THE SUN is frying the Slovak soil these days. However, until mid July the cold and rainy weather barely hinted at summer.
The first days of summer holidays saw few cooling their bodies in regular pools. Instead, many were warming up at thermal springs. And before the weather calls the bathers back to the hot waters, here is some information on the rich, wet mineral life of the country.
"Slovakia is no Iceland or New Zealand, when it comes to the number of mineral and hot springs but, considering its small territory, it has many. And the spectrum, concerning the mineral content and temperature of these waters, is vast," said Miroslav Bím, director of the Geology and Natural Resources Section at the Environment Ministry.
Bím explained that the consistency of the springs depends on their environment. And the setting in Slovakia is very diverse, with manifold geological compositions that naturally influence the character of mineral waters and their different uses for healing purposes.
"Some are so mineralised that they cannot be used for recreation purposes, others are so hot that they are best used as heating energy for buildings and greenhouses," Bím said.
By and large, water seeps from the ground in almost every town. Most of the springs are cold, while the temperatures of the thermal ones range from 22 to 92 degrees Celsius.
When travelling from the country's east to the its west, one can stop to warm up in Bardejov, Bešeňová, Rajecké Teplice, Nimnica, Trenčianske Teplice, Piešťany, or Senec. Some of the thermal water pools are indoor, some open to the air. Most famous for thermal springs is the Liptovská kotlina valley, encircled by the Tatras, with the open-air Bešeňová spa, the indoor Lúčky spa, and the newly erected Tatralandia aquapark.
The exact number of springs is tracked with difficulty as it often changes.
Since 1970, when the search for geothermal waters to be used for recreation and energy in particular started, over 60 holes have been drilled by the state and many others by individuals and private companies. Some, on the other hand, run dry.
"It's a long history with a lot results," said Bím.
Springs of interest
According to geologist Augustín Rebro, extraordinary natural phenomena have interested humankind forever, especially those that benefit the health. Mentions of the healing powers of mineral waters have been found in the oldest written documents. Celtic and Teutonic tribes used the thermal waters long before Romans and Turks bathed in them.
There are no documents about the systematic use of the springs in Slovakia in ancient times, but archaeological findings confirm human presence in those locations. The springs started to see more use in the 16th century, when several spa facilities were founded.
Written mention of the springs on Slovakia's present-day territory, several of which were already turned into spa houses, first arise in educated Europe in the middle of the 16th century. In his work De admirandis Hungariae aquis hypomnemation (About the Miraculous Waters of the Hungarian Monarchy, 1549, Basil) Juraj Wernher compiled what he learned about the mineral, mainly thermal, waters in the Hungarian Monarchy, part of which covered what is today Slovakia.
According to Wernher, the Piešťany spa had "the best healing waters" in the Hungarian Monarchy. The spa successfully carries its reputation up to today, and is best in helping to heal long-term and incurable diseases.
Administering the Spiš and Šariš castles, Wernher focused most on describing the waters springing in an eastern region of Slovakia - Spiš, which also most occupied the interest of people at home and abroad at that time.
"There are waters that have the power not only to decompose iron but also turn it into copper. Others harden to stone. There also is a spring that kills living beings that drink from it," he wrote.
According to geologists, he referred to the waters in the copper-mining region near Smolník; sintering waters in Sivá Brada, Gánovce, and Vyšné Ružbachy; and poisonous springs near Prešov, probably those in Starý Smokovec before the changes wrought by an earthquake in the 17th century.
The first official registration of the springs was done between 1763 and 1764. In 1978 Slovakia documented 1,356 springs of mineral and thermal waters.
Out of the 45 spas built over thermal water - the number registered in 1950 - some 20 operate today. There are also a number of outdoor swimming pools that use the hot waters, including some of Slovakia's newly built aquaparks.
And those seeking solitude can still find natural warm baths, such as in Chorvátsky Grob and Liptovský Ján.
26. Jul 2004 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová