Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hotel Review: Art Hotel Tucholsky

I stayed at Room 103 of Art Hotel Tucholsky for two nights from 26 to 28 November 2010. It cost 79 euro per night (as Single Room Comfort).

The Good:
The bedroom. It is decorated with minimalist design that gives an impression of cleanliness. I especially like Artemide's white, hollow oval-shaped lamp stand that brightens up the entire room. Windows seem to be sound-proof as I didn't need to wear earplugs while I was sleeping even though the room faces a street busy with cars. Despite near-zero outside temperatures at night, the room was warm enough I didn't need a blanket. The bathroom is clean and tidy.

Breakfast (included in the room charge). It's not fancy, but they just do it right. You can choose from German breakfast, English breakfast, French breakfast, etc. I tried German and English. Both were very tasty, allowing me to make a fresh start of the day. Waiters and waitresses are very attentive and nice.

The location. It's just 7-8 minutes walk away from Bochum Hbf railway station. The hotel is in the district of Bochum where lots of bars and restaurants are clustered. A supermarket (REWE) is just a few minutes walk away.

The Bad:
They don't offer shampoo in the bathroom. Given the design hotel features, I didn't expect this to be the case. You're advised to bring a small tube of shampoo.

There is no reception. A counter at the bar/restaurant on the ground floor of the same building (where the superb breakfast is served) serves as a reception desk. This is a bit confusing, although the staff immediately let me check in on a busy Friday evening.

The Ugly:
The small entrance space leading to the staircase smells of chemicals, with bits of construction materials scattered as if they were in the middle of renovation.

Verdict: If you happen to be in Bochum, this hotel is definitely worth staying. The bad and the ugly are something unexpected from a boutique hotel like this one, but you can deal with them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


 Kokerei Cafe, recommended for lunch if you visit Zollverein. They serve "typical coal miner meals" in an excellent way for an affordable price.

It's perhaps not a particularly new idea to convert the former industrial complex into something cultural. Beijing has the 798 Art District; Toronto has the Distillery District; Berlin has the Berghain nightclub (by far the best nightclub that I've ever been to). But Essen's Zollverein former coal mine industrial complex, particularly the Kokerei (coking plant) designed by Fritz Schupp (the 4th and 5th photos above), is probably the most aesthetic. It's worth a visit if you happen to be around the Ruhr district of Germany.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cologne Cathedral

The Gothic architectural design, I learned, appears at its best if it's used for a very tall building. The Cologne Cathedral already looks magnificent from the outside, but the real beauty is inside. Soaring, rather thin pillars that are absorbed into the pointed arches on the high ceiling creates a kind of space that contemporary architecture cannot replicate.

Climbing the south tower (for 2.50 euro) is worthwhile not because of the view from the top (which is obstructed by the 2-meter high wire netting) but because of the views through windows on the way up. You don't often look down on a modern city landscape through the Gothic windows, do you?

And I'm surprised to see some contemporary art that's part of the cathedral. Gerhard Richter's contemporary counterpart of the stained glass window is only subtly out of place and somehow in place:

Among those stained glass windows, I love these:

Restaurant Review: L'Escalier

My lunch in Cologne was had at L'Escalier (Brüsseler Strasse 11; phone # 0221 205 3938).

They serve a two-course, delicate French lunch for 17.50 euro. The trick behind this affordable price for sophisticated dishes is serving in small portions. Having said that, every bite is enjoyable at this restaurant.

As an appetizer, three small heaps of orange-colored vegetables, pumpkins finely chopped and fried, carrots finely chopped and fried, and carrots thinly sliced and pickled, are served on a wooden, rectangular tray. Along with them come a basket of bread including fantastic home-made potato bread. The accompanied lemon butter is very nice. The amount of bread is generous enough that customers won't leave the restaurant with a hungry stomach.

Today's starter is carrot and ginger soup. Slightly frothed on top with chopped parsley, the soup that includes bits of carrots warms up my body frozen by near-zero temperatures outside. The amount of ginger in it is just right, not too much to disturb the taste of carrot and not too little to be insignificant.

The main course is a small chunk of pike-perch steak and several pieces of dumplings (nothing inside) served on vegetable ragout with tarragon flavor. Even though it is only a mouthful, pike-perch steak is beautifully done. And tarragon prevents the taste bud from getting bored with the otherwise straightforward taste of vegetable ragout.

After being satisfied with the foods, I feel like drinking a cup of black tea. This can be a risky way of finishing the meal. Black tea in Germany tends to be very poorly served. The most typical is a glass cup of hot water with a teabag and the lid, which is a total disaster to infuse black tea properly. (Why don't they put the tea bag into boiling hot water on their own before serving it?) But no such worry at this restaurant. They serve Darjeeling tea properly in a black tetsubin (Japanese cast iron tea pot).

Two waitresses work diligently and attentively. Even when I reveal my lack of knowledge on French foods (I couldn't tell tarragon from lemongrass), they just nicely correct my ignorance. They know what they are serving, so you can talk to them about the foods served. Of course, they speak English pretty well.

Highly recommended if you are around Cologne during the lunch time. It's a few minute walk from Rudolfplatz U-bahn station.