Living the high life!
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed I’m not much for glamorous luxury travel. However, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself and since we’re staying close to home this year due to the whole coronavirus crisis, my boyfriend and I decided to take advantage of a special offer and try out the legendary Slovenian hotel Jama back in August. As you will see, we had a great time and the hotel has quite an interesting history, so I figured it deserved a review.
Hotel Jama is a 4 star hotel located right next to the entrance of Postojna cave, one of Slovenia‘s major tourist attractions. Since tourism in the cave started relatively early, back in 1819 with the visit of Austro-hungarian emperor, the cave was already quite famous around the world by the time Yugoslavia decided to build a fancy hotel there in 1971. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Slovenian history, our country used to be a part of Yugoslavia, the Balkan hybrid country, until 1991 and the Austro-hungarian empire before that, which fell apart after WW1. There were some other bits in between that, but when it comes to hotel Jama, it’s the Yugoslavian bit that is important.
When they first built the highway to Postojna, the town that gives the cave its name, they also decided to build a large, fancy hotel to accommodate the increasing influx of tourists. During the 70s, hotel Jama was the meeting point for foreign dignitaries and famous people hosted by the Yugoslavian president Tito and his wife Jovanka (the one with the iconic black hairdo). The hotel soon achieved a sort of a cult status with up to a million visitors per year, which persisted for a while even after the fall of Yugoslavia, until it was closed and scheduled for demolition in 2010. However, new investors were found and hotel Jama reopened in its doors in 2016 after a through renovation and it seems to be doing quite well since then.
While it still has the authentic 70s massive building exterior, the interior is very modern and worthy of its former glory. The rooms were also beautifully renovated. Most of them have a balcony overlooking the cave entrance and ours had the most epic comfortable couch ever. They come with everything you would expect from a fancy hotel: air conditioning, mini bar, wi-fi, flat screen TV, free parking, a good bed with soft sheets and so on, as well as a well lit bathroom with glass walls. The glass walls were honestly a bit strange, but there were thick, solid curtains available for privacy (perhaps the hotel designers were trying to encourage the ultimate intimacy between couples?). Anyway, our room was gorgeous and we both loved it so much we actually spent more time in it during the day than we usually would.
I liked all the little designer details around the hotel, with stylised human fish and Postojna cave icons everywhere. In fact, they paid great attention to everything: the staff were friendly and up to date about all the tours and offers, we got a voucher for welcome drinks in the hotel bar upon check in and a human fish shaped cookie upon check out. We also got a lovely welcome treat in our room, champagne, fruit and chocolate mousse, courtesy of a friend who works for the hotel. Although this is not a sponsored post in any way, we did get slightly preferential treatment because of her and we were definitely living the high life drinking champagne out on the balcony at sunset. We even ordered room service at some point.
Speaking of food, breakfast was included with our stay and it was delicious. Due to the coronavirus they didn’t have the open buffet breakfast they would normally have, but they figured out a good way around it. The waiters served us what we chose from the available buffet and I’m happy to say they didn’t judge me coming back for seconds. 🙂 We could also order pancakes, eggs, tea and coffee from the kitchen and we usually ate so much we didn’t need lunch afterwards.
Although lunch and dinner weren’t included, we chose to eat in the hotel restaurant. There are a restaurant and a cafe below the hotel, which cater to the Postojna cave visitors, but they were quite crowded even despite the pandemic. The hotel restaurant is located next to the lobby and has a spacious terrace with a view, which was much nicer for us, so we splurged on that too. The food was amazing and the prices were surprisingly reasonable for what we got (25-40 € per meal with drinks and appetisers per person), so we just ate there.
The bonus: secret rooms
While they were renovating the hotel to its current, modern state in 2016, they discovered a secret. Behind an assuming, locked door with no available key, they found a set of secret rooms, left behind by the Yugoslavian intelligence services. As it turns out, the Yugoslavian secret service figured hotel Jama would be a good spot for eavesdropping on all the important people and had additional rooms and communication hubs built during the construction of the hotel in 1971. The rooms stayed literally intact for 25 years after the fall of Yugoslavia, because the locals refused to talk about the strange occurrences in the hotel.
After the Slovenian intelligence service (which is called SOVA – the owl, in translation by the way) and modern historians combed through them, they were opened to the public. Whether or not you’re staying at the hotel, you can now take a tour of the secret rooms, a stark reminder of the paranoid socialist era in Slovenia. Although the tour is short, it’s quite fun and covers all the basic Yugoslavian history, which is particularly useful for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. You can actually listen to bits of the original declassified recordings of the Yugoslavian secret services, both from the hotel and official hearings and such. They’ve also added a bit of interactive mystery to the tour and you’ll get a really cool free souvenir in the end, so I say go for it!
And now for the numbers. Although we visited at the end of August, which is technically high season, 2020 did a number on the tourism industry and we were able to take advantage of a promotional offer to make it more affordable. We paid 274 € for 2 nights with breakfast for 2 people (266 € for the room + 8 € of tourist tax) + whatever we spent in the restaurant. The promotional offer included a discount on visiting Postojna cave, so we paid additional 68,80 € per person for that tour package, which included a tour of Postojna cave and trekking through the 3 caves, the underground cave zoo (Vivarium), the Expo Cave Karst exhibition (I covered those in my post about Postojna cave here), the nearby historical mill, the tour through the secret rooms in the hotel and entry to Predjama castle.
All in all it was a pretty good deal and we ended up spending about 380 € per person for the weekend (gas and food included). Yes, it was a lot, but we went into it with the desire to splurge and feel fancy for a change and I don’t regret it at all. It did help that we covered some of it with the governmental tourism vouchers we Slovenians got to help out the economy because of corona, which I recently discussed when I was a guest on the Culturally Ours podcast (you can listen to my episode here).
So, if you can afford it, I would definitely recommend staying in hotel Jama if you’re visiting Postojna cave (you can check their current prices and offers here). Not only is it located right next to the cave entrance, but it’s also super convenient. You won’t need to search and pay for a parking spot, because they have their own parking lot and they often have promotional offers and discounts for visiting the cave + you’ll be able to skip the line for tickets, all of which are a blessing during the high season. They will also help you schedule the tours for whenever you prefer and the whole stay is a taste of luxury that we should all get to experience from time to time.
How about you, do you prefer budget or luxury travel? Would you rather save up to afford something fancy or stretch your money as far as it goes?