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Germany

Germany’s Camp David

Petersberg near Bonn is used to hosting high-profile summits. Its verdant and tranquil surroundings will hopefully have a soothing effect on the volatile Afghan talks that start on Monday.

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Finding solutions to world problems at Petersberg

Afghan leaders and diplomats from around the world will meet in tranquil, but swanky surroundings on Monday as they begin the first round of talks on forming an interim government for war-torn Afghanistan.

The UN-sponsored talks on the future of Afghanistan will take place in the castle of Petersberg just outside Bonn.

While the German government favored a more central location such as Berlin for the talks, Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Secretary General Kofi Anan’s special representative for Afghanistan preferred a quieter venue for the sensitive negotiations that could last several days.

A more ideal location couldn’t have been found. Perched on a hilltop across the Rhine river and run by the German Foreign Ministry, Petersberg is an exclusive hotel.

Housing Statesmen from around the world

The castle has housed some high profile dignitaries and statesmen from around the world. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stayed here in September 1938 during a futile mission to try and persuade Adolf Hitler not to send troops into Czechoslovakia's German-speaking Sudetenland.

The hotel was bombed during the Second World War and suffered much damage. It was taken over in 1945 by the Western Allies, who used it as a joint high commission to rule what was to become the German Federal Republic.

From the mid-1950s the West German government hosted numerous leaders at the Petersberg, including the Shah of Iran, Britain's Queen Elizabeth and the late King Hussein of Jordan.

Luxury at a price

The plush hotel boasts 92 rooms, two restaurants and 272 acres of rolling parkland in which an 18th century chapel stands.

It was a venue for Bosnia and Kosovo peace talks and former American President Bill Clinton spent the night here in the lavish 290 square meter "Berlin" suite which costs a whopping 2,500 Deutschmarks a night. The majestic bed he slept in later also kept Queen Elizabeth II of England warm and is obviously now quite an attraction.

Not just for VIPs

Today the hotel has opened its doors not just to state dignitaries, but also to ordinary people who can afford the exorbitant prices. The 12 suites are designed to make ordinary guests feel like royalty. They’re named after German states and exquisitely furnished. Prices range from 950 (485 euro) and 2,500 Deutschmarks (1278 euro) per night.

Ever since the government moved to Berlin, an increasing number of companies such as BMW regularly hold their business conferences here.

Petersberg is also a favorite place for Germany’s rich and famous to come here for weekends and relax at the so-called "wellness centers" or health spas or to exchange marriage vows.

In 1995 motor racing world champion Micheal Schumacher held his wedding reception here, an event that triggered a spate of further wedding receptions at the same venue.

But reservations for ordinary guests are difficult to come by. After all if the Japanese emperor or the President of America plan to drop by, the more ordinary guests can forget about their bookings.