Slovak mountains beckon with snowflakes and hot baths
dpa German Press Agency
Monday November 13, 2006
Bratislava- One might expect a shock reaction when a human body is covered up to the neck in hot-spring water while, simultaneously, ice-cold snowflakes fall from the sky and slowly melt on the scalp. On the contrary, this hot-and-cold experience is a blissful way to relax for winter visitors who trek outdoors to a mineral bath in the ever-snowy mountains of northern Slovakia.
Skin-tingling, outdoor pools fed by hot mineral springs can be found across Slovakia's Tatra mountain region, which includes the High Tatras as well as smaller ranges stretching eastward from the cities of Zilina and Bojnice.
Outdoor hot baths are offered at so-called "aqua parks," full- service health spas and simple facilities with little more than pools and changing rooms.
Most of these outdoor pools also give bathers generous views of pine-forested mountains, obscured only by steam clouds rising from the water into the snowy sky.
A showcase of Slovakia's mineral baths can be enjoyed in Oravice, an old lumberjack village nestled in a western Tatras valley near the Polish border. Visitors can choose from two facilities - the full- service Meander Park or the basic Oravice baths.
Snowflakes disintegrate in the air over the hotter of two pools at the Oravice baths, where the water can reach a fiery 54 degrees -even when the air temperature is well below zero. For an admission fee of less than 5 dollars, bathers can lounge for hours in the pools and break the monotony by occasionally rolling in the snow.
Family-oriented Aqua Park Tatralandia near Liptovsky Mikulas features four, outdoor mineral pools with views of snow-capped peaks and water temperatures between 26 and 38 degrees. The sprawling park - billed as the largest in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland - also offers indoor pools, tube slides and saunas.
Waters with above-average heat as well as particles of curative lithium are available in the hotel-spa pools at the Benesova thermal bath, located in a village of the same name near Ruzomberok.
The popular mineral pools in the village of Liptovsky Jan have been attracting visitors from as far as Germany since the 19th century.
But the Kalameny pool has a much longer heritage, according to written records from a nearby castle dating to 13th century. This is a free, rustic bath with no facilities, located on a roadside near the village of Kalameny.
For a more pampered experience, try the upscale Spa Bojnice resort in Bojnice, which includes a year-round thermal pool with vistas of forested hills.
Slovakia's hot-bath experience may be combined with a winter stay at one of many mountain cottages available for short-term rent around the country.
It's also fun to bathe outdoors at those facilities that are open after sundown, perhaps after a long day of skiing at one of the Tatra-area resorts, and watch the snowflakes melt in the steam.
© 2006 dpa German Press Agency