The Top Hotel on the edge of Prague is 800 rooms of unreconstructed Soviet gulag. It was the venue for this year’s public management conference and it offers the kind of experience which lingers in the subconscious in different nightmarish guises for some time. As Rod Rhodes said when he picked up his lifetime achievement award at the conference dinner “little did I realise that when I started my career in Bradford in 1956, I’d finish up here in Prague in 1956” (Rhodes 2013).
So what happens in the Top Hotel? Smoking is compulsory. They hand out packets of Marlborough Reds when you check in. Customer service is non-negotiable. Nothing is too hard for them not to do. Many things are withheld from guests so not to spoil their discomfort. For example, neither the fridge or hairdryer work. the most used phrase at the Top Hotel is “not pozzible”.
As would be expected, the food is very special, when it is available. Despite the booking of about 700 conference goers, none of the restaurants open for lunch.
We stayed in and ordered the Czech specials one night. I had the roast chicken with braised red cabbage and potato dumplings. The chicken and dumplings were fine, but the potato dumplings turned out to be potatoless stodge.
Tracey was not so lucky and ended up with gristle in gravy with a splodge of whipped cream.
The Top Hotel is very far removed from the usual tourist haunts in the old city of Prague but it has a way of creating memories that will far outlast cobbled street and beautiful buildings.