Cold Beauty: Before You Stay in a Medieval Hotel...

There are benefits and disadvantages to taking accommodation in old places

There is an unsettling combination of benefits and disadvantages to taking accommodation in old places. Staying in a 400-year-old southern Bohemian building in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, I discovered that the gorgeous aesthetics and informality of lodging in a Renaissance-era hotel does not outweigh the discomfort, echoing hallways and threat from ghosts.

Some good parts:

  • Aesthetics - In medieval hotels, local, man-made art, timber and white-washing dominate your senses. There is this feeling of beautiful austerity preserved in elements that people don't care about anymore, like wooden beams and inner infrastructure that has a calming, leveling effect. In places like this, you see gorgeous, painted ceiling designs that engender a sweet reminiscence of ancient times (when average life expectancy was 42 and having more than 3 teeth was considered a miracle of dentistry). Modern hotels rarely produce a "wow" effect of any kind…you walk in, look for the teenager behind the desk and exchange plastic cards--credit card for room key. Fun!

  • Insouciance - Ok, so I just remembered that this word means, more or less, casualness or nonchalance, but I think this is the most pleasant word to carry the meaning I'm looking for. Many medieval hotels are run by older couples that appear to be gently harassed by their own lifestyle--after all, they typically live there too, in the middle of it all. But you've got to admire their "check in" process:

Guest: Hello.

Hotelier: Hello, are you Mr. White?

Guest: Yes, I am.

Hotelier: Lovely. Here is your key. It's room 1 (out of 4 rooms).

Guest: Thank you.

Hotelier: What time would you like breakfast delivered to your room?

Guest: Um, 10 AM?

Hotelier: Great. Coffee or tea?

Guest: Coffee please.

Hotelier: Ok, just remember to lock all the doors!

No forms, no IDs, no magnetic cards that always fail, no mini bars, no BS. Like you are staying in someone's home.

Oh, but the bad parts:

  • (Dis)comfort - So there might not be a mini bar filled with expensive snacks, but it's also impossible to find good towels, slippers for the ice cold floors, or heaters that can raise the room temperature over 17C. When you are in bed under a thick blanket and your toes are numb through your socks, you just start to feel pissed off.

  • Acoustics - The man staying on the floor below me has intestinal problems, and walks with a limp due to his time spent inline skating over tree roots in Stromovka park His wife is having an affair with an American who voice over the phone indicates that he has blocked nasal passages and constrictive underwear. With all the vaulted ceilings, narrow, low hallways and solid stone or tile floors, I swear I'm like a blind Sherlock Holmes--I don't even have to see these people! Every fart, nose whistle or swallow of food sounds like it's inside my effing pillow, like some inconsiderate monster in the closet.

  • Ghosts - Naturally, ghosts can always wreak havoc on a long-weekend away. They always seem to pinch the thighs at night, right? At least in towns with medieval centers like this, you can find a shop selling Talismans to prevent other-worldly attacks by poltergeist (question: Does poltergeist have a plural? I mean, isn't it like sheep? It sounds like a word that was born plural. Yeeaaahhhh.)

TL;DR :: Before you elect to enter the holy pact between hotelier and guest in a freezing former stable that offers beautiful castle views from above the wood pile in the back, consider that your vacation is probably suffering if you need more out of your hotel than a warm bed and quiet chambers for 8 hours at night (weather permitting). The discomforts of antiquated pensions, to me, are not worth it, unless I am prepared to bring my own heating system.

Visit the Cellar Door Press for more of the same from Oliver White.

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