First, I want to say that I was truly honored and humbled by the inclusion of my first blog as one of The Slovak Spectator’s top stories of 2017. The goal was simply to share my thoughts and experiences as I navigate this new life as a hotelier in Osturňa. Over the months, subsequent articles received both praise and criticism from readers, all of which I appreciate because these comments provide me invaluable insight into Slovak culture. So, I thank you and wish everyone a wonderful new year.
The penzión was ready for the holidays by mid-December. Christmas lights went up both inside and out, Christmas trees decorated, and enough poinsettias purchased to fill every available horizontal surface. The kitchen was very busy as we prepared many foods in advance, then vacuum-sealed and froze them for later reheating.
Our first guests of the season arrived on Christmas day, followed by a steady stream of arrivals throughout the holiday period. A clerical error obliged me to surrender my own room for arriving guests and to sleep in the basement for two nights. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds.
As expected, the week of Silvester festivities was filled with a dizzying array of foods and activities, culminating in our Silvester party. Twice a year, we move the dining room furniture into the salon, and the salon furniture into the dining room. The salon becomes a party space with enough room for dancing and entertainment. The Osturňanka folklore group arrived promptly at 21 h. to serenade us throughout the evening and into the night.
Hot and cold foods arrived at the tables every half-hour or so. I was disappointed that people did not enjoy the guacamole with tortilla chips, but surprised that everyone devoured the spicy Buffalo wings (no, buffalo do not have wings, but the city of Buffalo does!). And I proved that Central Europeans will eat shrimp without hesitation if breaded and served with a tangy cocktail sauce.
My favorite part of the evening was the moment I was finally able to sit down and converse with my guests. I met so many extraordinary people. The guests must have enjoyed themselves as well. For, within a few days, half the penzión rooms were already booked – for NEXT Silvester!
The last of our guests departed on January 7. A visit from pán farár (the local priest) that evening to bless the house brought the holidays to a ceremonious close. I suggested to the priest that the bar might require a little extra holy water, for which he obliged.
At the penzión, the holidays are filled with work, stress, and little sleep for me and my employees. Yet, when over, I am sad the holidays have ended. I think back at all the great things my staff did to make our guests happy. I remember seeing delight in my guests’ eyes. And little Wojtiech will remain in my memory for a long time to come.
The realization that I have only two years left on my lease leaves me rather ambivalent. On the one hand, I have already had a wonderful opportunity to introduce Osturňa to the public. I am certain that most readers had never even heard of Osturňa before my articles. If you’ve not visited, I bet that you’ve at least looked up Osturňa on the map. On the other hand, I realize the penzión will never be financially self-sufficient, and that it will continue to require precious resources – time and money – to remain open. How long will I be willing to place other projects on hold while I operate the penzión? I leave that answer to the future. For now, I embrace 2018 with hope and happiness.
10. Jan 2018 at 21:48 | Thom Kolton