Located in the heart of Frankfurt's Old Sachsenhausen district, the stylish Libertine Lindenberg stages itself as a guest community for short or long stays. Through additional services and voluntary work, the operator also contributes to the development of the historic district, which urgently needs a breath of fresh air.
text: Astrid Schwamberger // photography: Felix Schmitt
Stag dos: need I say more to describe the scenes that unfold every weekend in the medieval streets of Old Sachsenhausen? The once quaint quarter, inhabited by fishermen and artisans who resided in its timbered houses and found merriment in its typical cider taverns, went to rack and ruin long ago, mutating into a nightlife hub – with all the excesses that come with it. This is something the Libertine Lindenberg Hotel's manager Denise Omurca is well aware of. The quarter didn't appear "on her radar" either until she became involved in the many Lindenberg Group projects surrounding the highly driven investor and newcomer Steen Rothenberger.
The polarising nature of the location was something "we were already aware of when we chose it as the site for the Libertine," says Omurca. Here, potential and problems are often no more than a few cobblestone apart, but this didn't put off the Lindenberg team. "Old Sachsenhausen is, first and foremost, a quarter we believe in: we're part of its development," says Omurca. It was important to "tease out its original spirit" and change the way people choose to have fun there.
In this quaint, wild neighbourhood, the Libertine Lindenberg is housed in a 19th century brick building. From the outside, there is little indication that it operates as a hotel. The name is written in small print on one of several doorbells on the front door. But there's a hidden motive for this. "We don't call ourselves a hotel at all: we prefer guest community," says Denise Omurca. Anybody who checks in here should feel right at home. "A little bit like Udo Lindenberg." The musician has been living in a luxury hotel in Hamburg for more than 20 years and has become a figure of speech for many Germans. One part of the name is also owed to the singer.
The other part – Libertine – is attributed to an older lady from the quarter on its doorstep. Although a source of inspiration for the design, in reality she never existed. Elements associated with her fictitious story feature in all 27 rooms for short- and long-term guests, the stairwell and the communal spaces: walls and furniture in Libertine's presumed favourite colour, pink, and black surfaces symbolising her supposedly dark past. Fabric moths and beetles in glass and on paper allude to her passion for collecting, and fresh flowers brighten up all the public rooms. There are even some in the lift. "Once a week, Jens comes and makes up the bouquets," says Denise Omurca on her way to the "cookery landscape" on the fifth floor.
Here, above the rooftops of Old Sachsenhausen and overlooking the banking towers of the financial metropolis, one of the guest community's "mainstays" (Omurca) can be found. Those who live "in the Libertine" can look after themselves here and soon make friends. The long-term residents, in particular, can be found in the designer kitchen or at the long dining table in the room next door, the learned sommelier says. Ideally, they offer new guests a glass of wine or an Ebbelwoi and give them tips on where to go out or which exhibitions are currently showing at the city's various museums. "So far, the invoices have been on the rise," laughs Omurca.
It's not only the hotel's guest community that comes together under its roof. Once a month, the "Wednesday dinner" attracts external guests. There's space in the roomy dine-in kitchen for up to 40 participants. Denise Omurca is satisfied with the response: "The idea has been well received." Vegetarian "Easy-peasy three-course menus" are served up, prepared by guest chefs: professionals and other friends of the hotel.
However, the Wednesday chef doesn't have to bring their own ingredients. They come from a farm that is also part of the Lindenberg universe. Fruit and vegetables are ecologically and sustainably cultivated over three-and-a-half hectares in accordance with the permaculture principle, which relies on natural cycles. "We simply look at what is growing on our Braumannswiesen farm and that's what goes into the pot," says Denise Omurca. The form in which mushrooms, potatoes and Romaine lettuce, for example, are served as a main course is up to the guest chefs.
Libertine Lindenberg doesn't just use the products from its own farm for special occasions. Short- and long-term guests can stock up on fresh produce, home-made spreads, jams and soups every day in the "Lekker Lädchen" shop. Wine and other drinks also feature in the wall-high installation in the cooking landscape, which looks like a cross between an oversized shop and a giant minibar. Here, people can help themselves in line with the motto: take it out and write it down. They then pay when they check out. Does it work? "Yes," says Denise Omurca, "the trust is gratefully accepted and helps our guests feel more at home."
In addition to Wednesday dinner, concerts also expand the guest community. Every few weeks there's "hand-made music" in the "Lotte Lindenberg" studio. Wolfgang Gottlieb, one of the founders of the studio and former manager of an independent Frankfurt record label, and his companion Fakir Ayoub are responsible for seeking out suitable artists. Singer-songwriters, such as Howe Gelb from the USA, Gregor McEwan from Berlin or the Serbian indie folk band Stray Dogg, step out on stage in the basement – all sold out. These events now "sell themselves" and are a reason to visit Old Sachsenhausen in their own right, says Denise Omurca.
Hotel guests, however, don't even have to leave their rooms to enjoy the music. They can hear the gigs on the hotel radio.
Guests who want to explore Old Sachsenhausen and ask the concierge for tips may ultimately remain within the Lindenberg universe. A satellite is located diagonally opposite: the Bonechina, a small bar without a counter, where the bartenders mingle with the guests. A few meters further along, there's another offshoot: "The Little Man with the Flash". The mixed-use location is intended as a way of reviving the traditional unity between living, working and partying in Old Sachsenhausen.
Team Lindenberg isn't alone in its commitment. Denise Omurca is joined by colleagues from the catering industry, local residents and artists in the "Old Sachsenhausen Initiative – A Quarter reinvents itself", a project that aims to put an action plan in place to transform the quarter.
This wouldn't be the first time that something has been afoot in a Frankfurt district. Similar developments have already taken place in Ostend: the old working-class district has undergone a change of image over the past thirty years owing to a construction boom, and is considered a real success story. The Lindenberg opened there in 2012, and in autumn, the Lindley Lindenberg will arrive as the third hotel – pardon – the third guest community.