These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.


Presidential treatment

 photo: Ján Svrček

American presidents holiday at Camp David, British royalty in the Balmoral family castle retreat in Scotland. Normal people like you and me are not allowed to vacation there. We are not permitted to walk in the footsteps of world leaders like ‘Dubya’ or Prince Charles.

But in Slovakia, it’s different. Since President Schuster spends his summers stalking panthers in the Brazilian Amazon, the former Czechoslovak presidential summer retreat is available. Consequently, anyone with 40 US dollars (2,000 crowns) can sleep in the very bed that presidents of the first Czechoslovak state slept in, at the Topoľčianky manor house.

“You are breathing history right now!” exclaimed the vociferous chateau manager, Milan Klecka, when I stayed in the Presidential Apartment in May. “You are breathing in a very important, representative part of our culture! This is the very room the presidents stayed in! That is the exact bed they slept in! Everything has been left as it was!”

The last part of that statement can be translated into ‘everything is still fancy and real big’. The living-room of the Presidential Apartment, the bedroom, the bathroom - it is all huge and elegantly befitting a president. The night I stayed there, a raging thunderstorm knocked out power to the town of 3,000 three times. The first time, it took me a full ten minutes to stumble through the pitch-black from the bathroom sink to outside. The bathroom is also massive, bigger than the first flat I rented in Bratislava. Even the walls are tremendous: “You won’t get a signal here!” Klecka told me when he saw my mobile. “The walls are 150 centimetres thick! No signal can get through!”

Topoľčianky is indeed a wonder, so it is understandable why he’s so excited. This is where the first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Garyk Masaryk, spent every summer he was in power. Other presidents stayed here as well, the last being Antonín Zápotocký in 1951. For an American traveller like me, I find it hard to believe that such a historically significant site is so accessible to the public, at such a cheap rate. Forty dollars? If you could visit Camp David for a night the bill would surely be in the tens of thousands.

 photo: Ján Svrček

Not in this stately manor house, a four-winged structure first built in the 15th century. The front neo-classical wing is today home to the Presidential Apartment, the ‘Small Presidential Apartment’ and a museum of antique furniture, paintings, clocks, pottery, carpets and weapons. The remaining three wings all sport an elegant series of arches overlooking a large courtyard in the middle (cheaper rooms are also located in these wings). Out back is the sprawling Presidential Garden, dotted with a few wooden sculptures and an artificial pond with sitting benches on a peninsula.

Next door to the palace is the ‘National Stud Farm’, a state-owned firm established in 1921. Arabian, Lipican, Hucul and ‘Sport’ horses are all bred here. Visitors can rent a mount for the day or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. For more information, check out

But the main reason to visit Topoľčianky is the presidential suite. To sprawl out on the large double bed is a unique experience, especially when you consider who sprawled here before, and particularly when you’ve been staying in the dives I frequent.

“All the most important Czechoslovak figures stayed here!” Klecka continued. “All of our famous writers, politicians, artists... everyone! Today it is very popular among foreigners and people from Bratislava! Just today we had an American woman stay here and recently the Dutch Embassy also came! People buying horses at the stud farm often stay here as well!”

But you don’t need to buy a stud to stay here. You don’t need even need to be rich. Forty dollars! And ponder this: the bland Devín Hotel in Bratislava is more than three times as expensive. All things considering, Topoľčianky is a magnificent holiday. And ridiculously, almost scandalously, affordable.

- Chris Togneri

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2002.

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