In the century or more since it was founded, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin has welcomed everybody from the Queen of England to the King of Pop.

While Michael Jackson created quite a stir during his visit in 2002 – notoriously dangling his son, Prince Michael Jackson II, from a top-floor window – Queen Elizabeth II has also been known to discreetly enjoy the facilities.

Her signed portrait even hangs in the Royal Suite.

Situated directly opposite the Brandenburg Gate at the heart of the German capital, Hotel Adlon was for decades the centre of social life in the city.

Visiting dignitaries would be housed here for months on end, sampling the best the 1920s had to offer, including running hot water, an onsite laundry and dedicated electricity generator.

Sadly almost completely destroyed by a fire at the end of WWII – apparently caused by Red Army soldiers celebrating in the lavish wine cellars – the property was rebuilt and reopened by Kempinski in 1997.

Since then the luxury hotelier has worked to resort the Adlon to its rightful place on the European hospitality scene, offering historic grandeur with a modern flourish.

With this illustrious past in mind, I was interested to see during my stay if the property lived up to its billing – of course, a storied history would be of no value if the hotel was unable to deliver today.

As Michael Sorgenfrey, managing director of the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, tells me over coffee: “We are always in the limelight here; the signing of the Adlon brought Kempinski itself to international recognition in the 1990s.

“Our guests are honest with us – expectations remain very high, even during this troubled time.

“We are always questioning how we can make it more convenient for our visitors, to anticipate their needs, and improve the reputation of the hotel.

“The pressure is always here; Kempinski has flagship properties across Europe, in Munich, Istanbul and Budapest, so we have to keep the standards high.”

Walking down Unter den Linden and in through the front door of the hotel, initial impressions are good.

The huge lobby is the beating heart of the property, a cool, relaxed space with the concierge and reception desks subtly tucked virtually out of sight.

Water burbles from the famous elephant fountain, a present from the Maharaja of Patiala in the 1930s, while magnificent Murano glass chandeliers hang overhead.

On the veranda above, guests breakfast a Bel Etage, a place where fine silver from yesteryear clinks against contemporary crockery and classical music plays.

For a certain strata of Berlin society, you feel, if anything happens, it happens here.

Up in the suites, fresh white roses await, along with sparkling wine, bon bons and fresh fruit – the quintessential welcome to a luxury hotel.

Opening the curtains, the view over the Brandenburg Gate is worth the price of admission alone, with the glass cupola of the Reichstag building glistening in the background.

A note should be made on

As program director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Lan Samantha Chang is used to calling people with good news. But this time, the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Arts was the one who received the call.

Chang was named a 2021-22 Berlin Prize fellow, an honor awarded to scholars, writers, and artists who represent the highest standards of excellence in their field. The prize, presented by the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, provides a semester-long fellowship for recipients to pursue their creative work.

“It’s a huge honor and an encouraging affirmation of my creative work to be chosen as a Berlin Prize fellow,” Chang says. “Each spring, I have the experience of calling successful fiction applicants to the Writers’ Workshop to inform them of their good news. But that experience didn’t prepare me for the surprise and thrill I felt to be on the receiving end of a good-news phone call from Berlin.”

Chang is the author of a collection of short fiction, Hunger, and two novels, Inheritance and All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost. Her newest novel, The Family Chao, is set to be released in 2022. Chang’s work has been translated into nine languages and has twice been included in The Best American Short Stories.

The Berlin Prize provides fellows an opportunity to travel to the Academy’s Hans Arnhold Center in Berlin for a semester to pursue new projects. After finishing her newest manuscript this year, Chang says she looks forward to spending the time in Berlin.

“My family and I will be in Berlin for the fall semester, and my daughter will spend her first trimester of high school there,” Chang says. “I plan to begin a new novel in Berlin. I feel tremendously fortunate to have this chance to immerse myself in a new project while I’m at the academy.”

The fellowship is not only another endorsement of Chang’s work but adds to a storied list of Berlin Prize fellows from the Workshop, including Angela Flournoy, V.V. Ganeshanathan, Adam Haslett, Anthony Marra, and Ayana Mathis, along with visiting writers Mary Jo Bang, Tom Drury, and Karen Russell.

“A number of Workshop affiliates have been Berlin Prize fellows,” Chang says. “I think it’s an enormous credit to the Writers’ Workshop that so many of its community have been honored by the American Academy in Berlin.”

Chang has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. But she says this fellowship feels different.

“I feel that the horizons for my work and life have broadened,” Chang says. “There’s also a tremendous sense of adventure to be setting out on a semester overseas.”

Iowa is known as the Writing University largely because of world-renowned graduate programs including the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. But the university’s commitment to helping all students build strong writing and communication skills is evident in every corner of campus and every field of