By Patricia Keegan
Today hotels across the world tend to look familiar, simply because they are! Ultra modern styles are repeated over and over, from Beijing to Washington, and for the pre-occupied business person seeking only efficiency, sometimes ambience is not important.
However, for the experienced traveler still seeking quality, something soothing happens when crossing the threshold of Dresden’s five-star Hotel Bulow Residenz. Not only did I find efficiency and a genuinely warm welcome, but it was as though I had taken a giant step back in time to a refined era when attention to the finest detail was an art.
Built in 1730, the Bulow Residenz has gone through many incarnations, but was fully and magnificently renovated in 1993. The location is just across the Augustus Bridge in the center of beautiful, baroque Neustadt, where no matter where you walk the architecture is both stunning and intriguing. The Bulow is just the kind of residence visitors to Dresden might find in history books and novels, but never have the opportunity to truly experience.
It was built as a manor house in 1730 by the same architect, Johann Gottfried Fehre, who completed the landmark Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lany) after the death of the original architect, George Bahr. In 1990 the manor house was purchased by Horst and Monika Bulow of Stutgart, who resurrected it from a sad state of dereliction to a life of quiet exuberance. In 1996, with five luxurious suites and the renowned Caroussel restaurant, the Bulow Hotel Residenz became the first hotel in the former East Germany to join the prestigious Relais & Chateau Group.
A sparkling, glass enclosed elevator brought me to my room on the 3rd floor. I was bemused to see images of myself on all sides slipping off into infinity. I thought this singular, ultra modern convenience would, for some, serve as a great deterrent to cloning.
My spacious room immediately struck me as perfect. Decorated in warm shades of red with red brocade and accents of gold, it was comfortably furnished with a couch, a wing back chair, desk and king-sized bed. Maybe it was the three small casement windows opening onto the street below that completed my sense of connection with the old world surroundings. I could lean out the window and admire the winding, narrow cobbled streets of the Neustadt, all so peaceful with hardly a passing car. The room had a flat screen TV, internet access, dial direct telephone, minibar and a nice sized bathroom where everything gleamed in a way that reflects careful maintenance.
Keeping all aspects of the hotel running smoothly is Managing Director Ralf Kutzner, who was chosen Germany’s 2004 'Achiever of the Year' by society magazine Bunte. Then, four years later he was awarded “Hotelier of the Year” by Germany’s Gault Millau. Kutzner has lived and traveled across the world since his childhood and has a rich international background in the hotel business that includes Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel. He takes great pride in the Bulow and in his staff, which probably transfers to staff every morning when they meet as a group. Shaking hands with each, he looks in their eyes and can tell what kind of day they will have. It may be that little ritual that holds the key to the Bulow’s success.
The Caroussel, Dresden's top gourmet restaurant, is a major attraction of Dresden’s elite -- artists, musicians, politicians, even Chancellor Merkel when she is in town. It is a place for celebration of the good life, where every brilliant presentation brings a cacophony of unique and creative flavors. One year after it opened the Caroussel was awarded a much coveted Michelin-Star, which has been sustained every year since. Chef Dirk Schroer comes from a background of service in some of Germany’s most prestigious restaurants. He focuses on combining highly nutritional products, so that patrons quickly realize the preparations not only taste great, but are wholesome.
Sitting down to a five-course dinner, including appetizers, soup, a saddle of lamb with coriander spinach, red and white wine suggested by Sommeliere Roswitha Ringel, and ending with a fabulous, freshly made chocolate soufflé with cherries and sour ice-cream, I can attest to the fact that the cuisine, though filling, was light. In fact I could have started all over again. Enjoying every moment of my surroundings, I was both satisfied and impressed.
A continental breakfast is complimentary in the lovely inner courtyard which is open when the weather is good.
For guests who have come to Dresden on business or to explore Dresden’s history and culture, the Hotel Bulow offers the ideal location in a Baroque setting. As I walk across the Augustus Bridge that spans the River Elbe, rising before me like a mirage is the newly restored historic center that was bombed in 1945. Whether in the soft light of early morning, or in late evening when the pink glow from the setting sun splashes on the long stretch of domes and towers, I know I am walking toward an inspirational epoch of history -- and it feels like a great privilege.
In November, a second, larger Hotel Bulow Palace is scheduled to open in the same baroque area of Neustadt.
The Hotel Bulow Residenz is a member of K Hotels, known for its luxury boutique hotels and resorts worldwide.
For more information on the Hotel Bulow Residenz, visit the website at Buelow-Residenz.de or call 49-351-800-30.