Poland? In the winter? “What? Umm, no thanks,” might be the answer I'd expect from most people. With a free stay at a resort soon to expire, we booked our award flight and to Poland we went. A stay at the massive resort called Golebiewski Hotel MIKOŁAJKI, proved to be nostalgic of its past glory days. A hotel of this type is not common in Poland and especially in the winter, you'll be swimming in a sea of emptiness of what might seem like an excessive amount of space, pools, and entertainment options. Surely it would be totally different experience in the summer. This is unlikely to draw you to visit Poland, unless you've seen all of Poland already and tried the Top 10 Must Eat Foods in Poland many times.
“What is tago?” My mom keep asking me this daily over breakfast. “I already told you” my answer clearly doesn’t ring any bells for her. “Oh a cookie brand”. She could have come to that conclusion since the mentioned TAGO is visible on the chocolate covered cookies served with buffet breakfast at Golebiewski Hotel. But no mom, it’s TAdeusz GOlebiewski – the founder of the largest Polish hotel chain which…you probably never heard of. Yep, we came to Masuria region at the end of the winter in Poland. Yep, we may as well stayed in Siberia. Beautiful and probably cold as … right? After leaving frigid New York City, we were shocked to find even warmer weather here.
But let’s take a few steps back. For starters, as a Platinum SPG member I would probably not choose that hotel. I am used to Starwood hotels and know which brands have perks like lounges to get a snack in between meals and which have a pool I can use in the middle of winter. This time, SPG locations didn't plan my itinerary. Since my mom somehow won the stay at a Golebiewski Hotel (location to her choosing) I thought: why the heck not? The expiration date for that award was approaching quickly so we decided to just book a trip to Poland in March and see how it goes.
We were headed to the beautiful Masuria region in northern Poland which boasts having 2,000 lakes. This is off the beaten path for a tourist. The GPS was set to the small town of Mikolajki. We started the drive from Warsaw on one gloomy, cold and mostly grey morning in March. Since our son absolutely dreads any trip taken by the car, the drive itself is not worth mentioning (unless anyone is interested in crying/screaming baby and me lecturing my mom why is it not okay to take the baby out of the car seat even for a little time during a ride and her stories how newborns used to drive in the front held by their mothers and they turned up just great – yours truly too).
Upon arriving, I was first impressed with the size of this place. The stately resort is massive! The statues, the columns, aquarium in the middle and that old fashion… somehow I have a feeling I am back in Poland in the early 90s. This place had its glory days for sure in the Post-communistic land – that thought will come on the back of my head constantly throughout the visit.
Oh that lobby must have seen generals, doctors and other dignities walking in for quite some time. I won’t lie – it does impress. It’s long and so so… I want to say “gold” that it makes even me feel super important. The concierge on your right could accommodate 10 receptionists working but so far I can spot only 1… she is on the phone so we politely wait until she is done. My child is already in full tantrum, he didn’t take 3.5 hr car ride like a champ so we need to keep going lady!
Finally, she welcomes us and we get our stuff upstairs. I don’t know if this is the case of being off season, but they don’t have bellboys or anyone to help with the suitcases for that matter. No excuse for a place list this. I packed everything on the cart myself, left the car in front of the building and ran in to care for the kiddo. It was easy to push the cart in the lobby but not so much on the thick carpet upstairs. The hallway is long and full of terrors… kidding… it’s just has that “The Shining” feel to it. Left wing is totally dark – I guess they don’t have many guests so they probably closed that for the winter. It just gives me creeps while I move along.
The Room & Lake View
It took me a while to find our room…long long hallways were not helpful. I read on TripAdvisor that the “rooms are modern and with a lake view”. At least the last part is true. I will take a beautiful view over room interior design so fine TripAdvisor you win. We got 2 water bottles daily which I always welcome (ahem, expect!). The room had WiFi but it was super spotty and once you left the room it was gone. People were forced to talk to each other (gasp)!
Not to sound spoiled, but the rooms were not really cleaned daily (is a room cleaning considered spoiling…at a hotel?). I would say they take turndown service literally: make the bed, add missing water bottles/teas and add towels if needed and ran out of there. I had to call several times for them to call collect our trash (oh that diaper smell!).
Tropicana Aqua Park
It is located on the right side of the main entrance. At this time of the year it was not very crowded which we appreciated a lot. It is the first time I saw a sandbox inside an indoor pool area – kids loved it and I could only think of one thing – sandy pool water… Overall lots of indoor/outdoor pools, a few saunas, steam room and a couple of jacuzzis. It is most likely the only place in the region that has so much to do for the little ones. I couldn't count all the pools but there were in double digits! Access to the Acqua Park is open to non-guests as well which probably means this place is PACKED during the summer. Good thing they had a few life guards around.
Red and Green Restaurants
The two main restaurants “Zielona” (“Green” – downstairs) and “Czerwona” (“Red” buffet upstairs) are located inside the hotel. We tried Green one for one dinner and the food was actually great. Granted we were the only ones in the entire restaurants (5pm dinner plus most people buy buffet style dining at Red with their stay). Our breakfast was served at Red as well. We were told the cuisine changes daily but besides a few tweaks here and there the menu was mostly the same. I am not a big fan of buffet style but the assortment of everything did not disappoint. We are talking 4 different styles of fish just for breakfast! And that same type of excessiveness was applied to various other meats and dishes, so — lots of choices!
We absolutely love Polish food and we couldn't complain about their menu here. The one thought I had daily at breakfast was: Why do they put so many varieties of the same dish out? They could have spread it out over a few days and surprise the guests with the daily specials. I ended up having the same meals that were served for lunch and dinner served at 6am (Greek style fish, knuckle, pork confit, meat pate and so on).
Spa, Skiing, Horses, Bowling, Playground, Playrooms oh my
The hotel also offers some extra activities – spa , horse riding facility, skiing (out of order when I was there), huge kids room where they can run and play. The outside offers a large playground for kiddies as well. The lower level has an indoor game center, night club, ice skating ring and bowling alley. There is also a marina where you can rent water equipment in the summer. The pools mentioned above are indoor (as well as many saunas and jaccuzis) but outdoors swimming is possible, too. Bikes are available for rental.
The ski area offers guests some winter activities at the back of the hotel. Golf lovers can practice their stroke here as well. There are 2 parking lots (free and a paid monitored one). When visiting the pools for the day, expect the free parking to be packed during the day. Once the pool closes (9pm) the park lot is much more open.
For Poland newbies, this is not the place you want to be. There is a long to do list for any first timers before you venture off to a locals spot like this. So, did I love it? Love isn't the right word. Would I recommended it? Only if you are in the area or planning to be there in the summer. The resort is relict of its time. My mom had that smile through the entire stay there so it was certainly nostalgic for her.
Have you been? What do you think?