Bargain flights to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was all that it took to persuade us to visit one of Europe’s newest sovereign states.
Hotel No. 16 was a curious place; in a Swiss chalet style building that is shared with the Liberian Embassy and had an intriguing collection of expensive furniture, cheesy bric-a-brac and a ceramic wood-burning stove that was providing far more heat in the reception area than was really necessary. The rooms were excellent however (except for Micky’s which was a bit small) and had wooden beams and tasteful décor, which probably explained why it was a bit more expensive than I usually like to pay for a room.
The owner of the hotel is a man called Braňo Hronec who was a Czechoslovakian jazz musician and pop star in the 1970’s and there were some heavily moustachioed Brotherhood of Man look-alike photographs of him on one wall of the hotel reception. Apparently he recorded three long play records before fading into obscurity as a conductor of the Slovak Television Dance Orchestra in the 1980s and finally becoming a hotel proprietor of the Hotel No. 16.
As a pop star he is remembered in Slovakia chiefly because in the mid 1960s he established his own jazz sextet, pioneering the use of the then rare and expensive Hammond organ, and for releasing a couple of singles of his own compositions as well as some cover versions of popular songs like Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In, but most of all for a version of Christie’s smash pop hit Yellow River with Slovak lyrics. I bet that was good, but I’ve been unable to locate a copy, even on e-bay!
Interesting trivia: Slovakia is not well known for pop music evidenced by the fact that it has only made the Eurovision song contest finals five times and it has never finished higher than eighteenth.