Travel after the pandemic #11: Fibula Residence Hotel & Wellness, Pécs
One more jewel in the crown
If Diocletian, emperor from AD 284 to 305, and his foot-weary soldiers were to return now, they would find that the artefact, a fibula – a commonplace brooch or pin for fastening garments, typically at the right shoulder – is now much cherished. These ghosts, while en route to further distant battles, would be able to rest their tired bones in the namesake hotel and admire the cultural and historical landmarks that have sprung up in Pécs in the centuries since.
Fibula Residence Hotel & Wellness is now hitting its straps after opening in summer 2020 and then – like the rest of us – struggling through the coronavirus pandemic. Finishing touches are still being applied to all areas – the 32 modern one- and two-bedroom apartments, double rooms and various suites, the fragrant wellness centre, the gardens and so on.
It means the Fibula possesses what may be the most prized of qualities a hotel can offer: sparkling newness. There’s something undeniably reassuring about staying in a place where everything has that air of being fresh, clean and not over-used – new beds, new linen, new bathrooms, new towels, new carpets, new lounges, etcetera.
Conversely, Fibula Residence Hotel & Wellness with its unblemished air is bang in the centre of Pécs’s largely unspoilt old town, less than five minutes walk to the main Széchenyi tér where the imposing Városház (City Hall) sits directly opposite the equally impressive Megyeháza (County House), though even they play second fiddle to the city’s most famous monument, the green-domed Mosque of Pasha Qasim, built around 1543 to 1546 then converted to a Catholic church in 1702. It is the greatest example of Turkish architecture in Hungary.
Between them all is the Holy Trinity statue, originally from 1714 but remade in 1908, and the statue of John Hunyadi on horseback from 1956, the latter commemorating a leading Hungarian military and political figure of the 15th century. During our visit, on this lovely summer evening the square and its side streets are home to many well-patronised restaurants, bars and cafés where the locals and sightseers absorb life’s pleasures.
Central Pécs is basically free of modern-day architectural excrescences, and a stroll along Király utca branching off from Széchenyi tér suddenly reveals the Pécsi Nemzeti Szinház, the National Theatre of Pécs, opened in 1895 and a rival to Budapest’s Vígszinház for sheer classical architectural verve.
This is a reminder that Pécs was Hungary’s first European Capital of Culture in 2010. Another highlight along these lines is the Csontváry Múzeum, home to a good selection of canvases huge and small by Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry, 1853-1919, originally a pharmacist who at the age of 27 received a vision in which he was called as an artist. He became one of the first Hungarian painters known in Europe but his true significance was only recognised well after his death.
Sightseeing is a tiring business, and back at the Fibula Residence Hotel & Wellness, the health part of the “health, history and culture” trilogy can be enjoyed in the wellness centre’s swimming pool, jacuzzi, Finnish sauna and salt room. Massages are available and a vitamin bar is being added, with smoothies, juices and fruit salads.
Or there is the hotel’s bar and lounge area, where EURO 2020, now sadly minus the brave Hungarian team, is playing on the television. A small library of Hungarian-language books sits in the corner, for swapping. Pécs is said to be Hungary’s most Mediterranean city, with a mild climate, and the Fibula’s Mediterranean courtyard is another relaxation area, with the palm trees starting to push up.
The hotel is the only adult-friendly accommodation in the city, and all guests must be over 14 years old. A self-service laundry and exclusive parking are available. There is a 70-person conference hall and the Sorbus cellar room for company meetings, team-building activities, smaller conferences, weddings or other functions.
After resting up, it must be remembered that Pécs is the city of Zsolnay porcelain, whose factory was established by Miklós Zsolnay (1800-1880) to produce stoneware and other ceramics in 1853. Outside the city centre, the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter contains the Zsolnay Family and Factory History Museum, the Zsolnay Mausoleum, a planetarium, gallery, theatre and other attractions in historic buildings. Some Zsolnay tile roofs can be seen in the city centre, such as on the main post office, and there is the Zsolnay Fountain in Széchenyi tér.
One sight we missed. The fibula, described by Fibula Residence Hotel & Wellness as a “valuable onion-headed” specimen, has yet to go on display anywhere.
Fibula Residence Hotel & Wellness
Jókai utca 17-19, Pécs 7621
Phone: (+36) 72 954 153