Quisisana Palace

“Chort!” An old Russian gentleman grimaces after sipping water from his spa cup. The warm water has a bitter sulphuric taste only endured for its natural medicinal quality. Behind him, a few elderly people are diligently waiting for their turn at the seep. The scene repeats itself at each of the seven spring colonnades placed along the Teplá river. People from former Soviet countries usually come to Karlovy Vary to embark on a traditional wellness journey with long stays at sanatoriums and visits at beauty bazaars full of private clinics. Lately, however, clerks at gaudy jewelry and designer stores slouch bent on their counters, holding their chins in their palms, dying for someone to come in.

"Its name references Capri’s most famous sanatorium turned hotel and suggests that “here one heals.” Yet this Quisisana has little in common with a medical facility. The care it provides is elusively holistic rather than clinically targeted, suitable for those crippled by existential nausea or on a verge of a burnout. Quisisana offers the analgesic properties of home, but in a luxurious and carefree setting."

Ever since the EU sanctioned Russia, the town’s tourism has experienced a palpable downturn. Some have managed history’s encumbrances by shifting their focus on West European customers. Quisisana Palace is one of them. Its name references Capri’s most famous sanatorium turned hotel and suggests that “here one heals.” Yet this Quisisana has little in common with a medical facility. The care it provides is elusively holistic rather than clinically targeted, suitable for those crippled by existential nausea or on a verge of a burnout. Quisisana offers the analgesic properties of home, but in a luxurious and carefree setting. Indeed, the hotel is housed in what used to be the private residence of Anton Pupp and Maria Mattoni, heirs to two of the wealthiest families in Bohemia and owners of the Grand Pupp across the street. The couple had built their home to create an intimate space to share with close friends, away from the bustle of their grand hotel.

The hotel has only 19 rooms and suites decorated in a pastiche of Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Baroque styles – a design premise that would make anyone’s stomach churn. But here everything works gracefully, in part because each element satisfies a familiar fantasy about luxury: fresh flowers, starched sheets, thick memory foam mattresses, high ceilings, intricate stuccos, fanned out balconies overlooking the river, black granite counter tops, yellow marble bathrooms, convex mirrors, built-in wardrobes, fireplaces decorated with bas-reliefs – all things anyone enjoys, especially in an uneventful place like Karlovy Vary, a picturesque and dreamy town that could be visited in a couple of hours. But it's the longer stay that relaxes the nerves and cajoles the mind into forgetting the concerns and frustrations from home and into focusing on the buildings, landmarks, tacky posters hanging outside shops and the townspeople’s clothes, movements and mannerisms. This dull prettiness makes one rediscover a suffocated light heart that puts a smile when drinking that funny tasting thermal water. AP

This review is included in TTA11. Click here for more information about the issue.

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