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A WELL PRESERVED SLICE OF COMMUNIST AMBIANCE
Hotel Piast (Boleslawiec, Poland)
Member Name: Richada
Hotel Piast (Boleslawiec, Poland)
Advantages: The Food. A Bed For the Night. Garaging. Interesting Ambiance / Experience
Disadvantages: Very Dated. Language Difficulties.
Note: Piast is pronounced as it appears - Boleslawiec is pronounced Bolleswavietts.
Here is an odd one; we have NEVER booked this particular hotel! For us it has always been used as an overnight stop between our home here in Brighton and my wife's family home near Mielec in Eastern Poland.
The fact that we have never booked it may explain my main beef here now - although the previous Christmas we had a conversation with an American gentleman who had stayed many times previously and was complaining of being over-charged - he had paid cash in Euros, we use a MasterCard and pay in local currency - the zloty.
Assuming that we HAD booked this place, rather than as in truth, just turning up - at all hours of the evening - and taking a room, why here, why Boleslawiec?
There are any number of cheap hotels, motels and "Noclegi" (Bead and Breakfasts - more literally translated room for night) once you cross the border from Germany on European route E40.
Now that the customs post on the border is no longer there, Dresden is an hour and fifteen minutes from Boleslawiec by road. Hotels in Germany are obviously far more expensive than in Poland - at least, they were! The very first time that we drove out to my in-laws for Christmas, being aware that we would need to stop for the night, we took a list of two or three hotels en-route to the east of the Polish border. The Hotel Piast just happened to be the first one on that list!
The criterion used in drawing up the list was not the usual English holiday or business one. For a one night stay east of what was the Iron Curtain they cannot afford to be. The main priority, this close to the border - and on this well known bandit and highwayman route - is security for the car. Mrs R had called ahead and been informed by the Piast that they had both guarded car park and garaging available. Our car and Christmas presents would be safe! Garaging the car also saves you having to spend hours de-icing the car before the onward journey too - whilst last year the temperature was + 6deg.C, we have stayed here when the temperature has been -18!
On our first visit it was the last Saturday before Christmas, not yet used to Poland and its' ways I was not anticipating finding a room 'on spec' on this the main party night of the year. Mrs R made the call, they had both garage for the car and room, or suite, for us!
HOTEL DESCRIPTION / OUR PERCEPTION FROM HOTEL PUBLICITY
The ambiance of a Polish hotel is not, from my years of experience, usually easy to grasp from their website. Time and time again we have discovered this; some like the Redyk, in Zab, near Zakopane absolutely surpass your expectations, whilst others like the Piast make you wonder if you are actually staying in the same place.
In the Piast's case, that is not actually intended as a derogatory comment, it is just that the hotel is not in the least the way that you expect it to be having looked it up on the internet. It looks far more modern, far more "international" in flavour, well kept gardens a modern coach parked outside - in reality the Piast is a genuine 1960's communist throw-back! .
HAVE WE STAYED THERE PREVIOUSLY?
Yes we have, on at least six previous occasions. The service and standards are consistent and we have tried two different types of room - a standard double and the much larger suites on a couple of occasions.
BOOKING PROCESS 7 / 10
Fortunately, there is an English option on the hotel website - making the Piast as easy for any English speaking person to book as a Pole, Russian or German - the other languages offered on the booking page.
As already noted, we have never actually pre-booked our room here and have never been turned away, no matter what day of the week, or time of the evening that we have arrived. This may be a busier hotel in the summer, although on the couple of occasions that we have used it in June or July it has been as quiet as it always is during the week or weekend before Christmas. There are 100 rooms here, more than three quarters of them appear to be permanently unoccupied.
LOCATION 6 / 10
OK, I admit it, by the time we arrive in Boleslawiec I have driven almost 800 miles from Brighton and am probably not at my best, especially in winter. Whilst the Piast is located bang in the centre of town, this is not a particularly friendly place to navigate your way around, especially on a dark, snowy night, thanks to one way systems, perpetual roadworks and less than helpful signposting. Adding to this is the general dimness of the street lighting, familiar to anyone who has ever visited Poland. Fortunately my wife, being Polish, is able to get out of the car and ask a taxi driver on the rank how to find the biggest hotel in town!
Boleslawiec is located on E40 the main European highway from Calais right out into deepest Russia, 27 miles (44km) to the east of the German border at Gorlitz (Zgorzelec on the Polish side) and 10 miles from the start of the Polish E40 (A4) Autostrada. Within a few years the town will be by-passed when the last remaining link of motorway between Calais and Krakow is finally opened.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS 4 / 10
Boleslawiec is, although a historic centre of ceramic pottery in Poland, not the smartest or most cultural of places. The authorities there seem as cash strapped as any that I have come across, apart from the town square, just a short walk to the east of the hotel, the whole town has a run down, Cold War feel to it.
Your first sighting of the graffiti sprawled Hotel Piast will do nothing to remove this rather chilling 1960's communist era impression from your head. The building is large and square, with an open courtyard in the middle around which it is built. Very boxy and communist "minimalist" architectural in style, it is, above graffiti height, painted a rather jaunty salmon pink colour, which does at least set off the modern white UPVC double glazed window frames. Since we first started staying here, all of the windows have been replaced.
There is a large concrete area at the front where busses pull in and stop - you could take the risk and leave the car here at night to save a few zloty on the guarded car park or garaging, but we would not recommend it.
The entrance to the guarded (and gated) car park is at the side of the hotel, down yet another one way street. Behind the hotel is a row of about a dozen lock up garages and a good size partially enclosed, car park. Your first greeting here will be from the very friendly (non-English speaking) car park guard, and more than likely the black and white cat who appears to have adopted the hotel as its own.
CHECKING IN 5 / 10
If you are Polish - or happen to speak fluent Polish, checking into this three star hotel will be a doddle. However I am not and do not, neither the rather grumpy chain smoking male, nor the charming female receptionist speak English here, probably a young waitress would be summoned from the restaurant to interpret - if you speak German you will however be in luck, Germans appear to be the most frequent guests here - all the staff speak German.
For us, checking in, even without a reservation is not a problem, Mrs R is Polish. I keep quiet under these circumstances - Poles always get a better deal on a room than foreigners in such places.
Being regular guests we are "on record" but still a copy is taken of my passport. We are offered the choice of double room or "studio" - a suite as it turns out, on occasion being allocated a studio for the same price as a double. Always in winter, upon requesting a garage, we are handed two numbered key rings - one for the garage, the other for the room.
ON THE WAY TO THE ROOM i.e. how easy is it to find your way around? How accessible is if for less able persons? What condition are the public rooms and passageways in? 6 / 10
As far as I am aware there is no provision made here at the Hotel Piast for the less able bodied at all. The rooms are all on the first and second floor and there is no lift. The stairs are very gentle, but if you are in a wheelchair this is certainly not a suitable place to stay.
The stairs, corridors and public rooms, such as they are, are all in clean and well kept condition - if in character and decor placing you firmly back in the Poland of pre-Europe, pre-Democracy days. I really like this dimly lit, slightly creepy ambience - some of you may not!
The restaurant and bar, sharing the same room has a real character to it, you are surrounded in glass, floor to ceiling windows down two sides, on one side is the outdoor central atrium where the garden is located, whilst on the opposite side you are facing a pedestrianised street. The bar and kitchen are located on the end wall - the wall through which you enter the room being constructed largely of very attractive stained glass panels.
Downstairs there is a lot of dark wood panelling on the walls, upstairs the walls all have a green wash on them.
As is usual in Eastern Europe your hotel door will open outwards - thus smacking another guest right in the face if they happen to be walking down the corridor at the moment you come out of your room. A tip here, walk down the centre of any Polish hotel corridor - it could save you from considerable injury!
THE ROOM 7 / 10
For an overnight stay en-route to somewhere else, the double room is adequate. If you were in Boleslawiec to tour the potteries and do local sight seeing for a few days, then I would be inclined to recommend the studio rooms, which are much more spacious, more attractively decorated and have modern, re-furbished en-suite facilities.
The website boasts of all rooms being equipped with Satellite TV, telephone and clock / radios. Do not get too excited by that, there are no English speaking TV channels, in no room in which we have stayed has the clock actually worked on the radio and amusingly the telephones are 1960's dial type sets, which some of the younger readers here would actually struggle to operate now!
Work the phones do though - Mrs R always calls home to let her parents know that we have arrived in Poland, it is very much cheaper using a hotel telephone for this purpose rather than an English mobile phone. In order to do this you have to call down to reception and ask for an outside line.
The double room is large enough to accommodate a full size double bed, desk unit (this was after all a communist business hotel!), a small wardrobe and a stand for your suitcase - presumably businessmen only travelled with one!
The elderly colour television is not very large - maybe an 18" screen - and is mounted high up on a bracket in the corner of the room. I used to laugh at the fact that the Televisions at the Piast were branded "Lexus" - this particular set had no brand label on it.
The general décor is, well, to my eyes at least, a little grim. The old and coarse black and red carpets are uncomfortable to walk on barefoot; the white and silver wallpaper is set off by shiny red satin curtains whilst the duvet cover is gold quilted satin. A tiny, faded picture over the bed and livid red plastic reading lamps complete the fixtures and fittings.
The bed itself is clearly very old, there are two deep trenches either side where it has been slept in, the ridge in the middle could only be conquered by the most amorous.
In a sense the view from the window complements the room décor; this room had a front facing window, looking out at the worst architecture of the communist era here in Boleslawiec. Stretch your neck out of the window and you are able to see the attractive church spire in the town square however.
THE EN-SUITE 7 / 10
A difficult one to score here - do I compare it to other Polish hotel bathroom facilities or to English standard ones? Well as this is Poland, I'll award the en-suite an honourable 7 points, compared to an Innkeepers Lodge here, make that a 3!
As is usual in Poland, the en-suite is very small indeed, so small in this case that the toilet has been mounted at an angle to squeeze in behind the washbasin and huge "heater tube" that runs almost floor to ceiling.
The toilet, washbasin and shower tray are all in different colours, there are cigarette burns melted into the plastic over-basin vanity shelf. The Piast is quite normal, by Polish standards, in providing no toiletries at all.
On the upside - yes, there is one - the en-suite is very clean indeed, equipped with good quality toilet paper, plus a spare roll should it be required. The livid blue towels are clean, although once used, there is nowhere provided to dry them.
DID WE GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP? 7 / 10
After a twelve hour, very high speed driving stint, I rather think that a good nights sleep would be had even in the garage at the Piast!
The bed proves to be far less uncomfortable than it looks - although you do have the sensation of sleeping right down on the floor with a mountain range dividing you from your partner. There are so few people staying here that noises in the corridor are few, the whole place is built of concrete anyway so there are no creaking floorboards either!
In the summer this place is awfully hot - all that concrete, again I would recommend the "studio" option, with two windows at least it is possible to get some air flowing through the room. In the coldest of winter nights here the temperature is quite comfortable - in December last year though they appeared to be economising on the heating - it may have been six degrees outside, but it felt rather chilly both in our bedroom and the en-suite.
Beware, in Poland life starts very early in the morning, in a city or town centre hotel like this you will not be able to sleep much past 6.30am - the church bells appealing as they are, will ensure that your lie in ends at 6.45am on a Sunday morning too.
FACILITIES ON OFFER - No score here, different grades / prices of hotel understandably have different facilities.
As far as we are concerned, the most important facility offered is the lock up garage. There are no hair salons, swimming pools or gyms here.
Being so close to the German border, there is a Kantor (more recognisable in England as a bureau de change) in one corner of the reception area. I will pass on a tip given by the charming (female) receptionist: just over the road on the main street is the main office of the same Kantor. The hotel exchange rate is far worse than on the "high street". We took her advice and were pounds in pocket on our first visit here - yes the Kantor was open on a Sunday morning!
Also available for purchase in the little Kantor's office are examples of the local ceramics and some fine ornamental glassware too, the prices of these, whilst again more than in the local shops, are quite reasonable, even by Polish standards.
BREAKFAST / OTHER MEALS, FOOD & DRINKS 9 / 10
Sniadanie (pron. shnedania) - breakfast - is included in the cost of your room. On checking in, you are presented with "tickets" to cash in for breakfast in the morning. Breakfast is served from early (6.30am) to late (11.00am).
This is not a typical continental breakfast. Everything is served to your table having been ordered from the breakfast menu - which fortunately has an English translation.
In our experience the breakfast here is actually unique, you request set items from the menu, some cooked, some not. Tea or coffee - one cup only - is served, as is a very small glass of juice, specific origin unknown. Deliciously fresh baked bread rolls are placed on the table in a basket, to be eaten with a small pat of butter and dollop of jam presented on a plate to share. The choice, or rather combinations of the same hot items is quite bewildering, until you realise that they are all virtually the same. As is usual in Poland, any cooked eggs are simply delicious, we usually opt for scrambled egg mixed with bacon and served with cheese and tomato on yet another plate on the side.
If I have made breakfast sound rather bizarre, then so it truly is. A great and tasty experience none the less.
The food served here is of the very best quality, should you be staying anywhere else in the vicinity, or even visiting Boleslawiec for the day, I would thoroughly recommend having a meal in the restaurant at the Piast, it is undoubtedly the hotel's greatest asset. Not only is the food good, but it is served with a smile too. Several of the younger waitresses are able to speak reasonable English.
Dinner, if you choose to partake here, and we always do - too tired to search elsewhere, is of an equally high standard. We have enjoyed superb steak tartar in the past, but on the last occasion were so late dining that a single course of fish was more digestible before retiring for the night.
Dinner is served until 9.00pm, it was almost that when we arrived at the Hotel Piast, tired and hungry. The receptionist rang through to the restaurant on our behalf and asked that the cook and waitress stay on to serve us - THAT is what I call service!
The meal prices in the restaurant are spectacularly cheap. We drank two cups of lemon tea each and ate fish, beautifully cooked and presented, served with sauté potatoes and a mixed vegetable salad all of which came to about £7, that is not each! For both of them!
OVERALL VALUE FOR MONEY 6 / 10
Until around eighteen months ago, I would have regarded the Hotel Piast as offering spectacular value for money and awarded it 10 / 10. However, due to inflation in Poland and a rather less favourable exchange rate (5.0 PLN to the £1 - we have had as high as 6.35 PLN on past visits) paying £53 for the room, including dinner, a telephone call and the garage is, by Polish standards, only average value for money.
The garage incidentally is 12 PLN, the guarded car park half that, very little for piece of mind and secure Christmas presents.
A single room is currently 132 PLN - about £23.50, a double 240 PLN (£43), whilst a studio, if not offered at standard double rate is 320 PLN (£57).
HOW LIKELY AM I / ARE WE, TO USE THIS HOTEL AGAIN?
Two years ago, my reply to that question would have been that we would not stay anywhere else en-route to Mrs R's home - especially at Christmas time. However, there are now three likely factors which may take us away from the Piast. Firstly the currently marginal value for money that it offers, secondly the fact that a new hotel has now opened in town - which is less expensive and has more modern appointments, and, thirdly that Boleslawiec is soon to be by-passed altogether by a new motorway.
RICHADA'S HOTEL RATING 64 / 100 - 64 %
Reading through this review and looking at the many photographs we took both inside and outside of the Hotel Piast at Christmas, that 64% score actually looks generous. Our particular priorities when travelling - especially for the garage - may well have swayed this review somewhat.
If you really want to experience a genuine slice of old world, Cold War, Iron Block ambiance then the Piast comes highly recommended. If you want a comfortable modern room for the night, at a bargain rate, there are, I am sure, far better options in the area.
To give some perspective to this review and the Piast's rating, here are the scores of the other hotels stayed in and reviewed over the last twelve months.
Innkeeper's Lodge, Chester Northeast - 83%
Innkeeper's Lodge, Stockport - 83 %
Innkeeper's Lodge, Hull - 81%
Chadwick Hotel, St Annes - 63 %
Summary: Maybe not the last of, but certainly a dying breed of Communist Business Hotel.
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