A travel journal
to Piestany by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: For many centuries, people have taken cures in the waters of Piestany, Slovakia. While Piestany, this small town of 35,000 people, is unknown to most Americans, it has a special place in my heart.
Piestany's curative waters have been existence for thousands of years, and as far back as the Roman Empire, people have come to Piestany to take in the waters and treatments for rheumatism and respiratory ailments. The existing spa at Piestany dates from 1889 and was a playground for much of Europe's rich and famous until Communism cast its dark shadow over Eastern Europe in 1948.
My friend, Ivan, lives about five miles from Piestany, and it was the first place he took me to visit on my first visit to Piestany in September 2001. I was taken aback by this hidden gem that was hidden behind the Iron Curtain for half a century. We did not take in the spa's many services, but we enjoyed every minute walking around the grounds and through the beautiful parks and gardens that surround the spa. Ivan and I even shared our first kiss at Piestany Spa, so there is a sentimental reason why I love this place.
It is said that drinking the spa's waters can cure many ailments from the inside, and Ivan got me to try the waters at one of the two fountains that poured 120˚F water from its faucets. I told Ivan he was nuts for thinking that something so vile smelling was a cure, but I held my nose and said, "Nosdravne (cheers)," and drank my cup. I believe it helped me a little bit, but I wish I had some of the water now with all of the back spasms I have been suffering.
Ivan and many Slovaks fill up Coke bottles full of the water to take home to their elderly relatives to let them take the cure since most can't go to take spa treatments.
The town of Piestany itself is not to be missed, with all of its quaint shops along its main drag, Ulica Winterova, and the 18th-century church outside the spa grounds. Piestany is located on the Vah River, and on the other side of the river is the Old Town with an old church and buildings. Outside the church, Ivan and I could not resist playing on the stocks and pillars that were in front of the church to punish residents of Piestany for their sins.
There are many hotels in and around the Piestany Spa. They are reasonably priced compared to the more famous spas at Baden Baden and other places, with the cheapest being at the Berlin at to the Balnea Spa at . I hope if I ever return to Piestany to take advantage of a spa treatment and enjoy Piestany's beauty even more.
For more information about Slovak spas and Piestany, see these websites: www.sunflowers.sk and www.spectacularslovakia.sk
You can get to Piestany by either car, train, or bus. The train and bus stations are right next to each other, and there is service from many of Slovakia's main hubs to Piestany. If you go to Piestany by bus, tell the driver you need to go to Zeleny Krucik, and the bus will put you right at the bus station. From the bus and train stations, it is a 10- to 15-minute walk along tree-lined roads with apartment complexes to the spa grounds. There are markets and banks along Ulica Winterova and other roads in town, so you will have no problems cashing travelers checks or getting food.
To get to Piestany by car from Bratislava, take the D1 highway 85km east through Trnava to Piestany.
The Balneological Museum is a small museum that has hundreds of exhibits on the history of the town of Piestany and its spa. Piestany's history dates from prehistoric times, and the town itself didn't exist until the late 19th century. There are many exhibits of prehistoric artifacts and tools, a history of weaponry dating from the prehistoric era to the mid-20th century along with a cultural exhibit complete with beautifully handcrafted costumes and clothing.
The Balneological Museum of Piestany is open from 10 to 5 except for Sundays and holidays and costs a pittance of a fee to get in. There are guidebooks in English, German, and Slovak for you to follow during your tour and it is a great way to learn about Slovak history and culture.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 24, 2004
The Balneological Museum
Spa Hall, Piestany Spa Park
The Collanade Bridge was built in 1933 in the functionalist style. It connects the spa with the town of Piestany and during the summer, it is crowded with tourists and people taking a cure at the spa. It is defined by the R. Kuhmayer sculpture of a man breaking crutches over his knee in victory of defeating his illness. There is also a plaque put up by the Communists in the 1950's dedicated the bridge to the workers and party members of Slovakia.
With its art nouveau architecture and other architectural styles, the bridge's modern design complements the spa and its grounds.
Don't miss the little shops on the bridge to browse in or buy inexpensive souvenirs. I bought my sister a Slovakia Kitchen Witch along with post cards for me. There is an ice cream stand there to have a little snack. That was my second full Slovak sentence, "zmrzlina vanilko, prosim (vanilla ice cream, please!)!"
Take the time to cross the bridge by bike or foot and admire the Vah River and the Spa. It is well worth your time.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 24, 2004
The Collanade Bridge at Piestany Spa
Piestany Spa has been around for centuries. It is said Roman soldiers bathed in the waters at Piestany around the time Christ was born. In the 16th century, Piestany was advertised as a spa where "man whose body and spirit should have matched the antique criteria for strong, healthy man." Aristocrats, civilians, and soldiers came to Piestany to take a cure in the waters and muds there.
In 1801, Ludwig von Beethoven came to Piestany to take in the waters as a guest of Count Dezass. In 1822, the first spa house was built at Piestany, and it was known as the Old or Napoleonic Spa. This building is still standing on the grounds of Piestany Spa.
In the late 19th century, Piestany Spa was taken over from the Erdody family, a Hungarian aristocratic family, by the Winter Family, and Piestany's popularity began to grow in Europe. Soon, kings and queens and politicians flocked to Piestany for cures and relaxation. The aristocrats built villas around the spa to stay in and several of them today are hotels for the rich and famous to stay in while visiting Piestany.
Of course, with all of the famous people visiting Piestany, there was intrigue, stories, and romance going on.
In 1933, a bridge was built in functionalist style to connect the spa with downtown Piestany. There is a statue by R. Kuhmayer of a man breaking a crutch, which is a powerful symbol of the spa's healing qualities. The parks throughout the spa have flowers and sculptures made by Slovak and other artists from around the world. In the summertime, there are many concerts and cultural events presented by the spa to entertain visitors.
Today, Piestany has returned to its old glory and many rich and famous people have come back to take in the spa and its amenities. Not many aristocrats and royalty come, but royalty such as Claudia Schiffer and hockey star Jaromir Jagr come.
The best place to go shopping is on Ulica Winterova. Named for the Winter family who owned the Piestany Spa for most of the late 19th century, Ulica Winterova is lined with old buildings, hotels, and shops to browse in and shop in until your heart's content. My favorite shop was the souvenir shop that sold majolika pottery. Majolika (MY-O-LEEKA) is a pottery native to the Modra area of Slovakia, and it comes in the form of vases, teapots, and other decorative works and is brightly painted with flowers and other designs. The prices in this shop are reasonable, and I came away with three pieces of majolika for under $20 US. One of the girls working in the shop spoke English, and it was easy for me to communicate in broken Slovak and English. In the alleyways of Ulica Winterova, there are many little shops to buy yarn and other necessities of life.
Before going to the spa on several visits, Ivan and I would stop at this little cafe that served Treska (cod salad). I got addicted to this stuff to the point of a tummy ache, but it is better than tuna fish to me. We would order some treska and water and sit down and eat, talk, and relax.
My recommendation for a day in Piestany is to stop at one of many grocery stores along the way to the spa, pick up some treska or deli meat at the deli counter, yogurt, fruit, and soda or water, and take a picnic to the spa via Ulica Winterova. Then sit down in front of the Thermia Spa and enjoy the scenery while eating. I also took pictures, people-watched, and wrote postcards. People from all over Europe and a rare American go to Piestany for the spa treatments.
So, if you want to visit Piestany, this is the way to do it. I recommend highly to keep your money in a money belt, because there are many gypsies and thieves hanging out on the streets of Piestany looking for easy tourists as victims, not as many in Ulica Winterova, but use precaution.
A day in Piestany will bring you great memories and a leave you a few pounds lighter with all of the walking you will do.
The church dates from the 18th century and is one of the biggest parishes in Piestany. Outside of the church is a stock and pillory where people convicted of crimes were duly punished. No one is tied to the pillories anymore, but they are there for anyone who wants to have a picture taken holding the chains. Ivan and I goofed off for a few minutes on the pillories before continuing on one of our many bike rides from Borovce to Piestany.
There are also hotels and pensions for one to stay if you cannot find accommodations near the spa that are worth looking into. Piestany survived communism to emerge looking better than ever and there is not as much vandalism and damage as there is in many of the big Slovak cities.