You’d Think I’d Have Learned By Now…

by sjbgilmour

So I’ve been travelling in Europe for the day-job for the past couple of weeks, which has had me staying in a number of quite different hotels.  Now before this little rant goes any further, I must point out it’s all been my own fault; I booked the hotels myself – well all but one which was provided for me by a supplier, and very nice it was too.

I stayed in one joint in Frankfurt which was supposed to be four stars, but I think their math was out.  It was okay.  Warm, almost quiet, and the room had all I needed, except for real soap.  I hate that squeezy bottle stuff.  It always leaves my skin feeling slimy.  Never mind, as I brought my own.  The breakfast was good, and the service was polite.

The next place in Italy wasn’t so polite, but the food was excellent, and the room, though old and not much more than a cupboard really…  In fact, it might have been a cupboard.  I did wonder why there was a mop and bucket in the bathroom.  Still, it was okay and even had wifi, though I had to sit in foyer to get it.

Then I came back to Germany.  Oh boy.  Hotel Diplomat on Ostendstrasse, is a two-star dive, and that’s putting it mildly.  Both the night and day desk receptionists were both quite mad.  Think a German version of Fawlty Towers and you’ll just about have it.  I got yelled at and gestured at quite a few times.  But that’s cool.  I can get that at the day-job from customers occasionally, so no biggie.

The kicker was the bathroom.IMG_3277 IMG_3279 IMG_3280

Let’s just say bathing was an adventure.  I particularly liked the broken soap dish.  I managed to squat in the tiny tub – no shower curtain, you’ll note – without slicing myself open.  For me, that’s quite the accomplishment.  I can injure myself just looking at something sharp.  In fact there’s an unwritten rule in House Gilmour:  Never give Sam a tool, except a kitchen knife.  I’m not bad in the kitchen if I don’t say so myself, but I digress…

I won’t dwell on the state of the bathroom, or the noise from the hall, both from other guests and the cleaning staff who were quite vocal.  What really got to me was the smell(s).  It took me a while to realise what I was smelling at first, then it dawned on me.  Smoke.  Now in Germany, most places are smoke-free.  That means if you walk anywhere, you’re constantly walking though clouds of smoke from the smokers standing outside.  It doesn’t take long before you smell of it yourself which means you stop noticing the smell.

Apparently this smoke-free rule went for Hotel Diplomat’s rooms as well.  Just not its halls.  Every so often, the air vent which blew air in from the hall, pumped in the stale blue hue of whatever the folk in the halls were smoking.  So, everything in my room stank anyway.

Then there was a mystery odour.  Its identity wasn’t a mystery.  I can recognise toast cooking at a hundred paces.  What did baffle me was  its source.  Every morning I’d wake up to that delightful smell, and follow my nose down the stairs to the breakfast room.  That’s when I encountered the great conundrum.  The smell dwindled, and there was no bread or toaster in which to put it.  There were just a few bread rolls and some sliced deli meats and cheeses. I asked for the location of the toaster and all I got was a look of wary bewilderment one sometimes gives crazy people one sees wandering about waving their arms and talking in word-spaghetti.

I really should have read more of the reviews of Hotel Diplomat.  I know it seems I’m doing an awful lot of complaining here.  I mean if it was so awful, why did I stay?  Well here’s the odd thing.  In a strange way, I sort of enjoyed it.  No, I’m not masochistic.  It was so bad it was almost funny.  At times it was actually hard to keep from laughing at the staff who spent more time yelling at each other than doing any kind of work.

Superwife and I used to go to an Indian restaurant, the name of which escapes me.  Not that it matters, we just called it “Interesting Indian”, and left it at that, for the same reason.  The lady who ran that greasy spoon was all smiles in the dining hall, then she’d barge into her semi-open kitchen and have very loud, very lively, and at times a little scary, conversations with her kitchen staff. By “conversations” I mean really angry remonstrations.  If she was my boss, I’d be a quivering mass within an hour, and that’s coming from an ex-military guy who sells shoes for a living.  Sadly, Interesting Indian closed down a few years back, and we’re yet to find another quite so “interesting.”

My father impressed upon me at a very early age that travel was a form of education.  He’s right folks.  Get out and see how the world works.  If you see how things are done well, you can improve your own service by emulating them.  If you see people making big blunders, you can insure yourselves by not repeating them.