Fancy staying in a cinema? Think about Esther Cinema Hotel in Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv has not only a very spectacular real estate, with impressive prices that may easily compete with Beverly Hills or Manhattan, but also went through an dramatic development of the hotel industry. The creative spirit of the people were able to adapt to new situations, giving new destinations to old buildins, while keeping the original spirit. An example in this sense is Esther Cinema Hotel, hosted in a traditional Bauhaus building in Dizengoff Square.

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The cinema was inaugurated at the end of the 1930s, as the property of Moses and Esther Nathaniel both born in Aden that emigrated in 1924. The cinema was considered as part of their contribution to the improvement of the cultural life in the country, and Esther Cinema succeeded to be a noteworthy institution, part of the Dizengoff Circus complex. Classical movies were displayed here, including top European and American productions. Provided with the last cry technology brought from all over the world, it used to host around 1,000 people. ??????????

At the beginning of the 1990s, the cinema went through serious financial problems and was soon purchased as part of the Atlas Hotels network. The original structure was kept, and the space was separated into 83 hotel rooms,  with 2 new suites recently added. The rooms are provided with modern amenities, such as air condition, multi-channele cable TV, coffee and tea facilitis, safe, free wifi. It also has a business lounge and offers to the guests the possibility to use a nearby gym for a moderate fee. The location is perfect, as it provides access within minutes to the beaches, as well as to shopping avenues and many restaurants, some of them open all round the week and the year.

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When you enter the hotel lobby now, you may be tempted to go directly to the reception desk and ask what movies are in the program tonight. Original projectors and classical ads are displayed, as well as original chairs. Some of them were converted to the modern style, but keeping the furniture fashion typical for the Bauhaus design. Regularly, classical movies are projected in the lobby, with popcorn treats included. The rooms also do have a traditional touch, with ads and posters that may remember about the golden times of the cinema.

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The monumental staircase is a trademark of the hotel and still looks as a work of architectural avantgarde. It radically separate with vertical lines the enormous interior space of the building, creating a deep perspective in the middle of the building, similar with the voids in the water during high storms.

The stairs lead to a terrace on the upper level, from where one can admire not only the fancy Dizengoff Avenue with its expensive shops and glamorous restaurants, but also the dynamic city of Tel Aviv and its ports.

In this modern network and spectacular life that seems to never rest, the cultural and historical legacy of Cinema Esther stays as a reminder of how far you can go if your mind aims for change.

For more images from the hotel, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/esther-cinema-hotel-tel-aviv/

The secret gem of Jerusalem: Chagall Synagogue at Hadassah Hospital

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Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem is worldwide known for its extraordinary medical achievements, saving and improving lives of people from all over the world. As I visited the hospital for a minor medical checking, I was impressed by the friendliness of the people and the feeling that I am in the middle of the huge factory of people working without break to save lives. Young girls were distributing for free kosher food to the patients and everyone was friendly and keen to help us to find the right directions.

But there is something else that you can find inside the hospital, probably less known for many of the people coming here: the Chagall synagogue.

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The entrance is made from inside the hospital, at the ground level. After paying a ticket and receiving an audio guide and an explanatory leaflet, you have to slowly close and open your eyes for entering in a different world of colours and lights. The 3-meter high panels, made of 144 pans of glass represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Every one is a small world in itself of Chagall work. Inspired by the Biblical sources of Jacob’s blessings of his 12 sons and of Moses own blessings for the each of the 12 tribes. Each has a dominant colour and is represented by one of the 12 distinctive gems on the breastplate of the Grand Priest and is built around the specific blessing attributed to them.

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‘All the time I was working, I felt that my father and my mother were looking over my shoulder and behind them were Jews, millions of other vanished Jews of yesterday and a thousand years ago’ wrote Chagall after the work – that he considered his gift for the Jewish people – was finished. The works lasted for 2 years and the painter himself took part at the official inauguration.

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His assistant, Charles Marq developped a special technique allowing the use of more than 3 colours on a single pan rather than the usual procedure of one colour separated by a lead strip. The stained glass was created in Chagall’s workshop in France.

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Chagall studied at length the place, trying to find the best way for a proper reflection of the light through the colours inside the synagogue. The rest of the space is simple, with a stone floor which serves to receive the projections of the colours during various times of the day.

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The decorations of the Aron Kodesh were made by the American-Israeli artist Aviva Green and she finished the work requested by Hadassah together with another Israeli artist, Ruth Hayatt, specialized in textil art. The aim was to offer a simple contrast to the colours of the stained glass, by using simple materials, such as natural fibers and organic contexts.

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During the Six-Day War in 1967, shrapnels of the Jordanian Army destroyed four of the panels. It is said that Chagall, still alive at the time said: ‘Don’t worry about the windows! Worry about Israel. I’ll make new windows!’. A year after, the damaged glass were replaced under the artist’s supervision. Another massive reparations took place at the end of the 1980s that also considered the damage done by the specific Jerusalem climate and the other effects of war, the works being supervised by the son-in-low of Marq, Jacques Simon. The works lasted for one year almost.

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The shtelt of Vitebsk where Chagall grew up is no more here, but his work and modest dedication will keep inspiring us. In the middle of a hospital whose achievements can make the world a better place, the delicate stained glass are a testimony of the victory of the spiritual world against all odds and tragedies of the last centuries.

Your best hotels for an unforgettable stay in Karlovy Vary

Visiting Karlovy Vary was an old travel dream of mine that I was finally able to accomplish at the end of the last year. For 48 hours I had the opportunity to explore almost every corner of the city, enjoying the beautiful autumn colours and intensively hiking on the hills around. Although the high season was already over for a couple of days, the streets were full with tourists and the hotels kept working at high capacity. As a first time visitor, you may be surprised of the many hotels and trying to make your life easy, when I was not too busy hiking or visiting glamorous shops, I also made a short tours of some of the most recomended hotels in the area. My choices for now are as follows:

??????????During my stay, I was the guest of Dvorak Hotel, with its Art Nouveau design and a generous breakfast. Familiy and children friendly, it offers a variety of special spa treatments, including the unique FX.Mayr Treatment, aimed at eliminating naturally the toxines out of the body, oxygen therapy, special treatments for the locomotive system or relaxation therapy, designed to help people cope easier with the work load accumulated during the year. Here you can have a full review of the hotel rooms and its facilities.

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In addition to the healing waters, Karlovy Vary is also famous for its International Film Festival, considered one of the most appreciated in Central and Eastern Europe. Most of the screenings are hosted at the Thermal Hotel. Although from outside it may look a bit too serious and even unfriendly – since the name of its architectural style ‘brutalist architecture’ -, it offers a lot of special facilities to guests, including a vey elegant swimming pool. From the window of your room on the top you can also have a beautiful view over the city. During the festival, don’t be surprise of meeting around big movie stars such as Leonado di Caprio, Robert de Niro or Sharon Stone…

??????????Elizabeth Baths first caught my attention by its big park with large alleys, but those doing an intensive documentation before coming here they know that here you can find the largest balneologic facilities in the city, with over 60 types of treatments. A special place should be given to the aesthetic treatment the visitor receives when admiring the beautiful architecture and classical interior decorations.

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Grand Hotel Pupp is the favourite choice of luxury travelers, as well as of the many VIPs visiting Karlovy Vary (especially the big movie stars invited for the Film Festivval). Opened initially in 1700 as Saxony Hall, it went through dramatic changes under the direction of the Austrian architects Fellner and Helmer, by the requests of the Pupp family. An articulated collection of new-baroque buildings, it offers to their high end customers a royal spa and clinic, special treatments, including laser and other wellness packages. The gastronomic offer is also impressive, with a bar, gourmet restaurant and a coffee open to outside visitors as well.

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Luckily, the tourists looking for some affordable packages do have from where to chose as well. Situated close to the hills around the city, Villa Smetana offers not only a fresh air and a quiet stay, far away from the busy central areas, but also attractive massage treatments, lymphatic drainage, shockwave therapy, sauna and acupuncture.

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Those interested for a more central location, can check the 3-star Ontario Hotel, situated a couple of minutes away from the famous Mill Colonades and their healing waters. Their 12 appartments do offer a family ambiance plus special treatments such as: bath and spa (pearl, mineral, carbon dioxide), wraps (paraffin, mud, peat packs), therapy (electrotherapy, pneumo puncture, laser, gum irrigation, ultrasound) or massage (traditional, arctic fire, reflexology, underwater).

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Also close to the center is the four-star family friendly Hotel Embassy. It offers to the guests various special deals, including some golf classes, as well as a traditional Czech restaurant. Don’t forget as well about the exclusive La Prairie packages.

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Hosted in a 18th century building, Renesance Krasna Kralova Hotel is also situated just in the heart of the city. After the a first luxurious view of velvet and Oriental carpets, silk and hardwooden floors, the guests are tempted with various massages, including Thai-style, and other packages, some of them also including medical examination.

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Another sample of the local 18th century architecture is Hotel Salvator, with its restaurant and Cigar Club, and Romantic Biedermeyer furniture. The treatments are focused on balneotherapeutic and rehabilitation procedures, the bath using the thermal water channeled to the hotel directly from the neighbouring Vridlo Geyser.

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After extensive hiking, spending time in the chic lobby of Interhotel Central was a pleasure that I wanted to enjoy as much as possible. Besides the spa treatments, indoor swimming pool, sauna, solarium, fitness and balneotherapy, it also hosts regularly corporate events and is a favourite choice of business travelers. Professional snooker opportunities are also part of their offer.

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Although at some distance from the busy city, Park Hotel Richmond has a lot of privacy, fresh air as it is situated close to some interesting hiking trails and a quiet stay. Besides the usual treatments offered, it has special antistress programmes, beauty parlours, and a 200-person lounge capacity. During the sunny days, having a coffee on the terrace may be also part of your antistress therapy.