< SLOVENIA | BLED: Grand Hotel Toplice
With its idyllic, almost fairy-tale appearance, Bled has long attracted and inspired visitors. The pilgrims were among the first to pay the visit to the
Church of the Assumption on the island, while the Bled's thermal springs, which were thought to have health-giving properties, were also a magnet for visitors. In his book,
"Slava vojvodine Kranjske" (The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola), Janez Vajkard Valvazor described how the nobility went there to bathe.
One of the first people to recognize the value of Bled's fresh air, climate and water, was Swiss naturopath Arnold Rikli who developed a new treatment method and in 1854 opened a natural health establishment - Curbadehaus. Today regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern health tourism in Slovenia, Rikli contributed significantly to the development of Bled as a health resort.
Linking Vienna to Trieste via Ljubljana, the Southern railway line was completed in 1875 and an increasing number of guests arrived to Bled, eager to spend some weeks in the resort
and its beautiful surroundings. In the early 20th century, Bled became one of the most important tourist destinations in Imperial Austria and subsequently in the Kingdom (later,
Socialist Federal Republic) of Yugoslavia. Today, Bled it is still highly popular tourist destination, one of Slovenia's crown-jewels.
Development of tourism in Bled began in 1822 when the first bathing area, known as "pri Burjevc" was arranged. It featured three small pools, separated for men and women, and an inn. The story of today's Grand Hotel Toplice began in 1850 when Hoffmann, the head of the post office from Ljubljana began, to build a hotel which opened in 1854 and was named "Louisenbad" after the owner's wife.
Hotel Louisenbad was bought in 1870 by Josef Lukmann, a trader from Ljubljana. After 1875 it was owned by Count Camilo Aichelberg who had it enlarged, so that it offered 40 rooms on three floors, a glass veranda above the lake, and its own bathing area and boat house. In 1889 the hotel was bought by Gustav Valtrini, who until then had been its chef. Valtrini managed it together with his wife Fani and they paid particular attention to its furniture and fittings, and to the comfort of their guests. In 1916 the hotel was bought by Hans Loos von Losenfelds from Upper Austria.
In 1919 Hotel Louisenbad was bought by the local businesswoman Jula Molnar and in 1922 renamed as Hotel Toplice (“toplice” means warm bath in Slovenian). She first had the hotel gradually renovated and then undertook a complete rebuilding. The plans for the hotel complex were drawn up by the Austrian architect Franz Baumgartner from Carinthia. The new Grand Hotel Toplice was opened in 1931 with a completely different appearance, featuring the now well-known facade. It had 123 rooms with 212 beds and the central space was a lounge with a view of the lake. The foyer featured a decorative wall panelled with glass bearing Japanese motifs. The furnishings and fittings were in the spirit of tradition, but for the comfort of guests new technical features were added, including two lifts and central heating. The hotel was the most modern in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Between the two World Wars, Bled was the most cosmopolitan resort in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The royal Karadordevic family spent the summer months in the Suvobor residence and Bled became the scene of numerous political and diplomatic meetings. Grand Hotel Toplice attracted the most illustrious guests and hosted numerous official gatherings, including a meeting of foreign ministers of the countries of the Petite Entente in 1938. The hotel was also the centre of social life. In 1931, a chess tournament was held there involving fourteen chess masters.
At the start of World War II Bled was the centre of the occupying administration, army and police for the whole Gorenjska region. The civil administration had its headquarters at Grand Hotel Toplice, which also hosted frequent meetings of high Nazi functionaries. In spite of this, below stairs packages were often prepared for Partisan forces. Jula Molnar removed the documents for two of her Jewish guests from Vienna, Augusta Kelsen and her daughter, from the German police office in the hotel and secretly found them an apartment in a Bled villa.
Immediately after the War, the hotel was turned into a Partisan military hospital and under the new social order it was nationalised. It re-opened its doors to guests in 1946. When President Tito entertained foreign visitors at his villa in Bled they were often brought to Grand Hotel Toplice. Members of official delegations and diplomats stayed here, and often spent their holidays as well. In 1968 the hotel interior was thoroughly modernised.
After Slovenia's independence, the hotel was often the setting for meetings between leading politicians and foreign visitors, diplomats and business people. In 2000, after a lengthy legal process, the company Grand hotel Toplice, d. o. o., became part of the Sava group. When the hotel was renovated in 2002, in respect for the hotel's rich past, a number of original features were retained and the spirit of the Thirties maintained in the furnishings and fittings.
Today, Grand Hotel Toplice is a part of the Sava Turizem company and the flagship of Sava Hotels & Resorts. As the first hotel in Slovenia it has been a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World since 2009. In 2011 more than 9800 guests stayed in the hotel thus creating almost 25 thousand overnight stays. Hotel boasts more than 100 loyal guests who have been returning every year for the past 20 years and more.
Grand Hotel Toplice today feature 87 guestrooms and suites. The thermal spa is unique in Bled, as the thermal water enters the pool directly from the spring. The water has a constant temperature of 22 °C and is not heated in order to preserve its natural healing properties. Today, this is the only pool in Bled in which the water is changed daily, therefore only small amounts of chlorine are added, which additionally benefits its quality. In addition to the spa, guests may use different types of saunas and numerous relaxation and body treatment services offered by the spa, Studio Luisa. The hotel also has its own lido and boathouse. The hotel is also famous for its rich art collection, encompassing more than 170 works of famous Slovenian authors. Among the most famous ones are paintings by Jože Ciuha, Maksim Gaspari, Božidar Jakac, Riharda Jakopic, Ivan Vavpotic, France Slana, Kiar Meško and numerous others.
As Bled's leading hotel, Grand Hotel Toplice accommodated many important guests throughout its rich history. Some well-known names found in the hotel's Golden Book are: Vivian Leigh (1957), Bobby Fischer (1959), Arthur Miller (1965), Ignazio Silone (1965), Pablo Neruda (1965), Thomas Keller (1966), Franz Josef Strauss (1969), Aram Khachaturian (1969), Simon Wiesenthal (1977), King Hussein of Jordan (1978), Willy Brandt (1979), Carlo Ponti (1968), Cliff Richard (1989), Piether W. Botha (1990), Heinrich Harrer (1994), Ronald Sega (1994), Jacques Delors (1996), Süleyman Demirel (1997), Gari Kasparov (2002), Paul McCartney (2005), Ban Ki Moon (2008). In 2012, hotel welcomed Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Princes Bajrakitiyabha of Thailand and writer Eleanor Bergstein, best known for writing and co-producing the film Dirty Dancing.
Additional literature: n/a