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You're the president of Turkmenistan, home to some of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world as well as plenty of oil. These days, everyone wants a piece of your hydrocarbon pie, so you're welcome in the capitals of the world, and since prior to becoming president you didn't travel much, you're glad for the opportunity.

But when you travel abroad, where do you stay?

The Turkmen state media have followed President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov from Asia to Europe and reported on his trips, including his lodgings, to a public that makes somewhere around $100 per month, if they have a good job. So in November, this is what the people of Turkmenistan learned as Berdymukhammedov made his way to South Korea and then to Europe.

At the start of November in Seoul, Berdymukhammedov and his delegation of officials and businessmen were guests at the Shilla Hotel. The Shilla Hotel website notes "Rising from 23 acres of landscaped parkland in the heart of Seoul, the Shilla blends Korea's rich cultural heritage with luxurious guest facilities, advanced communications technology, and gracious, attentive service."

On to Berlin and a stay, this time with a 140-member delegation, at the Aldon Kempinski Hotel. "Located in the very heart of Berlin, right by the Brandenburg Gate and in the immediate vicinity of the Reichstag, which houses the German Parliament, one of the world's most illustrious luxury hotels in all its majestic splendor cordially welcomes its guests" its website says. But wait, there's more: "Its unsurpassable aura of tradition and modernity, its prominent location on Berlin's splendid boulevard Unter den Linden together with the perfection and interiors of a five-star deluxe hotel render the Hotel Adlon Kempinski unique and justify its reputation as one of the 'Leading Hotels of the World.'"

The Turkmen president then traveled on to Munich. There, he and his delegation were guests at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel, which its website proudly proclaims is "probably the most versatile hotel of the city." The Bayerischer Hof "has the stylishness of ambience, the variety of interior design in the rooms and the exclusivity of furnishings to satisfy the most exacting standards." Berdymukhammedov's busy schedule probably prevented him from enjoying the "unique Blue Spa with its breathtaking view over Munich."

So far, so good but what could top all that? Well, on to Vienna, where the Turkmen delegation arrived at the Hotel Imperial, "a byword for elegance around the world," according to its website. I assume they wanted to relax in luxury, so Berdymukhammedov, at least, probably chose one of the hotel's "royal suites." Who wouldn't (if you had the money)? "Exquisite crystal chandeliers glitter from seven-meter-high stucco-decorated ceilings casting the rooms in sparkling aristocratic flair. Crowned heads and state guests, artists and megastars of three centuries have ascended the famed princely staircase to enter entranced a world of polished elegance."

Oh yeah, with that room you also get butler service: "As 'gentleman's gentleman' they stand ready to advise and assist at all times, and their tact and discretion are beyond reproach...."

Turkmen was never my best language, so I don't know how to say "roughing it." My bet is Berdymukhammedov doesn't either.

-- Bruce Pannier

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at