As part of our redesign in 2014, the hotel’s architect Jan Kleihues, designed the ‘Faces of Berlin’. This concept celebrates some of Berlin’s most beloved personalities in feature walls through the hotel and every month we present the background on some of these personalities. Previously we profiled Marlene Dietrich, and former heavyweight champion of the world Max Schmeling. Last month we learned about the life of playwright, poet and theatre director Bertolt Brecht and this month we bring you the life and times of ‘Iron Gustav’ and his extraordinary journey from Berlin to Paris and back.
Gustav Hartmann was born in 1859 in Wannsee and became somewhat of a local hero after driving his horse and cart from Germany to France in 1928. Hartmann’s wife’s family had started a horse and cart business and on inheriting it from them, Gustav built it up over many years to be a successful family enterprise. However the business suffered after the first world war and as the rising automotive industry took a further toll on the business, Hartmann decide to make a protest of sorts in an attempt to keep cars off the streets of Berlin. On the 2nd of April 1928, Berlin’s oldest hack driver Gustav Hartmann hitched his cart to his horse ‘Grasmus’ and departed for the long journey from Berlin to Paris. The scars of war were healing in the two countries and Hartmann’s crossing from Germany to France was considered triumphant as a result. News of his inspiring trip spread fast and soon the media of the day came to greet him as he came close to reaching Paris. Ironically he was also greeted by numerous people in automobiles.
His journey ended on the 4th of June 1928 which was also his 69th birthday. Gustav spoke no French, and on arriving in Paris at the Porte de Pantin, raised his top hat from his head and waved it at the crowd to be greeted by cheers of ‘Vive L’Allemagne’, a phrase that had not been uttered by the French for more than a decade. His story was all over the newspapers in Germany, and he was welcomed back with great fanfare at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin later that year.