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.

Veľký Meder: From under the ground

By James Thomson

    Taking the plunge at Veľký Meder’s thermal baths
 Taking the plunge at Veľký Meder’s thermal baths
 Photos by James Thomson

Trnava Region is home to Slovakia's biggest spa town, Piešťany. But the local geothermal springs have been tapped to build other resorts. One of them is in Veľký Meder, in a part of the region known as Žitný Island (between the Danube and Malý Dunaj rivers). The spa can be a little tricky to find, but once you get there, there's no missing it: the entrance, indoor pools and newer buildings are in a curious, brightly-coloured pseudo-Turkish style.

The 9-hectare resort, partly on forest land, was originally built in 1974 and has been undergoing a process of rolling renovation since 2004. The water here comes out of the ground at 57 degrees Celsius but is cooled to the mid-30s before being fed into a bewildering array of indoor and outdoor pools. These are mostly of the waist-deep, wallow-at-your-leisure variety.

There is also a full-size conventional swimming pool and two water slides (with more planned), and the complex is filled with food outlets and surrounded by hotels and pensions of varying standards. It seems tremendously popular in summer, with people sprawled out on every spare scrap of lawn. This may be partly explained by its relatively low prices, at least compared to the newer thermal resorts elsewhere in Slovakia.

Veľký Meder has a slightly less cheerful claim to fame, although whether such a little-known site constitutes 'fame' is open to question. On the other side of town from the thermal spa, on a deserted backstreet, is a simple enclosure lined with blue iron railings and marked by two plaques, one in Slovak and one in Serbo-Croat. They record the site of a mass grave.

During World War One there was a camp for mainly Serbian prisoners of war on the outskirts of the town. Serbia had found itself at war (along with the rest of Europe) in 1914 after the assassination of the Austrian heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serb radical, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo in June 1914. Its main opponent was Austro-Hungary, of which Slovakia was at the time a part; hence the presence of the camp on what is now Slovak soil.

There is no information on display at the site, but the camp must have been huge. The plaque simply records that under the ground here lie the remains of 5,153 Serbs. They died in a typhus outbreak, but neither their names nor the dates of their deaths are recorded here.

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

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