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.



Chateau Topoľčianky: Wine Getaway

While Small Carpathian wineries make a fine day's jaunt from Bratislava, the village of Topoľčianky is the place to go for a weekend of wine and relaxation.

    Chateau Topoľčianky
 Chateau Topoľčianky
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Just 100 kilomotres east of Bratislava in the wine region around Nitra, Topoľčianky is a quiet village set in a verdant valley between two mountain ranges. It provides a nearly ideal wine-lovers' respite from city life or the rigours of travel. The village houses both Chateau Topoľčianky, the winery, and Chateau Topoľčianky, the grand, fading old hotel that used to serve as the retreat for Czechoslovak presidents. As a bonus, only about a 100 metres of beautiful lawn separate the two.

The winery is probably Slovakia's largest producer of good wine. Chateau Topoľčianky produces wine at three levels: cheap table stuff, "quality" (akostné) wine, and "archive" (archívne) wine. The latter two are made in small batches and are comparable in quality to the small-production wines of the Small Carpathians.

On a recent visit I tried a 1999 Rulandské Biele, which displayed a flowery nose, a touch of strawberry on the palate, and a crisp acidic finish; a 1998 Tramín, a rock-solid example of that racy varietal; and a 1999 Alibernet, from grapes bought in the southern nether regions where red grapes grow best. Its rich raisin/port-wine nose was well-backed by strong tannins and a velvety consistency.

Once you've tasted a few wines and bought a bottle or two, it's time to retire to the hotel. The site on which Chateau Topoľčianky sits first enters the historical records from 1290, as a fortress. In the 18th century, all military traces vanished in the dust of a Renaissance makeover. In 1818, it received another facelift, giving it the neoclassical look it has today. In 1890, the Habsburgs, in the twilight of their power, bought it as a vacation home. When the empire collapsed, Tomáš Masaryk, first president of the Czechoslovak Republic, nationalized it and turned it into a presidential retreat.

    Elk statue at Chateau Topoľčianky.
 Elk statue at Chateau Topoľčianky.
 Photo: Ján Svrček

Visitors now have two options: splash out and take Masaryk's old room, the grand "presidential suite," for about €45; or stay in one of the poky but quite comfortable rooms that line the chateau's courtyard, for about €15. Either way, you get access to the lovely sunny courtyard and the surrounding grounds, with their tree-lined paths perfect for the morning constitutional.

And by no means should visitors neglect the spa options. Between 16:00 and 20:00 daily, the hotel runs a sauna (Sk70) and offers massages (Sk90). The massage I received there was one of the best I've ever had, and the sauna was more than acceptable.

Finally, visitors are well-advised to imitate Masaryk, whose twin passions were wine and horses, and take in the national horse-breeding farm. Like the winery, it's only 100 metres or so away from the hotel, and it's worth the walk. Tourists can only watch the horses in action on special occasions, but a tour through the farm reveals some stunningly beautiful beasts.

The only slight drawback to the village is the food. I ate at two restaurants in the village centre, and also in the hotel canteen, and none of them were up to the quality of the ubiquitous local wine.


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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