Hotel Ramonda of Rtanj

Ramonda is a flower of a delicate violet color, which has a miraculous power: even when it lies on a sheet of paper in an herbarium, only one drop of water is enough for it to revive. Rtanj Mountain is one of the rare landscapes where this phenix flower grows. Recently, an elegant boutique-hotel has been opened underneath the riddling summit of Rtanja in the shape of a regular pyramid – inspired both by the name and the content by the resurrecting plant.

There are a lot of unusual phenomena connected with Rtanj, starting from its perfect, triangular pyramidal “dome”, which it is hard for one to believe that it is but a random work of the forces of nature, through the exactly measured existence of a special kind of “non-Hertzian radiation”, the electric potential that is three to four times as great as the usual one in some places… The phenomenon of “a traveler through time” has been recorded, flying saucers have been taken photos of, and it is a fact that planes do not fly over Rtanj due to the atypical gravitational field. Measurements have shown that the summit of the mountain is the point that receives energy, which is then conducted through the “chimneys” of their own kind to the places which emit such collected energy. There are also “science-fiction” theories saying that the mountain is hollow in the inside, that it is extraterrestrials’ base, the primeval homeland of God Ra… Because of all the above-mentioned things, and a lot of those unmentioned as well, Rtanj is a place whose secrets both scientists and many other visionaries and searchers for alternative interpretations of phenomena impossible to witness every day tend to fathom out.

A Reputable Mine

The settlement where the Ramonda Hotel was built used to be inhabited by miners. The story begins in the 19th century, when a Jew, Samuilo Minh, moved from Moravia to Serbia. He established a textile factory in the town of Paraćin, and upon his son Julius’ persuasion, he began to invest the earned profit in mining. The Minhs were granted concessions for the exploitation of the ore fields of Rtanj, and they opened the first pit in 1902. They employed the local population and brought experts from abroad. The settlement grew to about two thousand inhabitants, but was not like any other similar places in Serbia and in Europe. For the workers and their families, the Minh family built comfortable flats, established a school, opened an outpatient unit, erected Sport Center, with a cinema in it, too. Julius’ wife Greta dedicatedly worked on the refinement of the space. Credit is due to her for the construction of a large park, the construction of a greenhouse, the planting of a rose-garden, and so on. Greta was a favorite person of the inhabitants of the stone coal mine of Rtanj because of her support and the attention she paid to miners’ children and families.

From Coal to the Mountain Hotel

The history of this mine, in which care was also being taken of the welfare of the employees and the cultivation of nature apart from the imperative that a profit should be made, seems to be remembered and followers seem to have appeared many decades after its closing. According to what we saw and experienced, the management of the Ramonda continue the business philosophy of the Minh family, which is testified to by their “statement of intentions”: “We want to make the Rtanj settlement revive again as a Ramonda; this time, however, instead of a mine, we have a mine of good atmosphere, a mine of good service, a mine of a quality hotel offer.” It is envisaged that the hotel should be the pillar of the development of this region, and this is seen in that a cooperative has been established, which produces organic food for the hotel, and in that the menu offers known gastronomic products of this region, such as the kashkaval cheese of Krivi Vir, the wines of Knjaževac, Rtanj tea.

Ramonda’s People

It is a usual thing for a media presentation of a hotel to be focused on the accommodation and wellness attractions; in the case of this hotel, however, the story begins with the people. Jadranka Stepanović is the owner of the Ramonda, and differently from many investors whose manners imply their interfering in all and in everything, she dedicated her efforts to choosing the right associates who she gave freedom of action. So, she succeeded in bringing Radomir Samčević, a successful consultant for hotel management, from as far as Mexico. His motto, “The easiest thing is to be the best.” was accepted by the employees – about sixty young people from the nearby Boljevac and Sokobanja. The curiosity of it rests in the fact that Samčević started the training by, first, bringing the candidates to a hotel in Vrnjačka Banja Spa to be guests there, since almost none of them had ever stayed in a hotel, and they did not have any approximately appropriate education, either. If we had not heard this testimony, we would have thought that the crème of the hotelier profession work at the Ramonda. Experienced Nikova Jakovljević has been appointed as the director of the hotel; Miloš Ristić, who has an envious international career, is the chef; we also met young bartender Filip, who climbed one step of the career ladder only three months after he had started working there.

The Echo of the Surroundings in the Architecture

Ljiljana Rebronja, the director of the “Tourism World” magazine, who organized this promotional journey for the representatives of numerous media houses, had prepared the basic information for us in advance. In the announcement, it is also said, among other things, that it is a 4-star hotel with a Spa Center, which immediately creates an image in one’s mind of some kind of unhidden luxury, although everything is exactly the other way round. The external façade of stone and the wooden panels is more like a mountain home. The interiority of the hotel is yet a greater surprise: the reception desk, the bar and the restaurant, together with the terrace, are so designed to be one unique space, whose “dimensions” and straight lines “are cut” by refined details. The effect of this combination of “the straight-line and the curved” is amazing – one simultaneously feels the whole of the big “hotel stage”, as well as the intimate atmosphere of its every individual “box”. The most beautiful of all is the abundance of light and the view of the Ramonda’s surrounding area. Vlada and Valerija Milić, the husband and wife who had designed the hotel, made us familiar with the fact that no author’s idea had been important to them, but rather the context. “And the context of this settlement and the nature that ‘flowed’ into this location of ours couldn’t have been better and more encouraging. With a selection of natural materials, the Ramonda blended in one with the surrounding nature and its large-size glass areas create a connection with that nature, which will contribute to the achievement of a perfect harmony between the hotel itself and its guests. If the results you see are echoing with an atmosphere of the powerful surroundings, then it means we were honest in our intentions,” Vlada Milić said to us.

A Panoply of Ambiences

The Ramonda belongs in a group of boutique hotels and can accommodate up to 90 guests. The rooms and suites are equipped with taste and characterized by a tranquil design. Particular attention is dedicated to the lighting. Apart from the pendant and table lamps, the duplex suite which I stayed in also has a “star sky” on the ceiling – a plethora of small bulbs, whose dimmed light makes the night beautiful. Although bearing the stamp of the same designers, not one room is the same. The Spa Center offers its ordinary attractions: an indoor and a jacuzzi swimming-pool, a Finnish and a Turkish sauna, the massage rooms. What is exceptional is the daylight coming into this relaxation zone through the external windows and from the glass roof in the shape of a pyramid – which is an “architectural homage” to the famous summit of Rtanj. The lake in the yard looks like a typical outdoor swimming-pool at first sight, which is but an illusion. It is a unique example in our country of the place where water is purified with the help of algae and water plants. The lake and the water garden with lotos flowers in full bloom are a real pearl among the Ramonda’s ambiences.

Where the Camera Shakes

In the immediate vicinity, there is a place officially called Vrelo (Spring), and the people coming to visit it often call it the Sanctuary as well. It is such a manifestation of the mentioned phenomenon in which the energy collected by the summit of the pyramid is “conducted” towards certain points emitting that energy. Vrelo was discovered and signposted by academic Jovan Davidović, and radiations were measured and examined by an international expert team. A fact has been established that this “radiation” invisible to the human eye has a stimulating action on human physical and psychic health, so Vrelo has become a pilgrimage place of its own kind. We had an opportunity to see with our own eyes on the spot that the “energy circle” does have a force. A colleague from our team put his camera down onto a wooden table next to Vrelo. At that very same moment, it began to vibrate and shake, which we were watching at a loss of words. I stood barefoot in this remarkable place, making an effort to feel myself the vibration that was making the camera shake. I was not shaking, but, on my way back to the Ramonda, I felt light-footed and relieved.

The impressions of the journey are nice, suprising and promising. The Ramonda Hotel is masterly devised and represents the necessary condition for the further development of Rtanj, which was declared a special nature reserve last year. There is a plan to build a gondola to the summit of the mountain, reconstruct the Greta Minh park, as well as a plan for programs of visits to numerous cultural sights and sights of nature in the surroundings: the ancient imperial palace of Felix Romuliana, inscribed on the UNESCO list, Sokobanja Spa, the spectacular Bogovinska and Lazareva caves, the ethno-village of Ilino, the winery of Knjaževac, and so forth.

By Milena Mihaljčić
Photo: Hotel Ramonda & BelGuest Magazine archive