Like an Eastern Block Leader

28.07.2012 § 1 Comment

The five-star Arbanassi Palace hotel is perched on the crags above Veliko Tarnovo with phenomenal views of the city and the surrounding hills. What makes it unique among luxury hotels in the country is that it was designed and built as a residence for the People’s Republic of Bulgaria long-ruling head of state, Todor Zhivkov.

Todor Zhivkov, known to some as “Tato” (“Father”), was First Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party and head of state from March 4, 1954 until November 10, 1989, meaning that for over 35 of the 45 years of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, it was headed by him. Born in the town of Pravets on September 7, 1911, Zhivkov has taken his tumultuous place alongside other leaders of the Cold War era. Outlasting five USSR leaders and seen as somewhat of a benign dictator, with a harmless, unassuming country demeanour, Zhivkov was spared the unhappy fate of his Romanian counterpart Nicolae Causescu (who was executed after the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc), and died in 1998 under house arrest in his home.

Many of Zhivkov’s former residences, examples of stern socialist realism with lavish interiors, have been re-appropriated for other purposes. His primary residence in the Sofia suburb of Boyana has housed the National Museum of History since 2000, making NMH one of the largest and most secure museums in Europe. Visitors to the museum marvel not only at its 650 000 well-preserved works, but also at the woodcarved ceilings and expansive halls of Tato’s main residence.

Commissioned as a vacation home in 1975, the Arbanassi residence is a three-storey terraced affair with twenty luxury rooms, a fireplace, a built-in Roman-style bath and spa and a helipad, not to mention state-of-the-art communication lines and likely a bomb-proof bunker. The conversion to a luxury hotel seems to have suited the building well, and Hotel Arbanassi Palace has 14 rooms and 5 luxury apartments, as well as many high-end amenities, at the disposal of anyone who’d like to stare at the ceiling of the longest-running leader of Socialist Bulgaria as they fall asleep for a night, or several. The curious can visit the hotel’s official site here.

Note: I have not stayed at this hotel and this article is not an endorsement or an advertisement, merely a statement of curiosity.

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