Die Bleiche is an iconic Berlin escape. It’s always on top of every list of recommended hotels around Berlin (even mine). A trip to Die Bleiche has become an annual pilgrimage for some people here. It’s also one of the more expensive indulgences you could reward yourself with. With 3 pools, plenty of saunas, lavish furnishing, a full-board program and the beautiful landscape around the estate, it’s hard not to fall in love with it (and even harder to keep your budget in check).
We stayed at Die Bleiche for three days in total, in a very quiet time just before Christmas. I had visited the hotel on a previous trip to the biosphere reserve of Spreewald. I had been immediately stunned by the gorgeously large rooms and the tasteful interior design and so decided to come back, this time not just for a tour around the house.
The price awarded spa is extraordinary. Finnish sauna, steam baths, a Japanese jacuzzi – and that’s only the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Even if you’re not a big sauna fan, the wellness area will take your breath away.
There’s a heated outdoor pool as well as a mesmerizing indoor pool by the fire, plenty of romantic fireplaces and comfortable recliners, and even a spa cinema with a well assorted program that is so snug and cozy that I’m tearing up thinking about it. If you ever needed to be pampered in big style, this is your place to be. The complimentary soups, cakes, coffee and sparkling wine in the spa bistro, the immersive table books and games, and plenty of different venues to discover will definitely help even the most worked up helicopter mom wind down for a few serene moments.
Speaking of helicopter moms: I was relieved to see that there was a dedicated family pool. Although there were many families (much more than I expected – somehow I was sold on this hotel as an intimate affair, not a generation-project), the noise level was acceptable.
But I don’t want to sugarcoat the one crucial disappointment of our stay (one which has deterred me so far from going back or recommending it to other people): the food. And, to some extend, the service.
50 Shades of MEHHHH: Food at Bleiche
The minimum for a night’s stay per person in the room we stayed in (the large room with the small bathroom) is around 230 person per night 1, which includes the full boarding. Not counting additional drinks or extra treatments at the spa, that’s a lot of buck for the assumed bang. Now, I can tolerate lacking service or flavor when the budget is in the medium range, but at that price (and with no other choice but to take the full boarding offer), I expect a cuisine that is on point.
Unfortunately, it was mostly mediocre with a sprinkle of HOLY SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME. First of all, the website promises a breakfast buffet and a “5 course evening menu”. We had expected the breakfast buffet, which turned out to be meh, but I have long shed any hope for a buffet that is any good.
But the 5 course evening menu? That was just another buffet, basically split into 5 different booths. While there was some variance from day to day, there was nothing exciting, interesting or loving about the food. Sure, there are two booths dedicated exclusively to sausage and cheese, but if you’re not a big sausage and cheese fan, you’re working with the same old evening buffet that you can find in any run of the mill franchise hotel. Bland salads with bland meats and bland recipes.
Our booking deal even included one special “gourmet” menu. And it was bad. Nothing about it was gourmet or special, except maybe it was worse than the standard buffet. Lackluster ingredients were paired with non-flavors. When, after around 90 minutes of waiting, our 2nd course still hadn’t appeared and we politely asked whether it was possible to speed up the process, the waiter rudely informed us of the fact that “this is a FINE DINING establishment and FINE DINING takes time”, as if we were little peasants who were somehow upgraded the privilege of his care and condescension, I ultimately wrote off ever recommending Die Bleiche to anyone, ever.
But a few months have gone by and I have cooled down from my initial disappointment. Maybe I’m too tight about this (I am a FOODIE after all, check FIBER, the new FOODIE clique I’m part of yayyy), but I truly believe that a good culinary experience is the essence of a great holiday. I am usually quite easy to satisfy – Simple but good? Sure! Cheap and quick? Hell yeah! Expensive and worth it? Count me in! – but this time around, I couldn’t help but feel ultimately disappointed, especially after all the raving reviews I’d read.
A spa that is too good to be unforgiving
Since then, I’ve come to realize that everyone has a bad day (and sometimes even a bad week), and that we still had a fantastic time at the spa. I’ve learned that there’s reason why people say that the Thai hospitality culture is the best hospitality culture in the world and why Brandenburg never seems to make it on that list. I’ve also learned that the prices for such a royal pampering are justified and that a spa like this is unheard of in Germany. I mean, have you seen German spas? Even the nicer Vabali in Berlin pales in comparison to Die Bleiche.
Here, the plush carpeting, the tone in tone of the fabrics, the carefully chosen materials of the furniture and the caring love and detail that went into the concept of the place make the hotel an outstanding destination – despite the flaws it might have.
That being said, even after so many months, I still remember the frustration. I also remember that none of the reviews I’d researched beforehand had mentioned that the food was on such a second-rate level, which is why I decided to come forth with my work as investigative journalist.2
So what’s the verdict?
If you can live without an extraordinary culinary experience (or any culinary experience for that matter) and can survive on cake and massages exclusively (and if you’re ready to sell your liver for it), you should definitely take a relaxing holiday at Die Bleiche. The spa is worth it. Even if the gym and the rooms are a little bit tatty, the pools and the plushy recliners really do make up for it.
If I had to book another stay, I’d cut it down to two nights in the smallest room (“Storchennest”), as there’s really not much else to do but to go to the spa and sleep in those heavenly cinema armchairs.