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A taste of the Ukraine near Mount Rainier

But it is the Cannibal Hot Tub that draws the curious to Ashford

Hotel guests enjoy the Cannibal Hot Tub at the Paradise Village Lodge. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Anatoliy Zaika, owner of the Paradise Village Lodge near Mount Rainier, is a man with a dream. A huge fan of the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he purchased the lodge as a family business, and to bring a bit of his homeland -- the Ukraine -- to America. He has succeeded in crafting one of the most unique experiences in Washington state. As you pull into the property you immediately feel like you are in an eastern European village.

The whole resort was recently renovated -- all the buildings have been painted and reed roofs and ceilings installed in the common spaces. Combining the ambiance with authentic Ukrainian and eastern European food enhances the feel that you are staying in a European ski village. 

But it is the resort's Cannibal Hot Tub that is drawing in Instagram Influencers from all over.  "I saw the idea on YouTube and thought, ‘I can make that,'" explained Zaika, noting these unique hot tubs that are heated by an open fire are common in Ukraine. Zaika had a kettle shipped from home and constructed a rock pavilion to hold the kettle over the open fire. The kettle was so large it had to be turned sideways to fit in the container. 

Zaika describes it on their website as "kind of like being boiled in a hot soup, but it is an invigorating hot soup that is good for the skin." 

Reservations for the hot tubs are required because it takes over an hour to heat up, and then is drained, cleaned and refilled after each use. There is a cleaning fee of $50 plus $25 an hour with a minimum of two hours. Truly an unusual experience, you do not need to be staying at the resort to book. 

The renovated accommodations have a rustic vibe to them and are spotlessly clean. There are a variety of room sizes and a family room which can accommodate six. There are also three cabins for couples. The property makes a good base for exploring Mt. Rainier or taking the train in Elbe. 

If you miss the food you enjoyed while assigned in Europe, you will enjoy the food at the restaurant and bakery. Grab breakfast and lunch at the bakery if you are heading up to Mt. Rainier for the day. It is a great coffee stop, and the freshly baked pastries are a welcome addition to any picnic. Everything is freshly made on site. If you are lucky, Zaika's son William will serve you. He makes a great latte and goes out of his way to provide the best service whether at the bakery or later in the restaurant. 

The food in the restaurant is absolutely delicious. The Ukrainian Borsch made with white cabbage, beets, carrots, tomatoes, onions and potatoes is very hearty. Both the Russian Pirozhki and Polish Perogies were excellent. You know when you see the owner eating the galushky you are in good hands. Galushky is Ukrainian gnocchi and Zaika's is a light puffy taste of heaven served in a sauce similar to alfredo. All the meals come with fresh house made bread.

Whether you stay the night, or just drop in for coffee, the Paradise Village is well worth a visit.

Paradise Village Hotel and Restaurant, 31811 WA-706, Ashford, 360.255.0070,

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