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Historic Platres hotel set for new era

feature tom 1 main the outdoor patio of the forest park hotel
The outdoor patio of the Forest Park hotel

The iconic Forest Park hotel in Platres has been bought for €10 million, with its new owners promising to elevate it to “Swiss standards”.

Over 90 years have passed since the construction on the Forest Park hotel in the mountain village of Platres began.

Now, the hotel looks set to enter a new era, having been bought for €10 million by foreign exchange and CFD brokerage company XM.

The company have promised a “comprehensive renovation plan”, with plans to invest €15m in improvements to the hotel site. They said they want to “elevate the hotel to Swiss standards reminiscent of the iconic St Moritz resorts”.

Speaking to the Sunday Mail, Platres mukhtar Panayiotis Papadopoulos said the hotel’s forthcoming renovation is “part of a wider renaissance of the Platres area”.

“One hotel alone cannot make a significant difference, but we have a number of hotels being modernised and renovated, and other initiatives being undertaken to boost the area’s tourism, its infrastructure, and its image,” he said.

These renovations and initiatives, he said, will help to attract “a more diverse clientele” to Platres, which, in turn, will boost custom at the Forest Park and other hotels in the area.

Whether or not bringing a little corner of the Alps to Cyprus is possible remains to be seen, with XM saying the planned renovations will see the hotel close for two years at the end of this year.

feature tom1 the hotel swimming pool
The hotel swimming pool

In any case, the foundations upon which the renovations will be built are steeped in the history of the island and the region.

The hotel had, up to the point of its acquisition by XM, been run by four consecutive generations of the Skyrianides family.

The hotel was designed by Sam Barkai, an Israeli architect born in the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, and construction began in 1932, overseen by civil engineer Benzian Ginsburg.

When it officially opened in 1936, it was the only hotel on the island which had individual bathrooms for all of its 70 bedrooms. It was also equipped with a large ballroom, dining rooms, a bar, a library, a lounge, a billiards room and a tennis court.

One of its first famous guests was British novelist Daphne du Maurier, who wrote part of her famous novel Rebecca while staying at the Forest Park.

Rebecca was adapted into an Academy Award-winning Alfred Hitchcock film in 1940, and a Netflix feature directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Armie Hammer in 2020.

When the Second World War broke out, the hotel was commandeered by the British armed forces as a military hospital between 1941 and 1943.

It was briefly commandeered for the same purpose in 1956 during the Suez Crisis.

The hotel was expanded for the first time between 1946 and 1948, with 30 new rooms being added, and an Olympic size outdoor swimming pool was constructed in its grounds in 1963.

The pool hosted afternoon “tea dances” every Sunday, which were visited by the island’s “avant-garde”.

The year 1946 also saw the last King of Egypt, King Farouk, visited the hotel. Legend has it that it was upon King Farouk’s visit that the brandy sour was created. The cocktail was allegedly made to “look like tea”, as a Muslim king could not be seen to be drinking alcohol in public.

feature tom1 the dining room
The dining room

The Greek poet George Seferis also visited the hotel in the 1950s, and referenced it in his poem “Helen”, in which he wrote “the nightingales won’t let you sleep in Platres.”

The most recent large-scale addition to the hotel was the construction of seven chalet suites, which were built in the 1980s.

At present, the hotel has a total of 137 rooms, and has more recently won acclaim from the British newspaper the Telegraph.

The Telegraph wrote in 2019 that the hotel “has a timeless beauty”, adding, “although its grandeur has faded over the years, the hotel presents itself today with a classic country-house-cum-colonial style of décor with an ambiance that is welcoming.”

It also commended the “extraordinary views of pine trees and the hotel’s extensive gardens” which are enjoyed from each room.

The aim of the hotel’s new owners, therefore, will be to recapture that faded grandeur and to retransform the site into a destination worthy of royalty, novelists and poets.

A resemblance to the Swiss resorts of St Moritz is a high target at which to aim, both in terms of spectre and in terms of altitude, but a €10m buyout and the pledge of €15m in investments suggests that its new owners believe it to be possible.

If they can pull it off, the Forest Park hotel may yet be the scene of 90 more years of history.

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