When I stepped into the entry hall of the dwor of Ciekocinko for the first time, I was instantly blown away by the stunning interior. It was a stormy December evening, and the bitter cold had crawled into every bone of mine, putting me in a rather grumpy mood. However, this changed the moment I started to look around, and suddenly, I found myself in a world of wonders and pleasures. My eyes have not come across such beauty for a long time. Located near the Baltic Sea in Wejherowo County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, in northern Poland, I felt like I had just entered a modern version of Downton Abbey. It is way smaller in size but just as rich in appearance. As an average peasant, you can easily detect the sophisticated atmosphere in the most luxurious public toilet ever. Creamy and gleaming metro tiles in the traditional English style, even washing your hands is pampered with some super nice-smelling organic hand lotion. It smelled like heaven.
But that’s just for starters.
This hotel provided immediate comfort, which helped me forget about the freezing cold outside that was harassing us that day. My eyes started to wander around the dining hall and the library, and I felt excited, just like when I visited an antique barn. Ciekocinko is surreal in its’ extraordinary elegance and dedication to detail. You can either be overwhelmed or be slightly annoyed by its perfection, which leaves no chance for coincidence (I recommend being overwhelmed, though). Additionally, you can sense the owner’s effort to turn the grand manor ruin, which he had bought, into a place that stimulates your senses—a modern interpretation of the 1920s/1930s glamour, which would probably suit the Great Gatsby just fine. The delicate balance of antiques and custom-made pieces lends the collection its unique flair. I felt like I was on a Wes Anderson movie set—its beauty derives from the same bright boldness. Besides, this is not just a hotel; it is a statement of happiness. It is a pure joy to walk around there if you are inclined by design, which likewise honors the past and the present.
The dark green secession wallpaper with its bold and golden prints demonstrates that darker colors can be a brilliant choice for creating a gloomy yet cozy atmosphere. “They are handmade in San Francisco, in the same colors as a hundred years ago in the Bradbury & Bradbury factory,” hotel director Zuzanna Busłowska explains. The brief transition between Art Nouveau, Secession, and Biedermeier-Style hints at the owner’s sharp-minded personality. Tomasz Bałuk is a rather shy man who likes to stay in the background; however, this house is a mirror of him being an eager but sensitive man, a gourmet who likes to indulge in something until he has just found exactly what was on his mind. In 2004, he found the manor in the most miserable state and decided to bring it back to life. “It took him three months of trial and error to get his desired results. He put furniture in and put it out again until everything was in its right place—every wardrobe and every chair, every bed, every antique telephone—which, by the way, still works. You can ring the reception or room service. Every piece, be it a painting, sculpture, or doorknob, was chosen by him personally, and he knows exactly which chair belongs to which room,” hotel director Zuzanna Busłowska explains with a pleasant smile.
I started to wonder how long it might have taken him to envision the perfect spot for the ballerina sculpture in the lounge, where she would be admired and make eye contact with the guests. It is not just the hotel’s appearance that is remarkable; it is the whole concept of running it. During the summer season, you will be able to listen to a jazz musician on weekends, and local people will be opening up a mini-market place, so you will get a chance to buy proper handmade products from this region. It shows how much the owner is inclined to add a bit of contemporary Kashubian culture and thus evoke a new era of prosperity that has long since passed away since this former Prussian region was declared Polish.
Each room is named after a famous horse, just like Archipelo. It is meant to stress the place’s determination as a Mecca of equestrian triumphs at the Equinale, the biggest horse riding competition held in May and September. During the festival, 1400 horses are accommodated during those three weeks, arriving from all over the world, including Australia, Sudan, and South Africa. “This is not just a manor place; it is an estate,” she says succinctly, summarizing the factors that contribute to its status: The spa, the own agricultural farm, and the huge manor park that smoothly glides into the Kashubian forests. You can enjoy a walk even in the late afternoon. Once darkness falls, you will be guided by lanterns—just another conscious thought meant to extend your comfort even outside.
Maybe he chose the glorious 20s and 30s as a theme for the interior because it resembles a time when the old and new worlds merged. People started to go wild, enjoying the beginning of modernism and having a good time while getting rid of old-fashioned manners in their flapper dresses. The noble class was about to face change as individuality began to sway the long-standing system of order. As the owner puts it in his own words on the website: “(…) One thing is certain. Even in the most difficult moments, I did not regret my decision because, today, Ciekocinko is my place in the world and the satisfaction of actually changing a part of my own country — is invaluable, as they say in a certain commercial” (Tomasz Bałuk, 2013).
According to the Voivodship Conservator of Monuments, the entire palace establishment in Ciekocinko counts as one of the most important historical palaces and park establishments in the Pomeranian Voivodeship; a monument of Pomerania, where old Prussian and Polish influences competed for years. So, in this glamorous atmosphere, you are meant to enjoy comfort, which is slowly arising in this once beaten-up region. Whereas people had been struggling with shifting identities, they are now keen to slowly develop a new identity built upon the past. The new message is: Look what we have achieved so far, let’s celebrate the good times again.
As fall is just around the corner again, I wish to wrap myself in the luxurious beddings, which are insanely soft: “The beddings are from the same manufactory as the ones they used on the Titanic,” Zusanna Busłowska remarks. As we were about to leave, I found myself sighing out of happiness, “I like the thought that Tomasz just gave this place a new life by restoring it.” It resembles his willingness to open up to his guests and invite them not only into his hotel, but also into his soul and positive mindset. It is people like Tomasz Bałuk who make a difference in proving that a brave and visionary mind can add up to a region like Kashubia blossoming again.