When I stepped into the entry hall of the dwor of Ciekocinko for the first time I was instantly blown away by the stunning interior. It was a stormy Decemberevening and the bitter cold had crawled into every bone of mine, putting me in a rather grumpy mood. This changed the moment I started to look around and suddenly, I found myself in a world of wonders and pleasures. My eyes have not come across such beauty for a long time. Located near the Baltic Sea in Wejherowo County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, in northern Poland, I felt like I had just entered a modern version of Downton Abbey. Way smaller in its’ size, but just as rich in its’ appearance. As an average peasant you can easily detect the sophisticated atmosphere in the most luxurious public toilet ever. Creamy and shiny metro-tiles, old-English-style, even washing your hands is pimped with some super nice smelling organic handlotion. It smelled like heaven, though.
But that’s just for starters.
There was an immediate comfort in this hotel, which made me forget about the freezing cold outside, which was harassing us that day. My eyes started to wander around the dinning hall and the library and I felt excited just like I usually do when I visit an antique barn. Ciekocinko is surreal in its’ extraordinary elegance and dedication to detail. You can either be overwhelmed or be slightly annoyed by its perfection, which gives no chance for coincidence (I recommend to be overwhelmed, though). You can sense the effort the owner has made to turn the grand manor ruin, which he had bought, into a place that stimulates your senses – a modern interpretation of a 1920s/1930s glamour, which would probably suit the Great Gatsby just fine. It is the soft mix of antic treasures and tailor-made pieces, which provide a unique flair. I felt like I was on a Wes Anderson movie set: It’s beauty derives from the same bright boldness. This is not just a hotel, it is a statement of happiness. It is pure joy to walk around there if you are inclined by design, which honours the past and the present likewise.
The dark green secession wallpaper with its bold and golden prints prove that darker colours can be a brilliant choice to create a gloomy, yet cosy atmosphere. „They are handmade in San Francisco, in the same colours as a hundred years ago in Bradbury & Bradbury factory“, hotel director Zuzanna Busłowska explains. The concise span between Art Nouveau, Secession and Biedermeier-Style hints at the owner‘s sharp-minded personality. Tomasz Bałuk is a rather shy man who likes to stay in the background but this house is a mirror of him being an eager but sensitive man, a gourmet, who likes to indulge into something until he has just found exactly what was on his mind. It was in 2004 when he found the manor in the most miserable state and decided to bring it back to life. „It took him three months of try and error to get the results he desired. He put furniture in and put it out again until everything was at its right place – every wardrobe and every chair, every bed, every antique telephone – which by the way – still works. You can ring for the reception or room service. Every piece, be it a painting, a sculpture, a doorknob – everything was chosen by him personally and he knows exactly which chair belongs to which room“, hotel director Zuzanna Busłowska tells us with a pleasant smile.
And I started to wonder, how long it might have took him to envision the perfect spot for the ballerina sculpture in the lounge where she was going to be admired and make eye contact with the guests. It is not just the appearance of the hotel, which is remarkable, it is the whole concept of running it. During summer season you will be able to listen to a Jazz-musician on weekends and local people will be opening up a mini-market place, so you get a chance to buy proper handmade-products from this region. It shows how much the owner is inclined to add a bit of contemporary Kashubian culture and therewith tries to resemble a new era of prosperity, which has been long gotten lost since this former Prussian region was declared Polish.
Each room is named after a famous horse just like Archipelo. It is meant to stress the places determination as a Mecca of equestrian triumphs at the Equinale, the biggest horse riding competition held in May and September. 1400 horses are being accommodated during those three weeks, arriving from all over the world – Australia, Sudan, South Africa. „This is not just a manor place, it is an estate“, she says and easily sums up the factors which make it to the like: The spa, the own agricultural farm, the huge manor park which smoothly glides into the Kashubian forests. You can enjoy a walk even in the late afternoon. As soon as darkness arrives,you will be guided by lanterns. Just another conscious thought, meant to extend your comfort even outside.
Maybe he chose the glorious 20s and 30s as a theme for interior because it resembles a time when the old and the new world merge into one another. People started to go wild, enjoying the beginning of modernism, having a good time while getting rid off old fashioned manners in their flapper dresses. The noble class was about to face changes as individuality began to sway the long-standing system of order. As the owner puts it in his own words on the website: „(…) One thing is certain. Even in the most difficult moments, I did not regret my decision, because today Ciekocinko is my place in the world and the satisfaction of actually changing a part of my own country – is invaluable, as the say in a certain commercial.“ Tomasz Bałuk, 2013
According to the Voivodship Conservator of Monuments, the entire palace establishment in Ciekocinko counts as one of the most important historic palaces and park establishments in the Pomeranian Voivodeship. A monument of Pomerania, where old Prussian and Polish influences competed for years. So in this glamorous atmosphere you are meant to enjoy a comfort, which is slowly arising in this once beaten up region. Whereas people had been struggling with shifting of identities, they are now keen to slowly develop a new identity, which is built upon the past. The new message is: See what we have achieved! Let’s celebrate the good times again. Get yourself a delicious meal from Paweł Dołżonek, who was trained by the best chefs all over the world until he found his calling at Ciekocinko.
As fall is just around the corner again, I wish to let myself be covered by the soft beddings, which are insanely soft: „The beddings are from the same manufactory as the ones they used on the Titanic“, Zusanna Busłowska remarks. As we are about to leave, I find myself sighing out of happiness: I like the thought, that Tomasz not just gave this place a new life by restoring it. It resembles his willingness to open up for his guests and to invite them not only into his hotel, but also into his soul and positive mindset. It is people like Tomasz Bałuk, who make a difference. In proving that a brave and visionary mind can add up for a region like Kashubia to blossom again.