Joint venture adds to Bucharest's hotel scene

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BUCHAREST, Romania -- A Romanian/Swiss joint venture created an elegant accommodations option in the capital at rates considerably below those found at properties belonging to international chains.

And for a relaxing weekend, or longer, in the mountains, SC Savion Hotel SLC also has opened a chalet-style hotel in the resort of Poiana Brasov, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital and not far from the popular tourist sites of Brasov, Bran Castle and Peles Palace.

Bucharest's Hotel Helvetia is near Herastrau Park, which offers jogging trails. The outdoor Village Museum, a major tourist attraction, is in Herastrau. The hotel stands opposite the Aviatorul Metro station, affording a short hop to city center.

The Helvetia opened in 1993 as the first private hotel in the city. A four-story white marble structure, it houses 30 spacious guest rooms, including six suites, with marble balconies (one large enough to host a party).

Though all feature king-size beds, no two rooms are furnished exactly alike. Crystal chandeliers, wall sconces and art enhance furniture and fabrics.

All rooms have international direct-dial phones, satellite television and air conditioning. Even the corridors forego that institutional look. Rather, they present comfortable sitting areas and yet more art. Each floor focuses on one color scheme.

In the 80-seat restaurant, clients are presented with a variety of international and Romanian dishes plus an extensive wine list. Entrees range from $5 to $32.

Each evening, musicians play soft, cafe-concert music or, as a spokeswoman phrased it, "listening suitable for our hotel."

Caviar and champagne are among the offerings at the breakfast buffet included in the room rate. Round-the-clock room service is available, and clients will find that reception and restaurant staff speak English well.

Directly behind the Helvetia, Savion Villa, under the same ownership, offers eight guest rooms plus a breakfast room.

In 1999, both hotel and villa received new paint, carpeting, upholstery and fabrics.

Plans are under way to construct a 28-story hotel across the street. As befitting a large property, such facilities as indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center, two restaurants and two bars are planned.

Rates for both hotel and villa run $120, single; $140, double, and $235, suites. American Express, Diner's, MasterCard and Visa are accepted.

Contact the Hotel Helvetia at (011) 40-1-223-0566; fax (011) 40-1-223-0567. Send e-mail to [email protected] or visit the hotel's Web site at http://helvetia.netvision.net.il/.

Hotel Tirol features fine dining

BUCHAREST, Romania -- For business clients seeking a weekend getaway or leisure travelers en route from Bucharest to Transylvania's medieval sites, Poiana Brasov boasts spectacular mountain scenery; seasonal sports, including skiing, and a number of good restaurants.

In the latter category, agents can recommend Sura Dacilor (Dacians' Sheepfold) and Coliba Haiducilor (Outlaws' Hut) for both ambience and food.

Although this resort claims a number of comfortable hotels, the 1999 opening of Hotel Tirol raised the standard a few notches. As with its sister property in Bucharest, each of the 58 guest rooms, including four suites, is unique in decor and furnishings.

Several of the double rooms are extra large, featuring separate sitting areas. Most have balconies and all include international direct-dial phones and 24-channel TV.

Many rooms evoke a light touch, with white furniture and soft-toned fabrics.

Suites feature black leather sofas and chairs softened by flowers and objets d'art. Some suites have a duplex layout, including a work area, and all have whirlpool baths.

The top-of-the-line royal suite boasts a white stucco wood-burning fireplace fronted by green marble; a dining area for four; a well-stocked bar topped by a huge revolving globe; walk-in closets, and both a Jacuzzi tub and circular glass-enclosed Jacuzzi shower.

With windows stretching almost from floor to ceiling, the Tirol's restaurant ensures that all diners enjoy a view of fir-covered mountains.

Green tones predominate within, as well, and delicate flower arrangements enhance each table.

The restaurant is proud of its cuisine and service. In spite of an extensive menu and wine list, diners are informed that the maitre d'hotel "stays at your disposal" for special requests.

Hors d'oeuvres include red and black caviar, smoked sturgeon or salmon, with prices ranging from $3 to $9. Entrees range from 11 kinds of fish to a large variety of meat, chicken and traditional Romanian dishes. Prices for entrees vary from $3 to $13.

Breakfast, included in the room rate, is served a la carte from a separate embossed leather menu. Six pages describe omelets and other egg dishes, breakfast meats, cereals, cheeses, fruits, breads and sweets.

Although not requested, my waiter appeared each morning with a tempting selection of breakfast cakes, insisting, "Won't you please try one?"

Other on-site facilities include a small but comfortable lobby with a fireplace for wintry evenings, a day bar, room service, a sauna, a massage room, parking and a 30-person capacity conference hall.

A car with driver; sightseeing excursions, and pick-up at Bucharest's Otopeni Airport or the train station in Brasov all can be arranged.

Staff at the Tirol is young and enthusiastic, with an excellent command of English. Even housekeeping personnel looked up from polishing the already spotless brass staircase rail (there is also an elevator) to greet me in English.

Rates run $72, single; $96 to $105, double, and $200 to $280 for suites. American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted.

The Hotel Tirol can be reached by calling (011) 40-68-262-453; fax (011) 40-68-262-439.

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