The man with the sign ‘Grand Hotel Royal’ awaits me on the platform at Keleti station. He takes my bags and me to the hotel. The doorman opens the car. Arrived – home. Tamás Ungár, the chief concierge greets from the concierge box, the reception produces my keycard. Bell captain József Rácz sends my luggage upstairs. Arrived. Checked-in. Back home
While collecting my breakfast, I read newspapers and E-mails on a sort of terrace overlooking the lobby. The reception is busy checking guests in and out. A photographer tries to persuade a model to pose for the Hungarian edition of Vogue and a friendly waitress asks me if I’d like some more fresh orange juice.
There never was a better time to visit the Grand Hotel Royal. Hungary has finally returned into the arms of Europe, Budapest is sparkling and shining as it used to a hundred years ago, the hotel has been saved and reopened by Alfred Pisani, the far-sighted owner of Corinthia hotels, and tourism is booming.
The blurb of my book about this hotel reads: “The Grand Hotel Royal opened in 1896 as the largest hotel on the continent: 350 rooms, numerous restaurants, a palatial Royal ballroom, telephones in every room, electricity supplying the entire building, ‘rising rooms’, powered by steam engines and reaching all floors. Next door laid a superb spa. In the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the ‘Royal’ became the melting pot of the world of yesterday. Here Hungarians saw the first;moving Lumire pictures, sipped their first five o’clock high tea; and rubbed shoulders with the international visitors of the great jubilee exhibition of 1896. It was the home to all leading Hungarian artists Surrounded by theatres and close to the Royal Opera House, its guest list includes the greatest dancers, singers and opera divas. Mario del Monaco, Anna Moffo, Gilbert Becaud, James King, Jenõ Heltai, Berczi Karlovszky, József Rippl-Rónai, Vaslav Nijinsky, Cleo de Merode, Max Linder, Valdemar Psilander, Asta Nielsen, Serge Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Gyula Krúdy, Sándor Bródy, Imre Kálmán, Béla Bartók, Franz Lehár, Zoltan Kodály, Sándor Ferenczi, Paul Abraham, Josephine Baker, Ference Molnár, Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde and so many others spent a significant moment or an important part of their life at the Royal. In the 1920s Károly Gundel was its feted restaurateur, during the 1960s it became the unofficial ‘academy’ for everybody who wanted to become a successful hotelier. Reopened in 2002, the Grand Hotel Royal is a sparkling star among the grand hotels of Europe. This book accompanies the hotel from its very first day at the height of the glittering Fin-de-siècle over one hundred years into the third millennium.”