A short uphill drive, along two-kilometres of kuccha road from Bhimtal Lake, Nainital District, leads you to Fredy’s Bungalow, near Nainital. The imposing colonial-style bungalow, converted to a resort, nestles among cypress and deodar trees, on a peaceful wooded hillside, overlooking the Bhimtal valley and the mountain slopes beyond.
Located in the midst of acres of dense oak forest, this is a peaceful haven where only the sounds of nature break the silence: the wake-up song of the resident Whistling Thrush, the sharp call of a Barking Deer in the distance; the hoot of a Spotted Owl signaling dusk. This part of the Kumaon Lake Region, home to a large variety of flora, fauna and aquatic life, has always attracted bird-watchers, butterfly-collectors and nature lovers as well as writers in search of solitude and city-dwellers seeking to renew their spirits. A steep 10-minute mountain trail, adjacent to the bungalow, leads to ‘the Ridge’ with its breath-taking view of the Sattal Lakes below and Nainital in the distance. A level walking track from the bungalow offers an easy 30-minute walk to these lakes, which are otherwise more than 10 km, and 45 minutes, by road.
The bungalow was home to Fredy Smetacek Jr. and is located in a large forest estate where his father, Fredrick Smetacek Sr. (a German from the Sudetenland – now in the Czech republic) chose to live with his wife and raise their six children. Smetacek Sr. had arrived in Calcutta in 1939 and moved to the hills closer to India’s independence.
Raised as the son of a Forest Warden in Europe, he was irresistibly drawn to the cool forested hills and green lakes, moving first to Naukuchiatal (at a time when travelers rode up on horseback along a mule-track from Kathgodam) and then to Bhimtal in 1951. In Bhimtal, he developed and honed a passion for studying butterflies, starting a collection that grew to over 10,000 specimens and is renowned in India and beyond. Much of this collection is housed in Fredy’s Bungalow near Nainital, and the rest is displayed at a close by Butterfly Museum.
Fredy’s Bungalow, near Nainital, has been renovated with care to preserve its beautiful wooden features – whole tree trunks are laid across the length of the structure as support beams; a gleaming wooden staircase leads from the Living area to the Mezzanine level; finely crafted wood beading and window pane edging depict a rare attention to detail. The exterior stone walls are imposing, with carefully hand-chiseled stone facing.
The impressive high ceiling of the Living area makes for a spacious ambience and the interiors have been renovated to offer travelers every modern comfort. On offer are four bedrooms with attached bathrooms and lovely views of the surrounding woods. In addition to a large and airy living room, there is a library and a cozy den with a number of board games for children and families to spend some fun time together. A wide wooden deck verandah running along the entire back of the bungalow and looking across at the forest, is perfect for relaxing with a drink or book, or spotting the occasional flying squirrel or a pheasant heading home to roost.
Survey the in-house butterfly collection. Enjoy boating or bird-watching in and around the Sattal and Bhimtal lakes. Explore the serene surroundings of the bungalow that are an invitation for a long walk or quiet contemplation and meditation. Or else, simply relax with family and friends and let us pamper you with now legendary Itmenaan hospitality and an array of culinary delight.s This bungalow resort is just 45 minutes drive away from Nainital town.
– Text by Priya Tripathy