This hotel is not only charming but has aimed their service toward selective discerning clients. It is in a very convenient place in the Buda district which is great in the evening, excellent restaurants within a minute's walk. The hotel is decorated in a modern way this mixed with excellent specification in furniture and bathrooms made our stay very memorable and I would definitely recommend this hotel.
Room Tip: excellent junior suite on the ground floor.
The castle is UNESCO heritage listed and its baroque 140 seat theatre is only one of five in the world. The town (pop.c 10,000) is full of fascinating renaissance and baroque buildings and due to the old brewery being the birth place of composer Smetana, there is a strong musical tradition in the town. The monastery gardens and its highly individual sculptures with subtle background music are a further attraction as is the very good and cheap beer and food. The stylish Hotel Aplaus offers double rooms from 2,600czk. To cool off, a visit to the old fashioned outdoor lido is a must.
Leaving a disappointingly grey, drizzly Lake Balaton, I needed to raise my spirits. I’d spotted a hotel on my map, at Retimajor among wetlands 30 miles away. As our shadows lengthened over the fields of sweetcorn and sunflowers, my bicycle and I sped along quiet lanes, to the tranquil haven of Retszilas Fishponds Nature Reserve. Despite having no booking, I was made welcome in an airy suite. As the sun set I watched waders and waterbirds settling for the night. Hungary’s only museum of fishery, a wellness centre and fishermen’s inn complement the outdoor activities.
Less than 100 miles apart, these South Moravian towns are linked by good cycling routes, vineyards around the River Morava, the heady smell of flowering lime trees, buildings of Baroque splendour, palaces and gardens, and market square cafes. In Kromeriz the highlight was Radnice restaurant serving a degustation menu with samples of local wine. In Mikulov, the Hotel Templ provided a comfortable room and excellent food, and was a good base for a day’s circular cycle route exploring the former Liechtenstein palaces of Valtice and Lednice, and the former Jewish area of Mikulov itself.
It is a new chateau, ugly from the outside but great on the inside in the middle of the Rose Valley. Whether sitting on the terrace and looking at both the Balkan and Sredna Gora Ranges a few miles apart or eating, hiking or visiting history in the vicinity, at £35 a night its a steal.
Moskovits, nr Karlovo
+359 882 645 452
La Posada is a beautiful hotel, the last to be built on the Santa Fe railroad, in the 1920's. Designed by Mary Colter, it was used as a launchpad for tourists into the Indian lands of northern Arizona. The hotel was beautifully restored in the 1990's after 40 years of closure. In addition to the beautiful Southwest interiors and art collection, the hotel offers, perhaps the finest dining in northern Arizona, in its restaurant, The Turquoise Room.
An adorable hostel awash with tiny cool details and cute things. I stayed at Friends on Griboedova, but they have some other location in the center as well – somewhere near Nevsky prospect and on Vosstania street. The one on Griboedova is clean, cosy and very comfortable. The staff are really friendly, they just act as friends – no wonder, since they work at “Friends hostel”. Yes, the famous TV show has something to do with the interior design – brick walls, board games, bicycles and homely atmosphere. Staff speak very good English and they help you very good. They have dorms and privates. Shared bathrooms, of course. Lots of biscuits, free tea & WIFI. I really recommend Friends hostel to anyone.
Head to Uzana, just north of Gabrovo and the geographical centre of Bulgaria, for a cheap and less crowded ski resort which hasn’t been completely saturated by tourists yet and so it’s mostly local people who holiday here. It won’t appeal to experienced skiers, given its size and smaller pistes, but it’s perfect for kids and us novices. The choice of accommodation will suit any budget from hijas (hostel-type accommodation) to affordable hotels, many of which offer lessons and have smaller slopes to practice on (and they let the dogs stay too!). Ski passes, clothing and equipment are a fraction of the price you’ll pay for at Bansko.
If you don’t fancy skiing, there are amazing walks and plenty of other things to do in the surrounding natural park and the views from the Stara Planina Mountain range are stunning. For cultural reprieve, the nearby cities of Gabrovo and historical Veliko Tarnovo are well worth days out.
On your travels: most restaurants will serve the homemade brandy (rakia) which is traditionally drunk with their delicious salads but be careful, if you drink too much of it you won’t be back on the slopes in a hurry! Or try a guvech: food cooked in a traditional clay oven pot, either with meat or cheesy vegetables, all washed down with good Bulgarian plonk. Happy days!
Bulgaria is known as a cheaper skiing destination, but the culture, traditions and cuisine are all worth exploring. Just a few miles east of the popular resort of Bansko is Dobrinishte, a bucolic village at the foot of Pirin mountain. Tucked away in the far corner of the village is the 'Makadonska Kruchma', a wonderful tavern that serves some of the best food and wines in the whole country. They also offer very comfortable and attractive rooms.
Dobrinishte is the first stop on a little narrow gauge railway that winds northwards through the mountains past small 'pomak' (Bulgarian Muslim) villages. It's painfully slow, but well worth it for the fine landscape.
Close to Pamporovo, another famous skiing resort, is the stone-and-slate village of Shiroka Laka. It's wonderfully pretty in the winter snow, and there are plenty more taverns to sample the fine Bulgarian cuisine. Gela - allegedly the birthplace of Orpheus - is just along the valley.
Ulitsa Targovska 1, Dobrinishte
Sozopol is located south of Burgas on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
Also see Nessebar (a lovely beach town) further down the coast, and take a boat from nearby Primorsko to see the lions head (part of the blue mountain range).
In Sozopol, Hotel Coral is a great place to stay.
Nothing special as far as design or services are concerned, but the room was nice and the location is convenient to visit all the attractions. Rome’s main transport hub, the Termini station, is a few minutes walk away, that’s where we arrived with the Leonardo Express from the airport. The historic centre or the Spanish Steps are a short walk, or you can take different buses - we never bothered. To sights further such as the Vatican or the Colosseum you can take the metro, that was easy and straight forward. There is a wide range of restaurants in the area: towards the station they tend to be cheaper, towards Monti and the centre trendier and more expensive. It was a good hotel at the right price, convenience and value for money.
The Capitol Hotel (Art Hotel) has a nice 'tucked away' position in the city, it's small and stylish. Just over the road is the Sea Garden (a park full of amenities for kids and sports with huge Soviet era statues and gardens) which is adjacent to the beach. Stroll north through the Sea Garden and go down to one the many clean beaches, walk till you hit the Rappongi, a classy cocktail bar/restaurant with a sandy beach in front. Great value and top quality, you'll never want to leave.
You can get a sense of both the Communist and royal past in the ski resort of Borovets. Samokov hotel gives a glimpse of the Communist past with its huge 11-storey building within which you can find a full size swimming pool, ten pin bowling alley, conference centre and shooting range - entertainment and brutalist architecture for the masses. A sense of an earlier royal past is provided by the Royal Bistria hunting lodge built at the end of the 19th century for Bulgarian monarchs nestling in the woods. If you are a Communist or royalist the skiing is good: there are enough descents through picturesque pine forest to keep most amused and it's much cheaper than the Alps. The Rila mountains are beautiful. You get a glimpse of their many lakes (120) on the way up from Sofia and if not skiing, mountain biking and walking are alternatives. On the way between Sofia and Borovets Mitropolitska church in Samokov is worth a stop to see its remarkable woodcarvings.
For its excellent atmosphere! Very private and undisturbed room. It is spotless, very spacious, and very tastefully decorated. Food was great: simple, fresh and cooked in an open kitchen.
Di and Jez provide a fully inclusive stay in the traditional Saxon village of Cisnadioara with its storks, hwoling dogs and unmade roads. They really mean 'fully inclusive'. Di's food is outstanding, and the highlight are the tours, tailored to what you want to see, from salt mines to mountain peaks, remote hill walks, bustling markets, historic towns... and they even collect you from the airport! The best way to get to know Transylvania.
Str. Bisericii, 555301, Cisnadioara, Romania
+40 (0) 2695 62119
Get up to Maramures, on the border with Ukraine: we stayed in Sighet, a border town with an oddly stately and historical feel to it, in a decent hotel, the Coroana, redolent of other days: a fascinating market selling local agricultural produce and splendid, head-scarved old matriarchs sitting behind stinking vats of good cheese. Visit the Museum of Arrested Thought, housed in the old Ceaucescu era prison for moments of genuine sadness and quiet despair, but then hire a driver and go on to the Merry Cemetery that makes mortality amusing and vibrant and then on further to the wooden churches, redolent with genuine piety and a sense of community that previous regimes have clearly failed to touch – and all in a bucolic world of green, wild-flowered neatly scythed meadows and horses and carts that Hardy would have recognised and was mourning for well over a century ago.
Str. P-ta Libertatii nr. 8, Sighetu Marmatiei 435500, Romania
+40 362 103 244
Google map: bit.ly/117c5qx
An erect willy is a part of the chef's special in Sighişoara's smartest dinery. Made from pork meatloaf, it salutes Vlad the Impaler, the Translyvanian hero whose birthplace is just around the corner. The town is the best preserved medieval citadel in Europe, old MittelEurope alive and well in Transylvania. The impressive Tolkienesque clock-tower houses a good museum. Climb to the top to gaze down on the pan-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and ancient covered walkways that link nine defensive guild towers. And the willy was delicious, thank you for asking.
The place to stay in Sighisoara is the Casa cu Cerb - the name translates as the Stag House and the hotel is easy to find: on the front of the building there's a painted rearing stag, complete with real antlers that project into the small main square.
A face behind reception may look familiar; this is where Princes Charles has stayed on trips to the area. HRH is apparently related to Vlad the Impaler but you wouldn't guess, a friendly autographed 'Charles' portrait welcomes you to Translyvania. Ask for a room overlooking the square: you can watch the Transylvanian world go by, see and hear the clock-tower, listen to the echoing chacks of jackdaws, and almost don't need to leave your room. The top floor rooms are the best value.
The hotel is not quite what it seems, dig a little deeper to discover that in 2001 it was restored to an extremely high standard (a traditional wooden staircase is particularly superb) by the Messerschmitt Foundation www.schloss-anras.com/messerschmitt_eng.html. Established by Willy Messerschmitt it is dedicated to preserving the best of German architecture. The link between Germany and Transylvania, if you're wondering, is that the region was formerly peopled by the Saxons, their churches and villages remain today. (You should also know for politeness at least, that until the first world war Translyvania was very much Hungarian and for many, still is.)
Two must-see-dos (as well as the pork willy) in Sighişoara are a) a walk up the covered walkway (protection against winter snow) to the defensive church and graveyard at the top of the hill. An old horse-drawn hearse parked round the back adds atmosphere, as if it were needed. Then b) is a little pizzaria, San Gennaro, near the main square. Baked in front of your eyes, the pizzas are thin and fresh and delicious and costed us two euros each. There's a garden at the back to enjoy them with a beer if the weather's good.
To aid in creating a sustainable new Translyvanian rural economy Prince Charles bought a couple of farmhouses and converted them into self-catering accommodation. These are managed for HRH by Count Kalnoky www.transylvaniancastle.com/kalnoky/kalnoky.htmlwho who also welcomes guests to his own estate in Miklósvár - a typically Translyvanian agrarian village. We stayed there in a 'gingerbread' cottage with maize cobs hanging under the eaves. Meals including breakfast are usually served al fresco under a wonderful grapevine-covered loggia, or in the evening in a very atmospheric ancient dining room (think dark night, Dracula, flickering candles, intriguing fellow guests, Dracula ...)
The last stronghold of the European Wolf is Translyvania; there are an estimated 3000 still roaming the forests, more than the rest of Europe combined. There are also brown bears and lynx. Count Kalnoky organises guided nature trips into the woods and forests. We first met sheep, with their shepherd, and our guide issued a sheepdog cautionary - speak softly and carry a big stick (you may look like a shepherd). The dogs are large and can need watching, their role is, after all, fighting wolves and bears.
We found ammonites in a forest stream, saw really beautiful insects, and picked and ate delicous wild raspberries with our picnic which included the ubiquitous strong plum spirit. This was enjoyed in a meadow alive with grasshoppers and birdsong. The raspberries you also see being sold at the roadside by gypsy women and girls along with baskets of some luminously yellow fungi. In the middle of nowhere on a wooded hill we came across an American archaelogy professor plus students excavating a Hunnish 4th century settlement. But the very best came last, as we crossed a stream on the way back, there glistening in the mud were the very recently formed spoor of a large brown bear.
Casa Cu Cerb
Str. Scolii, 1, Sighisoara, Mures, 545400
+40 265 774625
Google map: bit.ly/WOXqd8
The Hotel Sighisoara is a good hotel next to the square with a separate outdoor restaurant with good quality food where the aforementioned chef's special is good value, five or six meats served on large wooden board. A meal to remember. www.sighisoarahotels.ro/
Pizzeria San Gennaro - just opposite the Casa Cu Cerb. Baked to order delicious thin pizza, garden in the rear. Was 2 euro for an eat-in pizza.
Viscri is a pretty Saxon village with a fortified church that's a world heritage site. It's worth climbing the tower for countryside views. Many Saxon buildings have been restored and a traditional way of life endures - the cows are driven to the fields in the early morning, returning in the evening and people use horses and carts.
+40 742 202586
Sibiu is well worth a visit. Admire Transylvanian icons and Romanian Impressionist paintings in the Brukenthal Museum on the Piata Mare. Stroll to the nearby Liars’ Bridge, Romania’s oldest cast-iron bridge, said to collapse if you tell a lie when standing on it (somehow it survived intact when Ceaucescu made a speech from it.) Visit the 14th Century Evangelic church where the son of Vlad the Impaler (inspiration for Dracula) was stabbed. Saunter back to the Piata Mare, with its sherbet-coloured buildings, to people-watch or enjoy an open-air concert. Relax in the elegant Hotel Imparatul Romanilor round the corner – just £45 for a twin room with a fantastic buffet breakfast.
Str.Nicolae Balcescu, Sibiu 550159, Romania
+40 269 216 500
Google map: bit.ly/WwXVaB
Piața Mare 5, Sibiu 550163, Romania
+40 269 217 991
Google map: bit.ly/XMjSm5
Finca Arrieta is an eco resort - a low impact collection of yurts, stone houses and cabins in northern Lanzarote. It is powered off grid from renewable energy sources and seeks to minimise overall impact on environment e.g. by no TVs or other high energy demand facilities and sustainable water supply. It offers comfortable and attractive accommodation near the sea and within travelling distance of most of Lanzarote's many natural sights. The staff could not be more helpful and our stay in January was lovely.
We cannot recommend it too highly - relaxing and demonstrable how low impact tourist development is possible.
ps those of you seeking an "on trend" digital retreat from the internet it has wifi access but only in communal areas!
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