Today we take you to Berlin for our interview with Andreas Becker, manager of the Circus Hotel in the German capital’s trendy Mitte district. A distinctly environmentally friendly and social hotel, Circus feels like a home away from home. And with the Circus Hostel just across the road, a more budget friendly option is nearby.
Andreas, you are the managing partner of Circus Hotel in Berlin. Did you always want to work in tourism?
It took me quite a while to find out what I wanted to do at all, but then, in my late twenties, tourism seemed to be an obvious choice. I spent basically the best part of my twenties travelling myself, and I kind of got addicted to that lifestyle. So when it was time to settle, staying in that field and being surrounded by people on the move was a very logical step.
To your mind, what makes the Circus Hotel stand out from other hotels in the area?
One thing that separates us from the majority of other houses is that we are fully independently run and owned. The percentage of chain hotels is rising fast, and we are different. All 5 owners work full time in the company, our key team has been with us from the very beginning, so we see ourselves a bit like a modern family run enterprise.
We do believe this influences our relations to our guests a lot. Also, we are a genuinely Berlin-Mitte company, from the beginning. This is the district we live and work and play in, and we have been here since 20 years, so I hope there’s a strong sense of place with the Circus.
Moreover, we never had the ambition to become a huge player, so our houses are intentionally small and mid-scale, which means there’s a pretty close relation to our guest.
Can you tell us a bit about the hotel’s history – when was it founded and how has it changed or evolved since then?
We started as a pretty anarchistic student project in 1997, with just over 20 hostel beds in a pretty derelict building not far from where we are now. Since then we came a long way, obviously. We have witnessed the changes of Berlin-Mitte from a post-wall ruinous playing ground of the techno kids of the world to the largely gentrified capital district of Germany, and have grown, diversified and professionalized along the way.
Sustainability is becoming more and more important in tourism, and you’ve made environmental friendliness a part of the Circus philosophy. Which of the many sustainability initiatives that you have in place do you find the most important, or inspiring, personally?
Sustainability has many different facets, of course. For me the most important was to create an organism that interacts smoothly with the neighborhood that it is a part of, to avoid creating double structures, and to give our guests access to the infrastructure that exists, since the footprint of a tourist is usually a lot higher than that of locals.
You’ll find no pool or wellness area at the Circus, but close relations to the established service providers in the area. Also, we do no prestige accommodation, with its humongous waste of energy, space and resources. We prefer a human scale in the things we do.
Which aspects of running a “sustainable” hotel in a city like Berlin do you find the most challenging?
Most challenging are the aspects of tourism in general. It is a fact that most of our guests are flying in, often for 2 days, and are a part of an ever growing wave of tourists that partly have a very negative effect on existing communities. This is largely out of our reach to influence, but that doesn’t feel always good.
Would you say that Berlin is a green city destination?
Is Berlin a green city destination? Hm. That’s difficult. In the first place it is a city of 4 million people, with its destructive land take, and its partly insane consumer-driven society. This given, it has an extremely vital and conscious scene of people that are working passionately on alternative lifestyles, a more sustainable way of consumerism.
The city is very “left wing”, and a fast growing number of people are acting as “agents of change”. In certain aspects, most notably mobility, it’s behind cities such as Copenhagen, but at the same time it is one of the greenest capitals I have ever seen.
Berlin lifestyle is also centering around lakes and parks. And, it’s the birthplace of a very ambitious move of a highly industrialized economy away from coal and atomic energy, to renewables.
Your five bits of advice for environmentally conscious city travellers, on how to best explore Berlin – what to do?
Of course, and that’s a no brainer, make use of the excellent public transport network that Berlin has, and fully stay away from fossil burning mobility, which is easy and comfortable and social.
Second, I’d say, explore your neighborhood on foot. Berlin is a city in which all hoods, “Kieze” as we call them, are independent universes in themselves, and they are best explored by walking.
Third: buy local. You’ll find, beside international brands and service providers, a huge network of local artisans, organic farm outlets and others, that are keen on producing a really small energetic footprint and at the same time reflect on local cultures.
Fourth I’d check our “Art Laboratory Berlin”, an extremely interesting initiative at the crossroads of art, science and environmentalism.
Last but not least, check out Prinzessinnengärten. What started as an Urban Gardening project is today a lively, mesmerizing social project that brings people from all corners of the city together within the framework of a healthy vision of the future and urban life
Which restaurants, cafés or bars in Berlin would you recommend, for their commitment to sustainability?
Excellent farm to table restaurants in different price brackets around our hotel are “Eins unter Null” (€ 100+), “Katz Orange” (€ 30-50) and the Superfood hang outs “Daluma” and “Superconscious” (€ 10-15).
Thank you, Andreas!
Check facilities, availability and rates of Circus Hotel Berlin here. On a tight budget? hav a look at the Circus hostel here. Or allow yourself a bit more comfort by staying at the Circus Apartments.
Find out more about where to stay and what to do in the German capital on our Berlin city page.