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

Imperial Delight

By Martina Pisárová

 Photo: Anton Frič

It takes nine hours by train from Bratislava to get to a place where you will meet plenty of unfamiliar faces overcrowding the sidewalks and complaining to each other about their health problems. So why would you go?

The sight of hundreds of strangers condensed on this small spa area almost makes the idea of a relaxed holiday impossible, but only until one realises that in Bardejovské Kúpele people only rush to make their massages on time. Relaxation is an imposed policy here.

Situated only five minutes by bus from the baroque city of Bardejov, a spa resort with numerous hotels and villas built across a marvellous park, offers the tired, the sick, and the occasional passer-by a quiet retreat, where singing birds wake you every morning.

A week in this spa, which saw its peak at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, is highly recommended. While long ago the resort was among the favourite destinations of such figures as Russian and Habsburg nobles, it has now become a melting pot of visitors from across central Europe.

Western Europeans, including Germans and Austrians, have recently discovered the healing effects of the spa and have been gradually becoming regular visitors of the spa. The spa has also kept its traditional clientele of Slovaks, Czechs, Russians, and Poles.

If you stay in one of the spa's hotels - for example, the grand hotel Astória or the romantic Alžbeta, named after Elisabeth, the wife of Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph, who visited the spa 100 years ago - you automatically are entitled to partake of the spa's various cures because the hotel price includes spa treatments.

Almost every hotel has its own physician who recommends cures for patients and guests, based on their health complaints.

The spa traditionally treats digestive problems, but classical massages, whirlpools, sauna, relaxing mineral baths, as well as refreshing water massages of various kinds, are available. Some of the spa's staff speak English and German.

Bike tours and hikes can also be done here. Bike rental is available in the spa resort area.

Apart from the chance to mix with the international clientele, which often includes Slovak celebrities and foreign businessmen, the spa resort offers a range of sports opportunities, including an open-air public swimming pool, a mini-golf course, and tennis courts.

A nearby skanzen (open-air museum) housing more than 30 traditional houses and church buildings that date back to the 18th century can also be visited for a small fee.

Visitors sensitive to bad architecture should be prepared for quite an ugly main colonnade. At the colonnade, patients and guests can take, for free, several of the spa's healing waters, which are usually drunk before meals to encourage digestion.

The colonnade is a typical example of the grey, rectangular, and grim architectural style that the Communists seemed to enjoy so much. Some of the spa's hotels, unfortunately, were also built in this style.

But when a Dixieland band is playing at the colonnade, as is often the case, especially during the summer season, and you have a cup of Empress Elisabeth's favourite mineral water in hand, the greyness retreats, and one realises what a fine holiday a spa resort can provide.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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