I like a hotel to reflect, subtly but with pride, the culture of the place it’s in. And Modra, a beguiling town famous for its beautiful pottery, wine and colourful 19th-century townhouses, is touchingly showcased in its best hotel, sitting just outside the historic centre.
My first visit to Hotel Majolika was one icy winter afternoon, stumbling in to check out the ceramics museum which occupies one side of the building. This in itself is impressive enough to have words devoted to it on a separate occasion, but it forms an interesting introduction to what is an interesting, and intelligently designed hotel which specialises in attention to detail – and goes about it in an understated way.
It’s worth mentioning early on that Modra’s history of fine ceramics production goes back centuries. The clay locally was always superb, and there were always talented craftsmen to turn out a product which was prized across the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today the legacy of ceramics in Modra is continued by the nationally-renowned Majolika, going strong since the 1880s, and with an extensively-stocked shop 100m north of the hotel. Hotel Majolika is built into the original pottery workshop, which in turn is built into part of the old town walls.
So ceramics strongly themes the hotel: along with wine, the town’s other claim to fame. Ceramics-wise, wonderful examples of Majolika work decorate the public areas, there is a small on-site shop of Modra’s distinctively-styled pottery, and a couple of windows from the hotel proper into the museum on two of its three floors, keeping that link between past and present uses of the building throughout. On the top floor, museum and hotel combine in a private function room-bar-viewpoint, flanked by antique chairs intricately carved with vine leaves, where the top of the old kiln comes out. Whilst the views out west from here and from several of the top-floor rooms, over the old townhouses to the vineyards and Small Carpathian hills, are incredible, old pictures and photos displayed point to a time when Modra was still more so. The Slovak word for vineyards is “vinohrady” or, literally, “wine castles” – feast your eyes on 19th-century Modra and it seems just that: a grand castellated town protruding out of rolling vineyards. And Hotel Majolika plays tribute to its fine wine heritage with a stylish basement wine cellar, where tastings (degustácia) can be arranged (once your palate is whetted, remember Modra is a major stop on the Small Carpathians wine route, and many other cellars and bars around town have wine tastings too). Even the lamps in the corridors have coils of vine leaves worked into the design, and paintings chart the history of local wine production.
The rooms of the hotel are less complex, with white walls, ruddy carpets and antique desks reminiscent of classic old English bed-and-breakfasts, but they’re big enough – and with views either as above towards the vineyards and fills, or onto the charming inner courtyard, which creates a tranquil Southern European air to the place. The restaurant, with windows painted in colourful vineyard scenes, has a classic old ceramic Slovak stove. There is also a nice little wellness centre (Finnish sauna, ice waterfall, beautiful mosaic-decorated Jacuzzi).
Modra is one of those towns that, despite getting precious little attention in the must-see attractions of Slovakia lists, grows on you. Not only are there are plenty of wine-related diversions, and the ceramics museum here at Hotel Majolika, but there is also the history of Ludovít Štúr, Slovakia’s national hero and the founder of the Slovak language, to discover (the man lived here). And, as Štúr himself would have done many a time, you can take off above town for a walk in the Malé Karpaty (Small Carpathians). Once up there, trails connect from Furmanská Krčma southwest towards Bratislava and northeast on to Červený Kameň and Smolenice. There is even a Štúr trail which you can follow.
And all of the above is made more possible (and enjoyable) by super-friendly staff who go out of their way to help you. They’ll even give you an English-language tour of the ceramics museum, but for that you will need to pay…
Tip: Frankovka Modra is the town’s signature wine (red) but it’s not everyone’s favourite and it pays to see what else is on the menu. Some of the whites, especially those made with the late winter harvest grapes, can be delicious.
PRICES: Single 73 Euros, double 89 Euros (2015 prices)