The walls don’t talk at Prague’s Aria Hotel — they sing.
Or, in some cases, they emit euphonious melodies, release dulcet string tones, expel an occasional crescendo — perhaps even spew an unplugged pizzicato.
You might not heed the symphony at first, but sit down in the lobby of this music-themed hotel, delicately entrenched in the ancient Mala Strana district, and you’re certain to hear something.
Of Mozart, who adored Prague and visited it first as a child prodigy, Emperor Joseph II said, “too many notes.” Praguers disagreed and rejoiced when he premiered Don Giovanni here in 1787.
Today, Aria Hotel honors him with a two bedroom suite that overlooks the Baroque, Eden-like Vrtba Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A vision of romantic interiors, the Mozart room has surround sound stereo, controlled by a computer program loaded with his music and historical information about his life.
A painting depicting Mozart adorns the wall.
The great composer would have expected nothing less: he always said Prague was the only city that truly understood him.
But Mozart’s not the only musician celebrated at Aria Hotel. The 52-room hotel takes the history of music, a history closely tied to Prague itself, seriously.
“Prague is a very musical place,” says Ivana Stehlikova, Aria Hotel’s music director. A holder of Musicology doctorate, she lords over the music library and its 3,000 CDs, and assists guests in booking music events.
(She may very well be the only music concierge in the world, but she’s quite adept at airline and train reservations, too.)
I swoon at first sight of the lobby’s mosaic floor, which consists of tiles in the pattern of the notes of a Gregorian chant. Enticed, I follow it all the way to the airy atrium where a pianist cajoles the keys of a shiny concert grand piano.
I’m further seduced when I eat lunch at Coda, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant.
The plates, the mugs, even the napkins, all depict famous musical icons in caricature by Czech artist, Josef Blecha. So, I eat off of Louis Armstrong and wipe my mouth with Johnny Cash.
When at last I retire to my room, the musical extravaganza continues. Each room in the hotel is dedicated to either a specific artist or composer, honoring many styles of music.
So, find jazz, opera, classical and contemporary.
Sleep with Billie Holiday, snuggle with The Beatles, canoodle with Elvis, or spoon with George Gershwin. The Czechs aren’t forgotten: there’s Smetana, of course, and Dvorak.
Me, I get Rossini who soothes my jet- lagged soul— and that’s just fine.
I plug in the house iPod (filled with music by every single one of the hotel’s chosen cadre of musicians), choose some Smetana (after all, something about the Moldau seems appropriate, right?) and waltz around my room.
Carpets are embellished with musical notes, a window looks out to the medieval rooftops, and book shelves are stacked with tomes that refer to Rossini.
A Blecha portrait emblazons the wall and other references to the composer abound.
Later, I emerge to check out the private screening room and the winter garden with its beguiling fireplace.
I walk through Aria’s private entrance to the Vrtba Garden and crash — for a second — a storybook wedding as it unfolds.
At last, I hit the medieval streets that make Prague so magical. I’ve been before, so I take the fast track to the famous Castle, past St. Vitus Cathedral and poke around the Golden Lane (once home to Kafka).
Back down the hill, I avert my eyes as I walk beside Starbucks, and reach Charles Bridge.
At that moment, a rainbow gilds the sky. I manage to make it to Josefov, the Jewish Quarter just before it rains.