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Switzerlands Thermal Baths Recharge Your Batteries

Published: December 25, 2009 (Issue # 1538)



  • Many of the hotels in Leukerbad are equipped with their own thermal pools for healing and recuperative treatments.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Leukerbads public thermal center Burgerbad.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Gnomes on the windowsill of a house.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Switzerlands slowest train, the Glacier Express, provides some stunning views.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

There are a million and one reasons to go to Switzerland. Some go for the spectacular ski resorts, whether it be St. Moritz to Zermatt. Others go for the famous classical music festival in Lucerne, an exclusive beauty treatment in a private clinic in the Geneva Lake region, or a weekend of wine tasting in Valais. Swiss wines rank among the best in Europe, although the country produces just enough to meet its own needs, so hardly anything is exported. And one shouldnt underestimate the countrys gastronomic lure even if we were to ignore the ever-popular fondue and rosti, the countless ways in which perch, wild game or calf liver are creatively prepared and presented are enough to titillate any gourmands taste buds in a country that is peppered with Michelin-starred restaurants.

The focus of this trip, however, was the countrys thermal baths and spas.

Reigning as one of the worlds wellness Meccas, Switzerland boasts some fabulous spa resorts. The healing properties and comforts of Yverdon-les-Bains and Leukerbad rival the reputations of Italys Abano Therme, Indias Kerala and Japans Atami.

My Swiss bathing odyssey began in Yverdon-les-Bains an idyllic spa town, only 50 minutes drive from Geneva. In my bath robe and with a huge towel over my shoulders, I entered the Centre Thermal through the glass passage connecting the pools to the Grand Hotel des Bains, the resorts premiere lodging, and headed straight to the outdoor pools. It was a chilly morning, and a plunge into the luxurious warm and bubbly pool felt absolutely divine. As I was breathing the refreshing morning air and watching the steam rising from the 34 degree Celsius pools, I found myself almost wishing that it was snowing I could have stretched out my arms out and watched the snowflakes melting before reaching the water. Although both the resort and the hotel are busy all year round, the pools are somehow never crowded, making the bubbly relaxation quiet and serene. There are no street sounds whatsoever, and the view of the Jura mountains and the Alps is stunning. The benefits of the Yverdon waters were described in ancient manuscripts dating back over 1,500 years to a period when the Ancient Romans set up a camp in this spa town.

The thermal pampering continued in Leukerbad, once home to an Ancient Roman bathhouse and a traditional destination for Christians in search of healing. The picturesque Swiss Alps village, just over 200 kilometers northeast of Geneva, houses Europes largest thermal-spring resort 3.9 million liters of water flow into its 22 pools every day. Leukerbad boasts 60 hot springs, the water comes out of the ground at 51 degrees Celsius, and has to be cooled to body temperature before entering the pools. According to the locals, 40 years pass between the water falling on the mountains as rain or snow and it coming out of the springs, enriched with essential minerals.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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