Prague, Czech Republic
A hot-pink confection of Bohemian Neo-Renaissance style, the Hotel Opera stands in the less touristy Nové Město, or “New Town,” quarter of storied Prague.
The Grand Hotel is a landmark fourteen-story palatial building located in Taipei’s Zhongshan District, perched between a lush green mountainside and the capital’s energetic urban sprawl.
After former President Chiang Kai-shek fled toTaiwan in 1949, having been defeated by Mao’s Communists, he found it difficult to offer foreign dignitaries sufficiently impressive accommodation. His forward-thinking wife, Soong Mei-ling, suggested building an elegant hotel on Yuanshan Mountain—directly atop ruins of the Taiwan Shinto Shrine, a vestige of Japanese rule. Generalissimo Chiang embraced the idea and planned for a structure that would elaborately showcase Chinese culture and architecture to the West. It succeeded: the creation was rated one of the world’s top ten hotels in 1968.
Intricate depictions of dragons appear through-out, inspiring the hotel’s “Dragon Palace” nickname. Some are explicit—like the Golden Dragon Pavilion—but subtler versions command a significant presence, as 200,000+ dragon carvings and drawings decorate the hotel.
In 1995, a devastating fire destroyed the roof. After three years of steady construction the hotel reopened with rooftop dragon head adornments symbolically shifted to ward off future fires. The legendary beasts not only embody power and luck but are also ambassadors of rain and water.
Each of the eight guest floors represents a different dynasty. But no room comes near the magnificence of the presidential suite, which contains Chiang’s writing desk and Madame Chiang’s makeup table. This lodging and its antiquities can be yours to behold for a cool $5,500 per night.
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