Around the World - Part III

An interview with Karen Mester-Lichtsinn & Florian Kollenz

The hotel group 25hours is going from strength to strength and owes its success in no small part to the efforts of its Hamburg-based development manager Florian Kollenz. Kollenz is responsible for acquiring new projects, which involves negotiating contracts for new hotel locations all over the world. Karen Mester-Lichtsinn, originally from Lower Saxony, takes the development team’s ideas for new hotel rooms and makes them a reality for guests. As head of sales, she knows what counts for the customer. Her work for 25hours sends her traveling far and wide, and she enjoys the surprising discoveries this brings ‒ so-called “speakeasy” restaurants, for example. The two professionals let COMPANION in on their top tips and travel plans.

COMPANION: What is the most unusual place you’ve visited?
KAREN MESTER-LICHTSINN: Niagara Falls in winter a few years ago. The spray transformed the trees and everything in the surroundings into an icy fairy-tale wonderland.

What destination is at the top of your list?
Marrakesh. I’m hoping to travel there in the coming months. Aside from that I’ve always wanted to visit Tanzania and Israel, and of course Iceland is right at the top of the list after this year’s UEFA European Championship!

What’s a trend you’ve come across recently that you’d like to bring back home?
I’m a big fan of “speakeasy” restaurants like La Esquina, Beauty & Essex, and Vandal in New York. From the outside they look like a normal florist or a simple taco bar, but then you discover this completely different, amazing other world hidden away behind a secret door.

What country has most impressed you recently?
Kenya, especially the Maasai Mara, alongside Nairobi and Mount Kenya. The landscape and wildlife there are breathtaking. In the mornings, you wake up to the sound of the hippos roaring in the Mara river – you really can’t put it into words.

Is there a restaurant that you think is worth even the most exhausting journey?
In Blankenese in Hamburg, right at the top of the Treppenviertel, there’s a restaurant called Süllberg. In the summer you can sit out on the terrace and enjoy the most lovely view of the Elbe river. It makes you feel homesick and full of wanderlust all at once.

What famous person would you like to spend a weekend away with?
Daphne Guinness, she’s one of the coolest fashion icons around. I’d like to spend a weekend with her in her dressing room.

What souvenir did you bring back from your most recent trip?
I actually never buy normal souvenirs, usually things like clothes or accessories that remind me of the trip when I wear them.

COMPANION: In which city do you feel most at home?
FLORIAN KOLLENZ: In Paris – specifically the 9th arrondissement. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the last two years, and I’ve discovered lots of nice little boutiques, bistros, and hotels. Hotel Amour, run by the Costes family, has become my go-to base in Paris.

When do you get wanderlust?
On rainy weekends in Hamburg – so quite often! Then my imagination runs away with me and I dream of traveling to the most far-flung places on earth. Sometimes I actually act on it and go there!

What’s a trend that you’ve come across recently that you’d like to bring back home?
Not long ago I was in Copenhagen and came across their electric bikes – you can take them out and return them to any station you like, no matter where you end up. Obviously this isn’t a new idea, but it seems like the Danes have got there first in terms of making it work for electric bikes, too.

What country has most impressed you in recent years?
I found Tel Aviv absolutely fascinating. The food scene is rich and varied, the nightlife is wild, and the people are really open and friendly. And it’s nearly always sunny!

Is there a restaurant that you think is worth even the most exhausting journey?
Chez Bruno in Lorgues, France, comes to mind. Bruno is the absolute master of truffles – so if you’ve got a soft spot for fine mushrooms, you should definitely make the trip to Provence.

What souvenir did you bring back from your most recent trip? 
A Smell Memory Kit that I picked up in Vienna. It’s the perfect way to capture smells that trigger memories.

What music gets you in the traveling mood?
So many different songs and artists do the trick. Vampire Weekend, for example, always remind me of the Côte d’Azur: When I was in Sainte-Maxime, I listened to their albums non-stop.

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