July/August  2007 





“As you would expect, the modern spa leisure facilities are second to none with many different types of saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, solarium, relaxation areas, ice cave and nine pools.”

ne of the pleasures of travelling across Slovakia – ‘the little country with the big heart’ -- is discovering the unexpected, proving the wisdom of the old saying, ‘The journey is the reward.’

Our drive from the spa town of Piestany to the city of Poprad in the foothills of the snowcapped Tatras Mountains was certainly rewarding; with varied scenic landscapes, interesting towns and villages, traditional and modern spas and in the tiny village of Rajecka Lesna, a stunning national treasure.

Slovak Bethlehem is local woodcarver Josef Pekara’s masterpiece of contemporary folk art, a magnificent carved tableau that took 18 years to complete and depicts not only the Nativity, but the history, life, culture, crafts and way of life of the Slovak people. Historic churches, castles, monuments, mountains and even hot springs are all skilfully portrayed and brought to life by tiny intricate figures that move, work and play. We were enthralled but amazed such a priceless work of art was displayed so unpretentiously (and insecurely) in a tiny village hall when it deserved pride of place in a national museum.

Trencianske Teplice

slovakia-5After Slovak Bethlehem, it was a short drive to Trencianske Teplice, one of Slovakia’s oldest traditional spas. The little town is situated in a sheltered valley surrounded by wooded hills; its sulphurous mud and five sulphur-rich hot springs have been easing aches and pains since the 14th century. The spa was bought and further developed in the 19th century by Viennese financier Jozef Sina, whose youngest daughter added the Hamman Bath House, now part of the spa center. Built in Moorish style and lined with blue tiles, the hamman is windowless apart from three small glazed openings in its three domes. Today, the quiet, dimly lit hamman is used for massage and relaxation and leads into the spa center’s changing rooms, treatment cubicles and main thermal pool. Guests are swaddled in blankets after their immersions or massages and left to relax in their cubicles.

slovakia-6Like other Slovakian spas, Trencianske Teplice was nationalized after the Second World War but is now privately owned. The emphasis is still on medical treatments, with on-site doctors and therapists administering traditional three week ‘cures.’ The spa is busiest in the summer months, when music festivals, sporting activities, outdoor thermal pools and wide range of organized cultural activities are all in full swing. Because state-funding for spa visits has been severely cut back, Trencianske Teplice is trying to attract younger, healthier guests who can afford to pay for their spa services. Shorter stays and wellness packages are now offered at very reasonable rates.

Accommodation is available in the two spa hotels Pax and Kym as well as in the town’s smaller hotels and guest houses. Pax and Kym, have easy access to the spa center, and while rooms are clean and comfortable, the public areas seem to have changed little over the years with meals still served in old-fashioned canteens rather than restaurants. Hopefully time and demand will bring about change and updated services. In the meantime, the spa pools are beautifully warm, the prices affordable and the staff helpful and friendly.

Visit www.slktn.sk (click on English) for details of rates and offers.

Rajecké Teplice

slovakia-402After Trencianske Teplice, the spa at Rajecké Teplice 25 miles north, provided an interesting contrast. Situated in the small village of Rajec next to a wooded park and the local train station, the spa forms part of the Aphrodite hotel, a modern four star establishment with unusual mythological décor, up-to-date amenities and a restaurant with proper menus. Our room on the top floor was small but cosy and comfortable.

Many of Aphrodite’s guests come from neighboring European countries with a similar spa traditions as Slovakia. Aphrodite offers such guests good value, comfort and choice. The spa facilities are modern and appealing with large thermal pools, saunas, steam rooms, spacious beauty and wellness rooms where a varied menu of reasonably priced treatments like massage can be experienced.  For guests seeking the traditional spa ‘cure, ’ spa doctors are on hand for consultations and advice and can prescribe a varied range of medical programs using Rajecké Teplice’s naturally warm hypotonic water to effectively treat various health conditions including neurological, locomotive and respiratory tract problems.

Visit www.spa.sk for information on rates and spa packages.

AquaCity, Poprad

slovakia-202No trip to Slovakia is complete without a visit to AquaCity in Poprad – the final destination on our fascinating spa journey through Slovakia. AquaCity is an ultra-modern yet fantastically affordable new ‘green’ spa resort, offering something for everyone, while helping to save the environment at the same time. It is situated in Poprad, a short distance from the Tatra Mountains that border Slovakia with Poland – a stunningly beautiful area popular with skiers and hikers alike.

The resort opened in 2004 and is the brainchild of Czech philanthropic entrepreneur Jan Telensky, who stumbled on an old borepipe when pushing his infant son’s pram on some waste ground in Poprad. Curious, he made enquiries and discovered that the pipe had been used some years earlier during explorations in the area for natural gas. No gas had been found, but boring down 7,000 feet, an immense subterranean lake of naturally hot water had been discovered. The council were not interested in the water, but Telensky immediately saw its potential. He negotiated a deal with Poprad city to use this limitless thermal resource to create a superb modern spa resort, the first in the world to use geothermal energy as its primary energy force.

Today, AquaCity uses the latest filtration and treatment systems to channel the thermal water, forced up to the surface under its own pressure, to heat the resort and its two hotels and fill the heated indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms and saunas - even the water in the showers. The water is all recirculated so there is no waste, emissions or environmental damage. Later this year, when three solar panels, each the size of a tennis court, and three wind turbines are built to create an electricity supply, AquaCity will be completely self-sufficient and use no outside energy whatsoever. Eventually, new wells will be bored to supply the entire town of Poprad with water and power.

slovakia-102As you would expect, the modern spa leisure facilities are second to none with many different types of saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, solarium, relaxation areas, ice cave and nine pools. These include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, two children’s pools, the health boosting Blue Diamond pool and three outdoor pools for relaxation and fun at any time of year – especially good in winter when snow is on the ground and outside temperatures plummet below freezing!

A new range of spa treatments is currently being developed, but in the meantime you can have an excellent one-hour massage for less than $20. AquaCity’s most famous treatment is cryotherapy – a sensational experience that costs just $20 a session and is carried out in a state-of-the-art glass building under the supervision of a professional doctor and nurse. First, you have a medical consultation and your pulse and blood pressure checked to ensure you are healthy enough to withstand the extreme cold. Then you change into specially treated cotton shorts, T- shirt, knee-length socks and headband, put on clogs and paper face mask and enter what looks like a sauna cabin, but has no seats and is a chilling minus 76ºF! After a minute of foot stamping and arm swinging, you come out, ready to brave an even colder chamber – this time for two minutes at a temperature of minus 184ºF – colder than an Arctic winter!  As the chill penetrates, it becomes impossible to move at all. Just when you feel you can’t bear to be in the chamber another second and want to escape, the session ends and you are helped into the gym for 15 minutes brisk exercise to get the circulation going.

Cryotherapy is widely used in Japan and other European countries to relieve joint pain, depression, circulatory and skin problems and to boost stamina, potency and detox the immune system. There is even anecdotal evidence that it helps slimming by reducing cellulite! Apparently, in the ultra-cold, the brain triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline, endorphins and testosterone into the blood, so even after a single session, there is a distinct feeling of wellbeing. For longer-lasting benefits a course of several sessions is recommended.

slovakia-302With two excellent well appointed hotels on site, fine dining, cafes, bars and a wealth of activities and places to explore in the resort and the surrounding area, AquaCity is rapidly establishing itself as a popular and innovative spa destination. However, Telensky is not content to rest on his laurels and plans further ambitious enhancements by 2008, with more thermal pools and leisure facilities including a tropical beach with water skiing and thermal pools under giant bubbles surrounded by tropical gardens,  designed on the lines of the UK’s Eden-Project. The sauna center will be doubled in size with more treatments and therapists – and everything will be entirely energy self-sufficient.

Visiting this unique spa resort, the friendly staff obviously love their work and share Telensky’s enthusiasm for his ambitious project – which of course wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t tripped over that old pipe back in 2002, then had the curiosity and insight to find out why it was there in the first place!

Rates at AquaCity from $89/£45 pppn – includes breakfast, dinner and entry to all AquaCity’s facilities. Book through www.czchtravelonline.com or call +44(0)1733 327766 Cryotherapy and massage $20/£10 per session.

You can now fly directly into Poprad from other parts of Europe, including London Stansted ($318/£160 return) – with Sky Europe, the leading and largest Central European low cost airline.

Other leading Slovakian spas and the conditions they treat include:

Bardejovske Kupele – www.kupele-bl.sk. Post cancer conditions, heart and circulatory problems, metabolic, digestive and respiratory disorders.

Spa Resort Diamant Dudince – www.diamant.sk. Arthritis and locomotive disorders and circulatory problems.

Kupele Bojnice – www.kupele-bojnice.sk. Orthopaedic conditions and nervous system disorders.

Kupele Smrdaky – www.kupelesmrdaky.sk. Skin disorders, arthritis and curvature of the spine.

Sklene Teplice Thermal Spa – www.ltk-kupele.sk. Rheumatic and spinal disorders, infant cerebral palsy, muscle damage, post-traumatic states.

Turcianske Teplice – www.therme.sk. Rheumatism, arthritis, digestive tract and nervous systemdisorders, women’s heath problems.

For further information on Slovakia visit www.slovakiatourism.sk.

Vysne Ruzbachy -  www.ruzbachy.sk. Cancer recovery, cardio-vascular, respiratory tract and mental disorders.

Kupele Brusno –  www.kupelebrusno.sk. Diseases of the digestive system, diabetes and metabolic disorders

Sliac - www.spa-sliac.sk. Circulatory and heart disorders in adults and children, female infertility and gynaecological problems

Kovacova - www.marinakovacova.sk. Rheumatic and arthritic disorders, nervous diseases, post-accident and post-surgery rehabilitation

BeattieCatherineCatherine Beattie is a UK-based health and travel writer/publisher with a lifelong interest in spas. Her credentials include writing and publishing several consumer guides including Healthy Breaks in Britain & Ireland (the UK's first spa guide) and The Really Useful Guides. Catherine was founding editor of Spa Health & Beauty magazine and contributes to many UK national newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Express, Here's Health and Harpers & Queen. She is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Guild of Health Writers and Spa Business Association.




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