My exciting instructions read like the plot of a Robert Ludlum spy thriller, and I can’t help imagining myself as some Cold War operative on an undercover espionage mission.
I deploy to Berlin’s Tegel Airport on what would otherwise be a regular assignment to write about luxury Bentley automobiles and premium hotels. On arrival, my chauffeur hands me a dossier; I flick through the pages, noting our planned route through the old East Germany to Denmark. In my mind, the pages are stamped in red with, ‘Top Secret, Burn After Reading’.
The weather is bright and inviting as we arrive at Sammlung Boros, an above ground WWII air raid bunker that now houses the impressive art collection of Christian Boros behind two metre thick concrete-reinforced walls. I mingle with art aficionados while inspecting works by Ai Weiwei, Thea Djordjadze, Klara Liden, Wolfgang Tillmans and Cerith Wyn Evans.
For our ‘escape’, I’m teamed with a co-agent (in real life, Alfie is the editor of a premium lifestyle publication in Southeast Asia). We’re transferred to the exclusive Design Hotels collection property Das Stue, in Berlin’s leafy Tiergarten park. Pre-war, this palatial manor housed the Royal Danish Embassy – the new owners, with acclaimed Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, have restored the structure in a glorious homage reflecting the grandeur and pomp that once typified this exclusive diplomatic neighbourhood. At 70 square metres, the rooms are more like suites and come with soaring ceilings and a gleaming brass bathtub as a centrepiece.
Suddenly, an envelope slides under my door. More secret instructions, I wonder? It’s an invitation to dinner in 5 (Cinco), Michelin-starred Catalan chef Paco Pérez’s restaurant downstairs, at 8pm sharp.
We dine in amazing style with a complex degustation menu of ‘avant-garde molecular-leaning Mediterranean cuisine’. Each dish presents a culinary puzzle suitable for any cryptanalyst to ponder.
Next morning, there is no mistaking the supreme English automobile parked at the entrance of Das Stue. Bentley’s superb Continental GT (or ‘Contie’, as she is affectionately known) is powered by a mammoth six-litre W12 twin turbo engine and linked to an eight-speed close-ratio transmission and an advanced All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system. We’ll be limited to a modest 130km/hr, but should the necessity arise, we could propel ourselves beyond double that speed in a matter of seconds.
Image by Tom Salt
I go to leap into the driver’s seat, upholstered in pure, delightfully aromatic hide and trimmed with walnut. But my enthusiasm is interrupted. “Do you mind?” Alfie has confidently installed herself at the helm. Without a minute to lose, we’re off into the Berlin traffic, the red beast murmuring ominously at traffic lights and growling with anticipation as Alfie applies the throttle with her calfskin boots.
Along the expressway, we effortlessly dispatch lumbering lorries and lesser contenders. The Contie makes 100km/hr from a standing start in just over four seconds, so there’s no hanging around.
We break our journey at the imposing 240 year old Schloss Ludwigslust in northern Germany, the car’s 21-inch alloy wheels noisily crushing the ornamental gravel as we park in the courtyard. Once home to the Mecklenburg-Schwerin family, the palace now houses the State Museum of Schwerin/Ludwigslust/Güstrow, with paintings by Jean-Baptiste Oudry and busts by Jean Antoine Houdon forming the collection.
We overnight at the funky East Hotel in Hamburg. Over a lavish dinner at Clouds, 105 metres above the red-lit Reeperbahn at the top of Tanzende Türme tower, we marvel at the Bentley’s power output and torque (the W12 has, by the way, 472kW and 840Nm, respectively).
Image by Tom Salt
The next day we continue to run the imaginary gauntlet after coffee and cake at Koehn’s Schlosskeller Glücksburg before the final cruise into Copenhagen via Nyborg. There’s champagne in Balthazar at our ultimate destination, Copenhagen’s historic d’Angleterre hotel. Relieved at our successful avoidance of overzealous bundespolizei, we indulge in flutes of Bollinger laced with jokes at my expense.
Now that my ‘package’ is safely delivered, all that remains is for me to complete my imaginary undercover assignment and somehow relate this most incredible journey. That is my mission, and I choose to accept it.