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Grand Hotel Experiences – Time Travel In The High Tatras

Ever since my travels began, quite a long time ago, observing hotels under the slogan Grand Hotel intrigued me. These hotels looked so remote and upper class that my imagination got overactive. Apparently the word ‘grand’ in the Grand Hotel is derived from the expression ‘grandeur’ (greatness) rather than from grand in size.

Grand Hotels are my favorite. Go back in time to the 19th century and their story will definitely make your heart beat faster. Those types of hotels were opened before the arrival of the railway.  Train travel commenced and a need for a different type of hotel was needed. A lodge that provides a collection of services – accommodation, a restaurant, personal service, laundry, cleaning, a telegraph option and even a place to stable horses.

Grand Hotel was opened as the Palace Hotel in 1905 and was renamed Grandhotel Praha in 1919 (photo by Motti Verses)

As of 1850 Grand Hotels opened in the hearts of European cities. Offering their services to the rising number of railway travellers became necessary. Customers needed a place to stay in the style to which they’d grown accustomed at home. Grand Hotels were housed in a building with traditional architectural style, with a significant refinement of modern sanitation, lifts, electricity and of course splendour. Architecturally, most grand hotels consequently resembled impressive palaces – majestic presence of chandeliers , red carpets, impressionists paintings, marble sculptures and even monarch style swimming pools. At night, the light from countless windows of the Grand Hotels was to be seen from a distance. As for service – those hotels guaranteed a bespoke approach that caters to the guests’ every whim. Over the years, Grand Hotels are known for their iconic properties. Some of them offered dinner while enjoying music by the Grand Hotel Orchestra and diners even caught a glimpse of the bellmen taking down the flags for the day — a sunset tradition in numerous locations.

The hotel is built in a beautiful Art Nouveau style (photo by Motti Verses)

With time passing, those hotels became hard to find. Certainly at an affordable rate. However I never gave up and whenever I had the opportunity I made sure I would stay in one of them. Planning a visit to Slovakia High Tatra mountains and the Grand Hotel opportunity arose again in the resort town of Tatranská Lomnica. The Grandhotel Praha that has been making the history of luxury in the Tatras from 1905 was to be my home away from home. The moment we saw the hotel,  located in the endless forest, my adventure of entering the imaginary passageway enabling time travel began.

Grand style with majestic presence of chandeliers (photo by Motti Verses)

The hotel is built in a beautiful Art Nouveau style. Visitors are literally beamed back  in a time tunnel to magical moments of the past. With 108 rooms and 15 suites this Grand Hotel was opened as the Palace Hotel in 1905 and was renamed Grandhotel Praha in 1919.

The biggest asset – the beautiful Spa complex (photo by Motti Verses)

In the early 20th century, Tatranská Lomnica was developing as a healing-recreational centre where European aristocracy met. Spa facilities became a need for those wealthy customers. They were built along with luxurious hotels. Apparently the long spa and luxury tradition of Tatranská Lomnica is represented by the Grandhotel Praha. Nowadays aristocratic guests are scarce. It became an ideal destination for family holidays and romantic breaks.

The guest rooms resemble the aristocratic decor of pre first world war (photo by Motti Verses)

Stepping into the hotel however makes you feel like a true dignified customer. Walking on dark red soft carpets surrounded by marble railings with old style wallpapers made the first appropriate impression. With replicas of famous 19th century European oil painters and hanging old style chandeliers, this hotel indeed takes the visitor to previous centuries life. The guest rooms resemble the aristocratic decor of pre first world war. It was great to enjoy sleeping there, as the beddings were the best quality. For a romantic couple it will feel like participating in a periodical Netflix drama. The dining room offers a similar experience at breakfast and the buffet dinner. The scene of the blooming flowers and the beautiful gardens from the windows were a joy to our eyes.

The dining room offers a scene of the blooming flowers and the beautiful gardens from the windows (photo by Motti Verses)
Van Gogh, Miro and Modigliani replicas hanging on hotel corridors (photo by Motti Verses)

If one might believe that the orchestrator of this relaxing time tunnel experience is a veteran middle aged person, a surprise is waiting. 25 years old Slovakian Dominika Biľová is the hotel Director. “Although more than 100 years old, our hotel was renovated 5 years ago”, she says. “The hotel is naturally great for romantic couples, but we do host groups and we even cater to conferences and meetings up to 300 participants. The historic atmosphere makes our hotel a popular venue, also  for representative balls and fairytale weddings. Our biggest asset is the beautiful Spa. We are one of the only hotels with a pool that is used also in summer and in winter outside. Therefore, we are unique in the High Tatras”, she concludes.

 

Hotel Director Dominika Biľová: “Although more than 100 years old, the hotel was renovated 5 years ago” (photo by Motti Verses)

4 days of enjoying the High Tatras

Getting to this part of Europe becomes rather easy with Ryanair affordable flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Krakow Poland. With a car it will take an hour and a half to get to the Slovakia Tatras, depending on traffic.

Štrbské Pleso is a picturesque mountain lake of glacial origin (photo by Motti Verses)

Exploring the mountains is most enjoyable. Often called “the smallest alpine mountains in Europe”, Slovakia’s High Tatras, mean – majestic peaks touching the sky, dark turquoise mountain lakes of glacier origin, waterfalls, unique plants, rare animals, exceptionally clean air and environment,  great for healing respiratory conditions. The name Tatras is derived from an Old Slavic name Tritri, which means rocky peaks. Štrbské Pleso is a picturesque mountain lake of glacial origin. It is the second-largest glacial lake on the Slovak side of the High Tatras, after Veľké Hincovo pleso. Due to its proximity to the hotel, I suggest to plan a day trip there. Another day should be devoted to getting as close as possible to Lomnicky pick. It is one of the highest and most visited mountain peaks in the High Tatras and connected by cable car to Tatranská Lomnica.

Lomnicky pick is connected by cable car to Tatranská Lomnica (photo by Motti Verses)

Plan your third day in the Polish Tatras. Do not miss Morskie Oko Lake. It is located deep within the Tatra National Park in the Rybi Potok (the Fish Brook) Valley. In 2014, The Wall Street Journal recognised the lake as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world. While the majority of visitors prefer a two-hour trek, a travel on horse-drawn carriages is also available. Do not miss a visit to Zakopane, the lovely town situated at the foothills of the majestic Tatras in Poland, before returning to Slovakia. This lively tourism centre and health resort is pleasant and magnificent.

Morskie Oko Lake – a travel on horse-drawn carriages is available (photo by Motti Verses)
Zakopane, the lovely town situated at the foothills of the majestic Tatras in Poland (photo by Motti Verses)

As for the 4th day – devote it to massage treatments, jacuzzi relaxations, sauna and swimming pool deeps in the Grandhotel Praha. Certainly a vacation you will always cherish.

About the Author
The author is a hotel expert, traveler, writer, videographer and the former Head of Public Relations of Hilton Hotels and Resorts in Israel
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