August 2, 2008

Champagne and Mineral Water
Dlhá Lúka, Slovakia

Today was one of those days that you just want to hold onto and live inside for a while. Adventurous, relaxing, exciting, intriguing, savory—today was all of those things.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Aidric

Today was our last afternoon in Dlhá Lúka (before relocating a few miles north), and we wanted to spend it on top of a hill overlooking the town, having a picnic.

We gathered our supplies—sandwich materials from a local corner store and a bottle of champagne that I'd purchased two days prior (on sale for about $3 in Bardejov, written entirely in Cyrillic)—and set off for lunch.

Aidric shrieking with delight

We walked out of the village and started climbing one of the open fields that ran up a hill, between Dlhá Lúka and another small town. It was my general plan to have a nice lunch, explore the neighboring village, and come home around sunset.

Sitting in the shade of a tree with an amazing view, laughing, eating, and drinking (what turned out to be a wonderful bottle of semi-sweet champagne), I couldn't imagine spending $8 a better way.

Tatiana and her mom loved watching The Sound of Music when she was younger, and she told me today that it had always been a little fantasy of her to find a place where all she could see was green. She quietly hoped that we would find such a place during our travels in Eastern Europe.

And today, with the completion of a cute little open-armed spin, she said did.

White Wish Ribbon Broken

During the course of our picnic my infant son decided to pounce on my ankle and start yanking away at my final remaining Brazilian wish ribbon. Much to my displeasure, he succeeded in breaking it before I could pull him off, releasing the three wishes for health that I'd placed on it 537 days ago.

I miss my fitas.


Up and over the western hill that we picnicked on is the small, pedestrian-only village of Bardejovské Kúpele—or "Wellness," as Robert called it. Bardejovské Kúpele translates into "Bardejov Spa" in English, and our visit to the little village actually turned out to be another pleasing highlight for the day.

I'd read something about mineral baths, or thermal baths, with regards to this town—but never paid it much mind, as I just assumed Kúpele was another small European spa treatment town, visited by tourists with deep pockets and women with too many Euros invested in their faces.

What we found there was something all together new for me—a place of medicinal healing, focused around natural spring waters. There were tourists and travelers (none English-speaking), but it wasn't touristy—something more akin to a well maintained suburban park on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Walking further into the pedestrian-only village, we came across a concrete water shrine of sorts. We watched for a moment as people drank and filled up water bottles, before heading down the short flight of stairs to do the same.

I partially filled the (now empty) plastic bottle I'd taken along with us, took a swig, and furrowed my brow. It was mineral water—but not as I've ever had it. It was raw, noncarbonated, and mildly metallic tasting.

I handed it over to Tatiana, who took a sip and immediately spat it out in a most dramatic form. The Polish woman next to us chuckled in entertainment. She said it tasted too much like iron.

Walking around, sipping on the odd-tasting liquid, we came across a building with very striking interior of light stone. On the wall opposite us was a long stone counter, filled with sinks. The same discoloration seen on the spigots outside saturated the taps, basins, and countertops.

A young Ukrainian girl with limited English tried her best to explain what was going on. We filled in the rest with observation.

The room was casually filled with people of all types of skin and physical afflictions, shuffling back and forth from chairs to the counter and back to their chairs.

It would seem that there wasn't just one type of natural mineral water found in the village, but several—each with their own "curative" properties. People with various ailments would either be directed to a specific water treatment (type, amount, frequency) by a doctor, or selecting a spring by reading up on their own.

Spa History

As told by the village Web site:

The first written mention of Bardejov Spa dates back as far as 1247 when the Hungarian king Béla IVth donated the territory of the present spa jointly with the springs to the city Bardejov.

Up to the 15th-century there is no precise information about the spa. The good reputation, however, spread over very quickly therefore the first booths for bathing sick people, coming here from the distant surroundings, have been built in 1505. In 1777 the first brick building was built near to the springs. The building had 12 rooms serving for the patients comfort. The curative effects attracted the Hungarian and Polish nobility, which contributed essentially to the development of Bardejov spa.

The reputation of spa disseminated all over Europe. Besides the visitors coming from the near vicinity, who spent here just a short time, most of the guests spent in the spa from three to six weeks.

The first written scientific report on the results of the analyses of the two most frequently used Bardejov springs—the Main and the Spa spring Hlavný, Kúpeľný prameň was given by Professor Pavol Kitaibel from Budapest in 1795. At that time seven mineral springs were utilized. He considered the Bardejov acidulous water one of the most curative water in Europe, suitable for filling in containers and being exported.

Pursuant to his opinion, the waters from Bardejov were suitable for curing headache, contracture, epilepsy, hypochondria, gynecological disorders, podagra, urine stones, gastrointestinal disorders. The city started to fill in containers and export the Bardejov acidulous water not only to Budapest, but also to Warsaw, Berlin, Frankfurt.

In the first half of the 19th-century the Bardejov spa experienced a flourishing time. Within a short time a new spacious spa-house was built up and several dwelling houses. That time already 13 mineral springs were utilized.

"Healing" Waters

Bardejov mineral waters are natural, slightly to moderately mineralized, with healing properties. They are classified as a hydrocarbonic—containing chloride and sodium (carbonic, cold, hypotonic, with a relatively high boric acid content).

Believe in it or not, there seem to be plenty of people that do. The literature says that the varying chemical makeup of each type of mineral water is used to treat "ontological problems, blood circulation problems, digestive tract disorders, metabolic disorders, non-tubercular disorders of the respiratory tract, menopause, renal and urinary tract disorders, and some disorders of the body's extremities."

I thought I'd share some of the type of waters made available on the site. I'm still baffled at how so many types come from such a small area, and how the springs have lasted this long.

  • Spring Herkules
    By its content of mineral substances and carbon dioxide this spring pertains to the most effective ones in Slovakia. It has proved to be efficient in therapy of digestive disorders and duodenum, respiratory diseases. It is true especially due to the fact that its content of iodine acts extraordinarily favorably in removing of slime from the respiratory organs. It is very efficient in curing diabetes too.
  • Main Spring / Hlavný
    The Main Spring has acidic character, it is utilized for curing stomach and duodenum disorders, post-operation state of stomach, disorders of liver, lack of gastric acid, blood disorders and problems with formation of blood.
  • Medicinal Spring
    This Spring is highly mineralized having alkaline nature. It is utilized for curing stomach and duodenum disorders with overproduction of gastric acid, for inhalation by chronic bronchitis, inflammation of mucous of the upper respiratory organs, and for enlarged windpipes and curing asthma.
  • Spring Alžbeta
    The spring is characterized by low content of sodium, it has proved to be useful in curing different disorders of the liver.
  • Spring Klára
    The water of this spring contains iron, it is carbonic with traces of hydro-sulfide and it is applied in inhalation for respiratory organ disorders and for rheumatic illnesses of the joints.
  • Spring Napoleon
    The water is hydro-carbonic, with content of chloride, sodium, iron and carbon, with increased content of bore acid. It is applied for therapy of gall-duct, collitide and chronic disorders of liver.
  • Spring Anna
    This spring is appropriate for curing stomach dyspepsia, chronic disorders of pancreas and the upper respiratory organ disorders. Its water is hydrocarbonic, chloridised, with sodium and increased content of metabolite acid.
  • Colonnade Spring
    This spring is advisable in curing anemia, deficit of gastric acid and inflammation of stomach.


The sun was setting as we left the peaceful village. For such uniquely intriguing, popular place, it was certainly very calm, quite, and relaxing.

We passed a small church out the path out that happened to be having a wedding—a nice location for such things. The bride was beaming as she (and the rest of the attendees) processed down the street to the boisterous sound from the trio of musicians at the lead.

What a great day.

( video link )


The United States


August 8th, 2008

this is a beautiful post, love the family portrait!

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