Berlin can be a cold and dark city in wintertime, so what better way to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital than a weekend escape to the Ostsee. A road trip is the order of the day and the weapon of choice a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 CDI Shooting Brake. The Shooting Brake being the latest trend by automotive manufacturers to bridge the gap between practical family cars and sport-derived coupe’s. As a result, on paper at least, this offering from Mercedes-Benz appears to tick a lot of boxes; practical, sporty and efficient, all whilst maintaining the “Mercedes” level of luxury the brand has become renowned for.
Our destination is the fabulous Grand Hotel located in the seaside resort of Heiligendamm. The hotel is of historic significance due to the fact that it is the oldest seaside spa in continental Europe and has, more recently played host to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and President Bush during the 33rd G8 Summit. Opulent is an understatement for this lavish and immaculate example of 5 star luxury accommodation.
We arrive at Berlin Mercedes-Welt early on a rather rare sunny winter morning. The heated multi-adjustable comfort seats of the CLS awaited us, welcoming the occupants to begin the journey in comfort and style. A short drive around this ever-changing metropolis allows us to take in the dramatic recent history that this city has endured. The bullet-riddled facades of un-renovated buildings and the stark remains of the Berlin Wall dotted throughout the city are a stark contrast to the modern high-rises and glimmering reflections of the monolithic glass constructions in Potsdamer Platz. Its remarkable to experience modern day Berlin when, not so long ago it was a city on its knees, bombed to a state of non-recognition.
Modern day Berlin is an energetic, exciting and culturally diverse capital. It has a thriving cafe culture during the day which can be enjoyed in the quaint streets of Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Mitte whilst also playing home to some of the most intense and eclectic nightlife around. It is fast becoming the startup capital of Europe and is attracting creative talent from around the world with its quirky charm and unique trashy atmosphere.
After a short drive exploring this fascinating city we head north through Brandenburg, direction Rostock. Our drive through Brandenburg takes us through wonderful tree-lined country roads that seem to perfectly suit the “Grand Touring” nature of the CLS. Overtaking manoeuvres are performed effortlessly due to the 620Nm of low down grunt and the 7 speed gearbox ensures stress free and efficient long-distance travel. After a few hours of comfortable high-speed cruising on the A19 Autobahn we are welcomed by the white-washed facade of the prestigious Grand Hotel Heiligendamm.
With numerous staff on hand to ensure the transition from vehicle to room runs as smoothly as possible, first impressions are good. We are personally escorted to our rooms and it is apparent from the first luxuriously cushioned step upon the thick carpet lining the room, that this is no ordinary hotel. Some more lavish indulgences include multiple flat-screen televisions, a king-size bed and a marble-clad bathroom (with underfloor heating of-course).
Dinner reservations await us at the elegant Kurhaus Restaurant. The renowned head chef Steffen Duckhorn prepares us a regional dish which consists of exquisitely presented pan-fried Venison accompanied by potato dumplings and pepper-sauce. The dinner is accompanied by a pianist reciting Mozart – Sonata 10, all together forming an extremely memorable dining experience and one which is often attempted but rarely achieved by other high-class restaurants.
After a long drive (and consuming of lavishly prepared cuisine), being surrounded by pillows of varying “cushyness” on the king-size bed is a perfect end to an all together upscale day. As far as alarm clock tones go, ocean sounds rate pretty high in my book and being awoken by the crashing sounds of Baltic Sea waves definitely got me up on the right foot. Breakfast, as you would expect of such an establishment consists of just about every thing a German holidayer could dream of. An assortment of cold meats consisting of some which I have never heard of are met by fresh fruits, salmon, baked goods and freshly pressed juices.
After Breakfast its time to take in some of the local attractions and one of the most obvious is passing the front gate of the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm as we leave the breakfast room. Molli is a narrow-gauge steam-powered railway that runs 15.4km between Heiligendamm to Kühlungsborn. It has been in operation since 1886 and runs directly through the heart of Bad Doberan. It is a marvellous spectacle to witness steam streaming out of the locomotive whilst threading through the tight tree-lined streets of the old town.
Later in the afternoon we take a visit to the boardwalk which lines the coast in front of the hotel. The hotel has its own pier that presents a wonderful view back at the impressive palatial hotel and the coastline. It also works as a vantage point to view their Christmas Tree which was erected just two days before our arrival, interestingly it also happens to be the largest Christmas tree I have seen this side of the Rockefeller Centre. At night it is beautifully illuminated and plays host to the perfect spot to sip our Glühwein by the fire and wind down after a wonderfully relaxing weekend trip.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS awaits us in-front of the hotel for our return trip to Berlin. Its aggressive side silhouette and elegantly styled rear lights glow as I approach the car, reminding me of the excitement that awaits. As I place my luggage at the rear of the car and wait for the automatic boot lid to fully open, I take note of the 285 section rear tyres and dual exhaust outlets and cant help but be impressed by the duality of this vehicle. On one hand its a luxury family car with all the luggage space and practicality of a large wagon, on the other its a salacious and impressively rapid form of transportation with beautifully sculptured lines and the steering feel of a car usually reserved for sports use only.
All in all the trip to the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm in a CLS Mercedes proves that wintertime need not be confined to the cold and harsh city and that within just a few hours of travel, a wonderful escape awaits. The Ostsee and more specifically the Grand Hotel is a place for all seasons and one which we hope to see more of in the near future.