BERLINLars Stroschen is probably the most unlikely hotelier you could meet. The day I spoke to him, in the lobby of his boutique hotel, he was wearing frayed jeans, a threadbare t-shirt and no shoes. His hands lacked the scrubbed pinkness of most hoteliers and his beardhis beard!was distinctly scraggly.
Then again, Stroschen’s hotel is one of the least likely accommodation choices you’re liable to come across, both in its pedigree and its accoutrements. But it’s also a pleasant, inexpensive and convenient place to stay in central Berlin.
The unusually named Propeller Island City Lodge was started in 1997 when Stroschen’s girlfriend at the time came to stay with him and found the guest accommodations substandard. Stroschen, an artist, as you may have guessed, lived a large but not very tidy studio. His girlfriend suggested he carve out some space in it for proper visitor quarters. Stroschen agreed, but, being an artist, couldn’t just go to the closest Ikea for a bed, desk and chest of drawers.
Instead, he let his imagination wander and created the Castle Room. The bed is atop what looks like an unusually elaborate miniature golf course hazard. The walls could be the studio backdrop for a Saturday morning TV show.
The room may not have been a big hit with Stroschen’s girlfriend (at least, they’re no longer together), but when he started renting it out he quickly found takers.
Today he has 31 1/2 rooms, each hand-built by Stroschen and each with its own very different set of aesthetics. They range from the Two Lions suite, where the two beds are in hanging cages and the golden bathtub has pride of place in the room, to the Clouds room, a very sedate space designed, as Stroschen says, “for people who really would have liked to stay at the Holiday Inn but were dragged here by their friends.”
In between are the Freedom Room (jail celllike, with an entrance that’s a hole punched in the wall), the kaleidoscopic Mirror Room and the Dwarf Room (just what you think, but smallerit’s above a washroom).
Propeller Island (it’s named for a Jules Verne novel Stroschen likes) has given its creator something none of his other artistic works have: a steady income. It’s allowed him to continue his multi-disciplinary art, with the focus these days mainly on avant-garde music. (You can buy his Cds in the lobby.) The day-to-day running of Propeller Island he leaves to a small staff he’s hired for their competence and personability.
Not all his patrons are scruffy art types like the owner, though some certainly are. While little-known in North America, his art hotel has a following with the British, Germans, Dutch and French, among others.
The rates are reasonable (about 100 euros for most rooms), the wireless Internet is free and Kurfürstendstraat, the Paris-like boulevard of western Berlin, is a seven-minute walk away. It’s not for everyone, but then, neither’s the Holiday Inn.