These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Bardejovské Kúpele: Scotch Spritzer, anyone?

By James Thomson

    The Hotel Astoria in Bardejovské Kúpele
 The Hotel Astoria in Bardejovské Kúpele
 Photos by James Thomson

A short drive north of Bardejov is one of Slovakia's best-known health spas, Bardejovské Kúpele. This institution - the word is used advisedly - does not suffer from the glamorous pretensions of some other Slovak spas. Its hotels are functional - though the Astoria has, from a distance, a (very) faded First Republic grandeur; and the Ozón does exude a certain socialist-era charm - and its treatments clinical. If you come here, you had better be suffering from something.

To the squeamish or uninitiated, the cures on offer can sound a little off-putting: the 'Scotch Spritzer', elsewhwere referred to in the marketing material as 'Scottish Squirts' (the Caledonian connection, except perhaps as an allusion to the weather there, is mysterious), involves being hosed down with high-pressure jets of hot and cold water; for the dry carbonic bath one's body is wrapped in a large plastic bag filled with carbon dioxide (good for the cardiovascular system, apparently); sub-skin CO2 injections involve, well, having carbon dioxide injected under your skin. After that you can either bathe in the spa's healing mineral waters or go and drink from them in a specially designed hall of taps, each with its own chemical properties and name: Hercules, Napoleon, etc.

The staff seem friendly and professional, and the spa's ISO certificate means all the treatments are described in English. On-site doctors prescribe a tailored course depending on your ailments and issue you with a passbook to record how many times you've been spritzed (for example).

If the facilities are looking a bit tired, the gardens and surroundings are pleasant, and there are tennis courts, a swimming pool and outdoor musical perfomances in the summer, and skiing and hiking in the winter.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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