The Mini Room

When I checked in to my hotel in Oldenburg, the man at reception told me he was giving me the “mini room”, sounding as though he was doing me some kind of big favor. Of course, I thought he just meant a small room, which didn’t surprise me because I had gotten a good price from one of the booking sites.

Back building where the Mini Room is

He told me that the “mini room” was not in the main hotel building, but in a smaller building out back. I didn’t pay much attention to what was painted on that back building, just went in and found the room number on the second floor.

Mini in the Mini Room

When I unlocked the door, I was shocked to see that there was a car in the room, or rather half a car, and pictures of cars on all the walls. My first impulse was to go back to reception and ask for a different room, but I soon decided not to do this, since someone had obviously gone to a lot of trouble and expense to decorate the room, and they had no way of knowing I was an inveterate autophobe.

The car was a Morris Mini, or perhaps an Austin Mini, in any case one of a long series of small economy cars that were made in England, mainly in Frankfurt’s partner city of Birmingham, from 1959 to 2000. It happened that from my visits to Birmingham in the 1990s I was slightly acquainted with one of the chief engineers of the Longbridge automobile factory, otherwise I wouldn’t even have known what kind of car it was.

Of course I was not happy about sharing my room with a car, or even half a car, but since it had no motor and was securely bolted to one of the walls, it was obviously not capable of doing all the things that cars usually do. It was not polluting the atmosphere. It was not making noise. It was not endangering the lives of pedestrians and cyclists. It was not even blocking a cycle path or a sidewalk. So I decided I could grudgingly tolerate its company for a few days and nights.

(As I have mentioned elsewhere, the German language has a nice word for grudgingly, namely zähneknirschend, which is literally ‘teethgrindingly’.)


During my thirteen years as a member of the now-defunct website VirtualTourist, I used to change my motto every few months. Some of these mottos were about other things entirely, such as “An opinion without 3.14 is an onion” or “Wanted dead and alive — Schrödinger’s Cat!”, both of which I must have found on the web somewhere, but many of them were about cars, for instance:

  • The world is full of wonderful places. Help keep them wonderful by not driving in them.
  • Cities are for people, not cars.
  • Cars are evil.
  • Your car stinks! (And pollutes the atmosphere.)
  • Cars destroy neighborhoods.
  • If you’re on four wheels, you are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.
  • Don’t sentence yourself to life imprisonment in your car. (Unless you have committed some heinous crime.)
  • Cars cause blight.
  • Human rights are for humans, not cars.
  • Your car is killing you. Get rid of it now, while you still can.
  • Jaywalking is a human right. Jaydriving is not.
  • Burn carbohydrates, not hydrocarbons.
  • There is no such thing as an environmentally-friendly car.
  • Your family doctor and your local bicycle shop can help you quit driving.
  • Don’t subject your children to the automobile torture.
  • Freedom’s just another word for — not needing a car.
  • The surface of the earth is too valuable to be wasted on car parking.
  • A bicycle is — the freedom you thought you were getting when you bought a car.
  • Don’t let cars ruin your city.
  • (etc.)

But the motto I eventually settled on was:

  • Cars from now on will have to be lighter, smaller, slower, cleaner — and fewer!

The Morris Mini was in fact lighter, smaller and slower than most other cars, so I have to admit it was somewhat less noxious. But only somewhat.

Decorations in the Mini Room

The decorations in the Mini Room included a display case with matchbox cars and, on the bottom shelf, a figurine of the British actor Rowan Atkinson in his role as the simple-minded “Mister Bean”, who used to drive around in a Morris Mini with his teddy bear (also shown in the display case). “Mister Bean” was inspired by the French film character Monsieur Hulot”, as played by Jacques Tati (1907-1982) in such films as Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and Mon Oncle.

Monsieur Hulot also used to drive around in a special kind of car, namely a rickety Salmson AL3 from the years 1923-24. (Salmson was a French company based in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.)

View from the Mini Room

Appropriately, the view from the Mini Room consists mainly of a parking lot for cars.

My photos in this post are from 2016. I wrote the text in 2021.

See more posts on Oldenburg, Germany.
See more posts about the now-defunct website VirtualTourist.
See more posts on the pernicious effects of cars.

18 thoughts on “The Mini Room”

  1. I’m not phobic about cars – where we live you’d not be able to go anywhere without one – and I love that room! It’s fun. I do agree that cars should not be needed in cities, but again, in the UK they are often, because our public transport is so woefully inadequate. For example, if I want to go into London, I go by train, but I have a choice of driving the 12 miles to the station (which takes around 20 minutes) or catching one of the half a dozen buses that run during the day but take 90 minutes. And on the days I used to go to the office I would not be able to get a bus home and would have to shell out £30 for a taxi.

    1. Yes, there are lots of places like that. I’m fortunate in that I live 7.2 km from the opera house and 8 km from where I teach, and there are good bicycle routes to both places.

      1. There’s a local campaign just starting up to demand infrastructure for cycling. The A43 and A5 are the main roads out of here, and they are terrifying to cycle along. The alternative is to take to the rambling back roads which are narrow and full of pot-holes. Mind you we’d also settle for a regular, speedy inexpensive set of bus routes to the local towns that have railway connections. The bus to Milton Keynes from here does not stop at the railway station…

  2. That looks like a very nice and interesting hotel! i hope, I rember it, when I ever shall visit Oldenburg. Thank you for sharing!
    Best regards
    Ulrike

  3. My husband was and is very involved with cars. Our first date was to the stock car races. At one point we had 20 cars, 3 or 4 of which I could drive. And he decided to convert a car to electric – he took a diesel Ford Escort and made an electric car out of it. He commuted in it for 5 years (until he retired). He would love the Mini room.

    Like Stella, we live where it would be hard to go anywhere without a car. There is almost no public transportation (there’s a small shuttle bus), and no taxi cabs (although I think there is Uber). Many of the roads have wide shoulders because there is a large Amish community who need the shoulders to drive their carts etc. But it is very hilly so biking is strenuous.

    1. Yes, I’m sure there are lots of people who would love the Mini room. And those who designed it, I imagine, were trying to preserve a beloved car that was approaching the end of its on-road usefulness.

  4. Thank you, Nemorino! I thought I was the only autophobe around (actually, I’m in the USA: I may still be the only automobile-phobe around, within 3000 miles, anyway!!).
    -Shira

    1. I’m sure there are some more autophobes, even in California. (I’ve never been to San Diego, but I once lived and worked for several years in Berkeley.)

      1. I don’t know if it’d be possible or useful to meet up with them, but I keep wondering if I should look for a job, preferably someplace sunny, where I could cycle in protected bike lanes, as I am not confident on a bicycle, and where the middle classes also used the public transportation and had some guarantee of health care. Not sure where that would be that actually wants US citizens at the moment…

  5. Lovely blog Don, and I wouldn’t mind sharing the room with Mr. Bean & his mini. This reminded me of my recent post visit to a vintage car drive show which was promoting road safety. All the quotes are nice and liked the one you settled with. Thanks for sharing this amazing story, it’s going on my twitter handle.

  6. What an interesting room! I also would have assumed the man at check in was referring to an extra small room. But like you, I’m not sure I would have really wanted to have half a car in my hotel room. Thanks for sharing this story!

  7. I’m always fascinated by the process that gives birth to projects like the Mini Room. Someone awoke one morning with the idea. A doting friend, colleague or lover gave the necessary affirmation or encouragement. The idea takes shape in two dimensions edging ever closer to three. Then it is realised. The fatal moment of conception in creativity requires the pen of a John Berger to investigate and fathom. ☺️

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