Built at the total cost of 800 million Czech crown, all of its 136 rooms have a view of the Prague Castle. Opened in 1981, at the height of the communist regime’s glory days, it was not opened to the public but was exclusively meant to accommodate the high ranking party officials as well as the foreign dignitaries and was the home to the Communist Chapter of Czechoslovakia. The Velvet Revolution of of 1989, caused the hotel to be taken over by the city administration and they ran the place up until the year 2000. Beyond that it would be taken over by the corporate giants Falcon Capital and turn it into a luxury hotel in an attempt to recapture the country’s most recent history and possibly the nostalgia.

So here I am, in January of 1991, residing in an impressive, albeit totally run down building. It has the reception area vast as an arena, looking dark and desolate because of the lack of anything to fill the space. Elsewhere it would have been a bustling lobby bar. The high ceilings make the space look even emptier. And the rounded palatial stairs leading down to the ballrooms and other conference halls, devoid of any human traffic are engulfed in the gloomy dimness. And then there is a swimming pool, with the vast body of water looking like a sinister black hole.

Ivan tells me that those stairs used to hold fashion shows, with the audience looking up and the models descending those stairs in their dainty little steps, stopping and taking their bows. Definitely the pride and joy of the communist regime, where they entertained foreign and local dignitaries and accommodated them in one of their rooms. I could certainly imagine the grandeur of the days past. Fortunately, I could see for myself, how awesome the place could have been, when years later in my post-Playboy days, working with Ivan at Mona, he would hold one of the company Christmas parties there with about a thousand guests and cornucopia of food and booze, music and dance. And what I remember the most is how elegant all the women looked in their long and glittery outfits. And how absolutely breathtaking it was to watch them descend one step at a time with their long dresses billowing so seductively. Especially, my co-creator in making of Esmeralda special, Alice Sedliská wrapped up in her floating green dress in the image of Leticia Calderon in the title role.

But let me take you back in time and in to my room. Having ridden into a sluggish ascending elevator and walk through dimly lit corridor, the room reminds me of my room at the Indian Student Hostel on Fitzroy Square in London. A single bunk like bed flush with the corner, a desk and a chair stacked against the right wall. I am not sure if there is an armchair of sorts. Fortunately, there is a full size window overlooking the garden and the Prague Castle, of which the hotel is so proud. My London room had a sink, but we had to use communal toilets and showers. My room at Praha is equipped with a bathroom of its own. Their breakfast buffet is meager even by the eastern European standards. It’s crying out for tender loving care and some well invested hard cash. Though it stands in the prestigious residential quarter of Prague 6, when you put it in perspective, it is tucked away in the remote corner, far away from the glitter and the glory of the city that calls itself Zlata Praha – the Golden Prague.

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