The Sacher in Vienna, a large hotel saved during the pandemic also thanks to the cake that Nanni Moretti likes. Some hotels are part of the history of a city, and they are not always the luxury ones. But it’s hard to save them from speculation, or refurbishment that often destroys the atmosphere, more important than modern amenities.
The Kempinsky in Berlin is now called Bristol and is part of an international chain, it will be more comfortable but no longer has the charm it once had, like the Adlon in front of the Brandenburg gate, which is a fake authentic as De Crescenzo said, rebuilt as it was, with one more floor, after reunification. I think of the Ritz in Paris, which hosted Diana on her last day of her life, and Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich. At the Vesuvius in Naples or at the recently renovated Grand Hotel et des Palmes in Palermo, where Wagner and Mata Hari slept, the Mafia’s favorite for its leaders.
One cannot think of Vienna without the Hotel Sacher, a few meters from the Opera, which has survived for 250 years, even if it originally had another name. It was the gastronome Edward Sacher who bought it in 1876 and named it after the cake that bore his name, with chocolate, marzipan and apricot jam. It has had some bad moments due to Covid, and is still the only five-star hotel in the capital that belongs to the family (along with the other four in the group), thanks to careful management. It is about to break even again, and 15% of the turnover is ensured by the cake, of which about a thousand packages are sold every day, which can also be ordered online. It starts from 48.50 euros for a one kilo and 400 gram Sacher, to be consumed within a couple of weeks.
Not everyone can afford to stay in one of its 150 rooms, half are suites, some bear the name of famous guests, including singers and conductors. Herbert von Karajan’s is 300 square meters wide and costs more than two thousand euros a night. But tourists at least allow themselves a slice of the legendary Sacher, in one of her five cafés. Crown Prince Rudolf also liked her, who killed himself in Mayerling on January 30, 1889 with the seventeen-year-old Maria Vetsera, out of love at least as the legend claims. At Sacher, Graham Greene together with Orson Welles wrote the screenplay of The Third Man, the film about post-war Vienna, occupied by the Western allies and the Soviets. They made three or four films about the Sacher, the first in ’39, a year after the Anschluss, when, thanks to Hitler, Austria was swallowed up by the Third Reich.
Now a double room costs at least 500 euros, not a little, but still less than what is asked for in a hotel of the same level in Paris or Venice. Up until a few years ago it was more affordable and the last time, before the euro, I paid around 300,000 lire, roughly as much as in a normal hotel, or as much as I was asked for in Milan during the fair period, a three-star hotel near the Palace of Justice. I often went to the Sacher in the fateful year of the fall of the Wall, when the East Germans fled via Hungary to end up in Austria. I was not a spendthrift who charged the newspaper bill. As a special envoy, I have the pride of never having had any complaints from the administration regarding the expense report.
Indeed no, once one of the directors reproached me for going to a hotel that was too modest. But I chose the more functional ones, and with an atmosphere, avoiding those of the big chains, the same from Tokyo to Madrid. I got an interview with the Nazi hunter, thanks to the goalkeeper of the Sacher. My phone number was no longer valid, he had the reserved one, he called him and vouched for me.
The Frankfuter Allgemeine dedicated a long interview to the director Matthias Winkler, 53, to the Sacher. 2019 was a record year, he recalled, with a budget of 60 million, and we are about to return to the period before Covid. There are 700 employees, a third Austrian, a third German, and the rest from all over the world, but it’s difficult to find personnel who are up to the task, there are about sixty vacant positions, and not because the pay is insufficient.