"I am the only person working here now who was present at two launches of this hotel"
Tibor Meskál, is a 77-year-old senior duty manager at Corinthia Budapest and there is something very special about his relationshop with the hotel.
Tibor is unique among staff at the hotel: “I am the only person working here now who was present at two launches of this hotel,” he says. In the aftermath of the Second World War and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, money was finally ploughed into a major restoration of the hotel in 1958, and the Grand Hotel Royal, as it was, reopened to the public on 21 August 1961. Among the staff was an 18-year-old apprentice called Tibor.
For him it was a dream come true. The Royal was like a teaching institution he said, as evidenced by the number of people who went on to even bigger things all over the world: “You did a few months in each department, so you really got to learn everything, not just how to wait tables or run a bar, as you might in a small restaurant.” At the same time he was working through catering college, doing two days a week in school, and four in the hotel.
The reputation of Hungarian hospitality was built on the period from the Millennium celebrations to the start of the Second World War, and probably reached its peak in the 1920s and ‘30s, says Tibor: “I was from a lucky generation, I got to learn from these masters of the trade,” he recalls. That passion for providing good service still drives him today, and he sees part of his role as passing on the knowledge gleaned from that previous generation.
And Tibor has plenty of lessons to pass on. In 1966, aged 23, he quit his job as room service manager at the hotel, fled the country illegally and headed for Italy. He had already spent time in East Germany, now his career would take him to Australia and the UK , and see him work on cruise ships; he served drinks to Queen Elizabeth II on three separate occasions, as well as the Shah of Persia, Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich, amongst others.
It was only at the age of 53, and 30 years after he left the country, that decided to settle down. He returned to Hungary and worked at Gundel Restaurant and then at one of Budapest’s five-star hotels, but when he heard the Corinthia was reopening, he quit, taking a pay cut and a drop in position to “return home” as room service manager. Thus he was here for the 30th April 2003 launch too. “I have no children of my own. This is my ars poetica, to plant my knowledge learned from those masters and the love of the work you do in young people, so that they carry it on and in turn teach the next generation.”
A behind the scenes tour of the hotel is available for hotel guests every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9.30am.
Your guide is Mr. Tibor Meskál and the tour will take around one hour.