Road’s (Bangkok. Thailand) many cheap guesthouses.
On a recent trip to Berlin, my third ever visit to the German capital, I opted to stay at one of the city’s cheapest hotels – a bare bones, bottom of the barrel place called the Sickinger Hof.
Here’s my take.
The Sickinger Hof won’t please most people. The opposite is much more likely. The hotel is located on the corner of a really noisy intersection, just off a highway, a huge bus terminal and a busy train station in one of Berlin’s most boring neighborhoods. Those are some pretty tough environmental issues to counter, I know. But given the circumstances, one would therefore think that a hotel in that location would at least try do something to offset the less-than-pleasant miljeu.
The drab building where the Sickinger Hof is located is so nondescript, that if you didn’t see the hotel sign above the entrance, you would easily think it was a small storage facility, an old laundromat or maybe a 24hr convenience store in a part of town you don’t want to be caught in after nightfall.
The hotel’s interior decor – from the dark, dreary reception and dining area to the stairway’s flimsy carpets, red drapes and robust pinewood furniture, made it clear to me that the owner of the Sickinger Hof either has a complete lack of taste. or, even worse, zero interest in creating anything resembling an atmosphere that is pleasing to look at – let alone be a guest in.
I had booked a room with a double bed and was therefore disappointed when I opened my door and saw only two twin beds next to each other.To remedy what I hoped was an honest error, I immediately returned to the reception and asked for the room I had reserved online. Surprisingly, the owner actually went ballistic on me – I mean, clearly visually upset for me bringing this up with him. And when I pointed out the details of my booking, he simply admitted that the hotel didn’t have anything but single beds. To be fair, though, he did offer to come up to my room and push the twin beds together – as of that would of instantly solved my little problem. Realizing there wasn’t much I could do about the situation, I schlepped my bag back up to my room, knowing I would survive and possibly live to write about the ordeal.
Though really small (circa 8 sqm), room 16 was reasonably bright but I’d be generous to claim that the ensuite bathroom was anything but comically tiny. You know those little plastic rectangular soaps packed in clear plastic? Well, at the Sickinger Hof you got two them! It’s probably just me, but each time I opened one the packages with my teeth, I inadvertently bit into a soap.
On a more serious note, what turned out to be an inexcusable issue with my room was the unmistakable stench of old nicotine from the walls, drapes and mattresses. The hotel must of had many years of cigarr and cigarette smoking guests in room 16. Or, maybe the owner just hadn’t bothered to clean the walls properly before painting over them. I didn’t bother to complain about this, though. What would be the point, right?
I stayed at the Sickinger Hof for three balmy days in June (2018) and the only way to keep cool after sunset, was to leave the window ajar all night and just deal with the amount of noise from the passing trains, the exhaust fumes coming from the highway below and the reeking walls inside.
The Sickinger Hof’s signature breakfast is extremely basic, even for German standards; two bread rolls, a thermos of coffee, a tall glass of concentrated. sugary orange juice, a plate with industrial sliced cheese and salami, a cold boiled egg and a bowl filled with small packs of jams, butter and honey. Nothing to write home about there, either. The coffee was pretty good, though.
The staff at this hotel were really friendly and helpful. That said, they seemed tired and not particularly happy with their work. Which is understandable. It’s not like the owners seem to have any ambitions whatsoever of improving their hotel. And the likelihood management would hire an external consultant for an analysis and then make suggestions of how to increase the level of hospitality at the Sickinger Hof is, well, highly unlikely.
Honestly, the only thing Sickinger Hof has going for it is the low room rate. There is just no other reason to stay there. No, I don’t regret my three nights. It was certainly interesting to see what €70/night will get you in a cheap Berlin hotel. Now I know.