The Soaking Life

The Pursuit of Health, Good Food and Hot Water

June 23, 2014
by Anne Tourney
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The Terme di Sirmione and its Miraculous Waters

Featuring Guest Blogger Sophia Knowles

We are pleased to feature a guest blog by Sophia Knowles, who presents our first article on the geothermal waters of Italy:

Hello everybody! My name is Sophia, a newly-born travel blogger with a strong passion for foreign languages and cultures! I’m a student of Literature currently studying at the University of Edinburgh. I love travelling and sharing my experiences in my blog For me travelling is food for the soul, and the sentence that better describes my thought is definitely “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

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The town of Sirmione, located on Lake Garda, is an important tourist destination in Italy thanks to its thermal spas. In fact, the Terme di Sirmione complex is well known worldwide for its precious waters, whose curative effects have been appreciated since the Roman Empire.

Terme di Sirmione includes the Catullo Spa Complex, the Virgilio Spa Complex and the Thermal Wellness Centre Aquaria. Here you can spend some relaxing time enjoying the physical and mental benefits of spa treatments, important to promote a psycho-physical balance. Currently, the Terme di Sirmione company handles all the thermal activities offered in this area.

The view from Aquaria's outdoor pool is especially magnificent at sunset.

I spent a very special weekend in Aquaria, a clean and comfortable thermal wellness centre, which offers both indoor and outdoor pools. The indoor pools are very inviting and relaxing, but I strongly recommend that you try the outdoor swimming pools, as well. In my opinion the best pool is the one at the end of the centre, where you can enjoy a magnificent view of Lake Garda, especially at sunset, when the splendid waning sunlight makes the atmosphere magic.

Along with its pools, the centre offers saunas, experience showers, and steam baths for an unforgettable visit. There are also sensorial relaxing areas, including the Salt Room, the Music Room and the Starry Sky, each with its own particular characteristics. All this is not enough for you? Consider booking a massage or having a restful whirlpool bath.

The thermal waters are ideal for easing sore joints and muscles.

Why is the Terme di Sirmione so appreciated? The thermal waters that flow in Sirmione originate in the basin of Mount Baldo, at about 800 metres above sea level. The water draws its therapeutic properties from the minerals in the rocks. The peculiarity of these waters comes from their chemical composition: sulphur, bromine, iodine and sodium, plus elements such as chromium, iron, lithium, nickel, selenium, potassium and zinc. These mineral elements provide healing benefits for the respiratory tract, the musculoskeletal system, and the skin.

Positive effects have been observed in the use of thermal waters to reduce the symptoms of various allergies and dermatological problems. In addition, pouring from its source at the temperature of 69° C, Sirmione’s warm water is perfect for pain relief and muscle relaxation as well as the treatment of respiratory ailments and rheumatisms.

The minerals in these waters offer healing benefits for the skin, respiratory tract, and joints.

If you want to spend some relaxing time in this beautiful locality on the Garda Lake, Sirmione offers comfortable hotel accommodation. There are three hotels in the zone that provide customers with an internal thermal spa, fully equipped rooms and highly specialized staff.

For your wellness stay I suggest you choose between the elegant five-star “Grand Hotel Terme,” the four-star “Hotel Sirmione e Promessi Sposi,” or visit the three-star “Hotel Fonte Boiola.” The resorts offer a wide range of massages and cosmetic treatments. The thermal water therapies and mud baths are particularly indicated to treat skin imperfections.

All of the medical therapies are followed by medical personnel who are at the disposal of the guests. In addition, at the Virgilio and Catullo thermal spas, you can have a medical consultation to choose the thermal treatment that best fit your needs.

For more information about Lake Garda and its healing waters, please see Sophia’s travel blog

Text and photos copyright Sophia Knowles, 2014

November 19, 2013
by Anne Tourney
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Hungary’s Underground Gem: The Cave Bath of Miskolc

One of four indoor pools at the Cave Bath of Miskolc

Featuring Guest Blogger Krisztina Fazekas

The geothermal baths of Miskolctapolca have been known for their healing properties for centuries. Long before the contemporary structures of the Cave Bath of Miskolc (known as Barlangfürdo in Hungarian) were built, medieval monks and Ottomans sought the benefits of these baths. We are pleased to present a guest blog and photo gallery by Krisztina Fazekas, who recently visited this extraordinary setting in Northern Hungary. Enjoy more of Krisztina’s images at her website, Erre-Arra.

Miskolctapolca is approximately two hours from Budapest. Why would a visitor travel two hours to this small town after arriving in Hungary’s capital city? First of all, Miskolctapolca, which lies at the foot of the picturesque Bükk Mountain, is one of the most beautiful regions in northern Hungary. Second, the thermal baths of this area offer a one-of-a-kind experience to visitors from around the world.

Visitors enjoy a variety of services and a menu of spa therapies

The Cave Bath of Miskolc is a true curiosity among thermal baths, as water of these temperatures cannot be found anywhere else in the European karst. The baths have been in operation since 1723, but it wasn’t until World War II (in 1941) that the modern version was constructed. After opening in 1941, Miskolc went straight to third place on the European Baths list. Since then, the bath has been reconstructed and renovated several times in recent years.

Inside the caves there are four pools, ranging from 30 to 35 degrees C (86 to 95 degrees F). The open outdoor beach area has three pools, ranging from 28 to 30 degrees C (82 to 86 degrees F), one of which is a children’s pool. With two entrances where visitors can come in and go out, the cave is practically a tunnel; it is impossible to get lost inside.

A fountain stands beneath a stained-glass dome


Outdoor pools provide the opportunity for aquatic exercise

One of the entrances opens onto a 14×14-meter foyer. In the middle of the hall, a sculpted fountain stands below a 6-meter diameter stained glass dome. This entrance is only open in the summer. The other entrance reflects the fact that you are really in a cave. When you pull open the hidden door (located below the shell structure over the outdoor pools) you’ll find yourself inside a cavern whose walls have been shaped by centuries of mineral deposits.

Miskolctapolca’s thermal water provides therapeutic benefits for the joints, heart and vascular system. The crystal clear, humid air is good for the respiratory system. You can pamper your tired, stressed back in the cave with the propellant water. While you are bathing, special lighting effects in the underground whirlpools provide a unique experience.

Soaking after dark is an unforgettable experience

The thermal spa includes a sauna, garden, plunge pool, whirlpool, neck shower, water massage, water jet massage, steam bath, weight bath and water exercise. The menu of spa services includes mud baths, medical massage and underwater gymnastics.

The Cave Bath draws soaking enthusiasts from all over the world

Like the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest, the Cave Bath of Miskolc sets its sights on the younger generation, offering swimming at night and giving the spa an unforgettable, complex and unique atmosphere.

Mineral-rich waters can ease sore muscles and aching joints

Mineral deposits from the geothermal waters line the cave walls

So should you drive all the way back to Budapest after your visit to the Cave Bath of Miskolc? It’s not worth the trouble! After a long day of soaking in this spectacular setting, you can stay overnight in one of the many surrounding inns, hotels or cottages. As a resort town, Miskolctapolca provides plenty of accommodations, not just for Hungarian tourists but also for visitors from around the world. For a list of recommended lodging in Miskolctapolca, visit the spa’s website.

Photographs and text copyright Krisztina Fazekas, 2013.

August 28, 2013
by Anne Tourney
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Conundrum Hot Springs: Discovering the Mystique

Views of Mt. Hayden, Cathedral Peak, Conundrum Peak and Castle Peak grace the trail to the hot springs.

A soak in Conundrum Hot Springs is anything but an afternoon at the neighborhood spa. The mystique of this Colorado gem comes from a number of sources: its remote setting, its stunning alpine scenery and its clothing-optional status, to name just a few. With an elevation ranging from 8,700 to 11,200 feet, a hike to Conundrum requires strength and stamina. If you’re up for the challenge of a high-altitude trek, you could be rewarded by one of the most spectacular soaks you’ll ever experience. Located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado, this designated wilderness area lies on U.S. Forest Service Trail #1981 (Conundrum Creek Trail). Our friend Maria—a passionate hiker, photographer and teacher—writes about discovering the beauty of Conundrum for herself.

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by Maria Matos

The author, Maria

Nestled in a high valley just outside of Aspen is where the Ute Indians found the healing waters of what is now known as Conundrum Hot Springs. The pool can be reached from Aspen or Crested Butte via a 9-mile hike. The hike itself is a gentle uphill journey through a beautiful valley. The trail is well marked and some people make the hike a day trip, but others choose to camp in the many sites available. It is accessible year round, however it is more demanding in the winter months when there are snow and harsher elements to contend with.

The terrain varies from open vistas to wooded areas.

When I first found out about Conundrum 10 years ago it became a goal of mine, a spiritual quest, to get to this healing pool. I finally found the right partner to go with on this journey and had the privilege of reaching my goal.

We went on the day of the Summer Solstice, which coincided with the largest full moon of the year. The beginning of the hike felt difficult, but as I went along I felt myself transcending. We walked through fields of wild flowers surrounded by majestic views of the Aspen wilderness.

Conundrum Creek Trail winds through mountain valleys and meadows.

There are three water crossings, two of which have solid logs to cross, one of which will get your feet wet. I recommend wearing hiking sandals through this part.

The log crossings can be risky in spring, when the water swells with melting snow.

Once we reached the hot springs we found a campsite that was set next to a small cliff that overlooked rapids. The healing waters of the isolated pool made the trek up worth every step.

As isolated as this pool is, you will find other seekers and appreciators of nature visiting. The numbers in the pool can range from no one up to about 30 people.

I recommend getting an early start and going on a weekday to make the most of the peace and silence. It is a natural pool carved out by rocks and is shallow enough to sit in and relax, but deep enough to swim in. The temperatures around the pool range from 100-105 degrees, depending on how close you are to the source of thermal release.

As a lover of hot springs this pool was high on my list, and it lived up to the mystique I had anticipated.

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Planning a trip to Conundrum Hot Springs? Download a trail guide and maps from the USDA Forest Service.

Photographs and text copyright Maria Matos, 2013

March 6, 2013
by Anne Tourney
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Rudas Bath: An Ancient Tradition of Soaking in Budapest

The Rudas Bath features striking examples of Turkish architecture, like this sunken octagonal pool.

Featuring Guest Blogger Krisztina Fazekas

Our tour of Hungary’s geothermal springs continues with another guest post by Hungarian photographer and writer Krisztina Fazekas. Krisztina visited the Rudas Bath in Budapest to bring us these stunning images of the spa. You can see more of Krisztina’s  work at her website, Erre-Arra

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Hungary is a tiny country in Central Europe. Budapest, its capital city, holds the title City of Spas, as it has six thermal baths and more medicinal water springs than any other major city in the world.

We have already written about one of these baths (the Széchenyi Spa) in the summer, and now would like to continue the theme with another one, the Rudas Bath, nestled at the bottom of the Gellért Hill, in a picturesque spot in Buda.

The Rudas Bath on Gellért Hill

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Rudas is its unique tricolor exterior. Throughout the years several extensions were added to the core building, and the Natural Trust Of Historic Sites would only allow the facade to be reconstructed in this way. The central entrance hall, for example, did not exist until 1950, when the bath authority decided to join the bath to the neighboring swimming pool.

The Rudas reflects a combination of contemporary and old-world styles.

This swimming pool, which now operates as a therapeutic swimming facility with a sauna, was built in 1896. The pool’s temperature is a pleasant 29oC and there is no steam, so it is excellent for those who would like a little work out instead of relaxation. (The bath can be extremely steamy at opening time so we photographed the place when closed).

The swimming pool is a good place for a workout.

The main thermal bath is in the oldest part of Rudas. Built in 1566 during the period of Turkish occupation, the bath is about 210 years older than the USA and features some of Budapest’s most striking examples of Islamic architecture. During its history, there have only been small changes to the building and it structure, so it has preserved its strong Turkish character. The 450-year-old building deserves a visit for its eclectic atmosphere, with six baths whose temperatures range from 16-42oC. Each bath has its own special characteristics and unique appeal.

The sunken geothermal baths are a source of healing for visitors from all over the world.

The mineral components of the thermal water include sulphate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and a significant amount of fluoride ion. This means that the water is not only suitable for curious tourists who would like to take a dip in an atmospheric historical building, but for visitors seeking relief from degenerative joint illnesses, chronic joint inflammations, vertebral disk problems, neuralgia and lack of calcium in the bone system.

The spa's Turkish décor makes this setting unique.


Each bath has its own special characteristics.

Following Turkish tradition, Rudas is reserved for men on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Co-ed bathing is allowed on weekends, and on Tuesdays the spa is open to women only. Coed requires swimsuits, single sex does not. The Cinetrip organises weekend parties in the Rudas. These buoyant late-night music events offer a thermal water-based dancefoor for those seeking recreation that’s anything but ordinary.

The exotic decor of the Rudas Bath has caught Hollywood’s attention — Rudas was used as a location in the 1988 action movie Red Heat, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi. Come see for yourself why this thermal spa is considered to be one of the most desirable soaking destinations in the world.

Photographs and text copyright Krisztina Fazekas, 2013

September 18, 2012
by Guest Blogger
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Exploring Budapest’s Grandest Spa

We are very pleased to present a guest post by Krisztina Fazekas, a gifted Hungarian photographer whose work we featured in a previous post. You can view more of Krisztina’s  photographs at her website, Erre-Arra

Do you recognize this Budapest spa?

On a day of record high temperatures in Budapest, we decided to visit one of Hungary’s most elegant thermal baths and record our impressions of “the soaking life” in another part of the world.

Soakers of all ages enjoy the balmy outdoor pool

This spa is not just one of the grandest baths in Budapest, but also one of the largest spas in Europe. After viewing six of the baths inside the building, we were soon convinced of that fact—and we hadn’t even visited the whole spa! To satisfy our curiosity, we continued our exploration. We found 15 indoor pools of different sizes, ranging in temperature from 18 to 38 degrees Celsius.

A water exercise class at one of the spa's indoor pools

And which of Budapest’s many thermal baths did we visit? If you haven’t guessed by now, we visited the Széchenyi Baths. Once you pay the entrance fee, you can soak in the pools as much as you’d like.

The operators of the Széchenyi Baths make a great effort to attract the younger crowd, especially during the summer season. On Saturdays the daytime “Uncle” and “Aunt” outdoor swimming pools are transformed into summer party pools where young people love to soak and play. In August, during the famous Sziget Festival, “Islanders” who attend the event get a 20% discount off the Széchenyi entrance fee so that they can cure their hangovers (and get a great tan at the same time).

Spa guests soak indoors under a light-filled dome

During our visit I documented not only scenes from the baths but its signs and textures. Almost all of the buildings of the Budapest medicinal baths are wonderful. Residents of Budapest are proud to say that the building’s baroque facade and its interior atmosphere are among the most beautiful in the world.

We can thank Vilmos Zsigmondy, a mining engineer who used deep drilling technology to tap into Hungary’s hidden geothermal springs, for the existence of the Széchenyi Baths. Designed by Győző Czigler and completed in 1913, the structure reflects a magnificent neo-Classical and neo-Renaissance style. If you didn’t know that the building was a spa, you might mistake the Széchenyi for an ornate castle. To examine the building from the outside is pure excitement as you imagine what’s hidden behind its walls.

An example of the spa's elegant interior architecture

Inside the building, where we spent time relaxing in the indoor pools, you can find saunas and other spa services and treatments. Outside you’ll find a large swimming pool and two leisure pools. A whirlpool corridor, underwater jets, a neck shower and water beam back massage are built into the walls and benches of the leisure pools.

The spa's rejuvenating waters offer refreshment

To nourish our bodies with spa water both inside and out, we went to the aquarium building, which is located in front of the Széchenyi Baths. The attendant in the photo filled our half-liter bottles with deep-healing 76-degree water.

After it had cooled, this geothermal water—which comes from 1,267 meters below the earth’s surface—was a delicacy to drink on an evening of record heat in Budapest.

On the balustrade overlooking the outdoor swimming pool

 All photographs and text copyright Krisztina Fazekas, 2012

May 14, 2012
by Anne Tourney
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Indian Hot Springs Resort, Idaho Springs, Colorado

Mountains around the town of Idaho Springs

“Chthonic” isn’t an adjective that pops into my head very often, but it’s the word that came to mind the first time I entered the geothermal caves at Indian Hot Springs. As I stepped into the underground geothermal baths, I suddenly understood why some religious traditions house their deities underground instead of elevating them to a heaven in the sky.

Sulfuric steam rose from the bathing pools in the women’s cave. Nude bathers languished on marble benches beside the pools, their skin beaded with perspiration. Carved out of Colorado’s Santa Fe Mountain, the cave extends into a series of narrow tunnels. Later I would learn that one of these tunnels is used for private mud bathing by adventurous women who want to explore the recesses of the caves. At the back of the women’s cave is an alcove that connects with the men’s cave, but this passageway is used only for maintenance, and the baths are segregated by gender for privacy. Bathing suits were once prohibited; now nude bathing is optional. Temperatures in the deep walk-in tubs range from 104 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit/40 to 44 degrees Celsius.

I believe that every soaking addict has a peak experience that introduces him or her to the joys of bathing in hot water. For me, that epiphany occurred in the geothermal caves at Indian Hot Springs. The intense humidity of the air inside the caves seemed to squeeze the toxins – both environmental and emotional – from my body. The rough, rust-colored stone walls with their powdery yellow mineral deposits were like the walls of an underground womb. After a stressful series of night shifts at the nursing home where I worked at the time, a night at the caves would ease the tension from my tired muscles and soothe my frayed spirit.

Hallway to the women's geothermal cave

The geothermal caves in Idaho springs originated in the 1850s, when miners who were tunneling into the mountain in search of gold inadvertently struck hot water. The springs themselves were sacred to the Ute and Arapahoe tribes who lived in this region, and the name “Idaho” comes from an Arapahoe word meaning “gem of the mountains.” Today, these mountains encircle the Indian Hot Springs Resort, where guests as diverse as Walt Whitman, Sarah Bernhardt, Billy the Kid and Franklin D. Roosevelt came to take the waters. The geothermal swimming pool is enclosed by  a glass dome and surrounded by tropical plants that thrive in this rarified setting.

The Indian Hot Springs Hotel retains a nostalgic glamour

The resort offers a full menu of spa treatments, from mud baths and massages to body wraps and facials. But spa services at Indian Hot Springs are a relatively new phenomenon. For people with physical and psychic injuries of all kinds, visiting the geothermal caves at Idaho Springs is a pilgrimage. Once a week, once a month or once a year, people go to Indian Springs seeking relief for arthritic joints, aching muscles or swollen tissues. These pilgrims are part of a long tradition that includes President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a strong advocate of hydrotherapy who visited the caves in search of a cure for his paralytic illness. During my own soaking sessions in the caves, I met one woman who soaked in the sulfur-rich waters to relieve the pain of advanced rheumatoid arthritis, and another who integrated balneotherapy into her recovery from a car accident that shattered multiple bones.

Steam rising from one of the walk-in tubs

In the caves, the search for healing overwhelms self-consciousness about nudity. Women with flawless bodies toned by yoga, rock-climbing or aerobics soak in the therapeutic atmosphere along with women whose limbs are weakened or contorted by injury or disease. Thin or heavy, young or old, these bodies absorb the healing heat and soak in waters rich with minerals. Calcium, fluoride, iron, magnesium, selenium, sulfate and zinc make up a brew that promotes tissue regeneration, detoxifies the cells and restores peace to the spirit. Located in Clear Creek County, Indian Springs Resort is 32 miles west of Denver on Highway I-70.


Cahill, Rick. Colorado Hot Springs Guide. Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing, 1986.

Indian Hot Springs Resort



February 27, 2012
by Anne Tourney
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A Prescription for Soaking: Balneotherapy and the American Medical Community

In Budapest near the Lukacs Thermal Spa, known for its therapeutic water treatments

Imagine going to your primary care doctor to be treated for nagging knee pain and receiving a prescription for soaking in warm, mineralized water once a week for several weeks. Imagine going to a spa in your community that’s staffed by medically trained therapists who could monitor the effects of your treatment. Imagine experiencing less pain and more mobility — and having your health insurance pay for it. It’s a common scenario in Hungary, where physicians can prescribe therapeutic soaking, mud baths, massage or physical therapy in the country’s mineral-rich waters. But the effects of balneotherapy have yet to be sanctioned by the American medical community.

A study published in the 2008 issue of the Israeli Medical Journal indicated that a course of balneotherapy can relieve pain and improve motor function in elderly adults suffering from chronic lower back pain and arthritis of the knee. Study participants were prescribed fifteen 30-minute balneotherapy sessions at a spa in Debrecen, Hungary. The participants who completed the study showed increased mobility and a reduced need for anti-inflammatory medications for three months after the study. Could studies like bring balneotherapy into the medical mainstream in the US? When it comes to validating the therapeutic properties of mineralized water, the American medical community is still waiting for proof.

Healing Waters in the United States

Balneotherapy is nothing new in North America. Native Americans used geothermal springs for therapeutic and ceremonial purposes for over 10,000 years. Native Americans considered the springs to be sacred, and that even during times of conflict, members of warring tribes could bathe without fearing for their safety. By the turn of the 19th century, the medicinal properties of geothermal water had taken on a faddish popularity. “Taking the waters” became a widely accepted ritual, and claims of the curative powers of geothermal water reached outlandish proportions. By the 1940s, US law prohibited these claims, and business in the classic spa towns declined.

Today, the use of hot springs for therapeutic purposes in the US is largely limited to health spas, where rejuvenation and stress reduction are the primary goals. While many spas publicize the mineral content of their waters and promote their healing benefits, there is no medical organization in the US that establishes standards for the mineral concentration of medicinal waters. There is also no clinical body dedicated to the study of the therapeutic effects of healing springs. The majority of the clinical literature on balneotherapy comes from Europe and Japan, where the use of mineralized waters for medicinal purposes is widely practiced.

In Japan and Europe, legally regulated standards for medicinal waters have been in place for years. But in the US, the use of medicinal water has yet to be widely accepted as a therapeutic practice. Is it possible to validate the effects of balneotherapy in the United States, so that medical treatment through mineralized water can be prescribed by medical practitioners, clinically monitored and possibly even covered by health insurance?

Looking to the Future

In the 21st century, a renewed focus on alternative therapies has led to a revival of interest in hot springs bathing. But in North America, this interest is still marginalized, and there is little exploration of the specific benefits of balneotherapy. Nathaniel Altman points out that the difficulty of applying accepted standards of clinical testing, such as the double-blind study, to balneotherapy has been an obstacle to research in this area in the US.

When we praise the benefits of balneotherapy for joint and muscle pain, skin disorders, respiratory conditions and digestive ailments, how do we know which elements of bathing produce these benefits? In an article published in the September 2010 issue of Health, Csaba Varga of the University of Pecs in Hungary discusses the challenges of classifying medicinal waters according to their therapeutic effects. Although medicinal waters contain specific salts that have been linked to specific health benefits, it’s difficult to isolate the properties that make these waters beneficial. Along with the therapeutic benefits of heat, which improves circulation and eases musculoskeletal pain, geothermal waters contain a combination of mineralized salts and organic compounds that are difficult to reproduce in a clinical scenario.

Water has been used as a therapeutic medium for centuries, and many US physicians write prescriptions for water therapy. In some cases, insurance providers will even pay for treatment if it involves a form of heat therapy, physical therapy or massage in the water. But will the medical community credit the water itself, and the minerals it contains, with easing the symptoms of arthritis, psoriasis, or fibromyalgia? In a 2004 issue of Rheumatology International, Dr.  Tamas Bender and co-authors propose that the therapeutic effects of balneotherapy, or bathing for therapeutic purposes, be  studied separately from hydrotherapy and spa therapy, so that the benefits of each form of treatment can be accurately assessed.

Varga calls for a reclassification of medicinal waters based on 21st century water analytics, including a consideration of the organic compounds present in spa waters. Without a new body of clinical data, persuading the American medical community to take a stronger interest in the therapeutic potential of balneotherapy will be challenging. And while your body may respond positively to the effects of soaking in mineral-rich geothermal waters, convincing insurance companies to pay for treatment may require more clinical evidence.

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Altman, Nathaniel: Healing Springs: The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Waters. Healing Arts Press: 2000.

Geo-Heat Center: “Historical Impacts of Geothermal Resources on the People of North America“: John W. Lund.

Health: “Problems with classification of spa waters used in balneology“; Csaba Varga; Vol. 2, No. 11; September 2010.

Israeli Medical Association Journal: “Balneotherapy in Elderly Patients: Effect on Pain from Degenerative Knee and Spine Conditions on Quality of Life“; J. Gaal, M.D., et al; May 2008.

Rheumatology International: “Hydrotherapy, Balneotherapy and Spa Treatment in Pain Management“; Tamas Bender, et al.; July 15, 2004.

February 20, 2012
by Guest Blogger
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Experiencing the Thermal Baths of Budapest: An Afternoon at St. Luke’s

Outdoor Thermal Swimming Pools at St. Luke's, Photo by Krisztina Fazekas

 We are delighted to present a guest blog by Jessica Kulick, professional travel writer, photographer and global couch surfer extraordinaire. You can follow Jessica’s adventures and read more of her witty insights at her blog, Of Revolt.

Photographs were graciously contributed by photographer Krisztina Fazekas. View her collection of photographs of Hungary at her website, Erre-Arra

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Question: Are you afraid of portly old men wearing Speedos? Answer: Of course you are. Everyone is. But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what was easily my favorite attraction in Hungary: the thermal baths of Budapest.

After a particularly Palinka-drenched evening (which, let me be the first to tell you, that stuff is deadly: a very smooth and ever so slightly fruity liquor, usually produced in the Hungarian countryside by people who know what they’re doing), my host – a Budapest native – took my fiancé and I to recuperate in a nearby bath house known only to locals: Saint Luke’s.

Before I regale you with the miraculous hangover cure known only as “Fun Swimmie Time,” I shall furnish you with a little history: Saint Luke’s (Lukacs Thermal Bath) has been in operation since the 12th century, when knights of the Order of Saint John settled in the area to make use of the thermal hot springs as a means of curing the sick. The baths stayed in operation throughout the Turkish occupation, though the energy of the springs was used mainly for grinding wheat and producing gunpowder.

In 1884, Fülöp Palotay (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) purchased the baths from the government and so began a series of transformations: the baths became world-famous for their therapeutic properties, and patients who had come and been healed donated marble plaques that were displayed in the bath’s courtyard as a sign of their thanks – all of which can still be seen today. LET’S SKIP FORWARD A FEW HUNDRED YEARS, OKAY? We don’t have all day.

Indoor Round Pool, photo by Krisztina Fazekas

Nowadays, Saint Luke’s has much more than a simple soaking tub and drinking fountain – in fact, we spent nearly three hours there and I felt like I could have stayed longer. There is a dry sauna, a wet steam room, a cold plunge pool (extremely delightful when you’re feeling overheated), multiple thermal baths all set to different temperatures, and (my favorite) the “Fancy Pool”: a rather large (not gigantic, but definitely “I wish this was in my backyard” big) swimming pool equipped with a whirling corridor (WHIRLPOOL!), underwater effervescence (BUBBLES!), neck shower (WATERFALL!), as well as a water beam back massage hidden in the seat banks (WATER BEAM BACK MASSAGE HIDDEN IN THE SEAT BANKS!).

Saint Luke’s is not the most well-known of Budapest’s many bath houses: the Szechenyi and Gellert are the most popular with tourists, and though they’re a little more upscale, that also means they’re a little more expensive – and definitely more crowded. I really enjoyed the relaxed, easygoing feeling of Saint Luke’s: Hungarians of every age and body type were soaking in the mineral-rich baths, and all were mercifully clothed in swimsuits. (I’m shy, okay?) The heated outdoor “Fancy Pool” felt especially luxurious: nothing beats floating in blissfully warm waters, watching the sun set behind exquisite Art Nouveau architecture, letting the steam cloud your vision – it all lends itself to a feeling of extraordinary well-being.

Patron Testimonials at St. Luke's Thermal Bath, photo by Krisztina Fazekas

At one point, after doggy-paddling my way around the whirlpool, I turned to my fiancé and said, “I think this is the best thing we’ve done in all of Europe.” All of Europe! He replied that it was just the toxins escaping my body and that I had no idea what I was saying. But it was true: at that moment I felt more perfectly content with myself and the world than at any other time in recent memory.

And you know what else? The next day my skin looked GREAT.


Budpest Spas

Lukacs Thermal Bath Budapest

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Jessica Kulick is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in such outlets as Literary Traveler, Matador Network, and Spotted By Locals. Her personal website is, where she blogs about offbeat tourism with a humorous and lighthearted spin.

Copyright Jessica Kulick 2012
Photographs copyright Krisztina Fazekas

February 7, 2012
by Guest Blogger
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Aguas Calientes de Madre Tierra

The Cabin at Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado

We are  pleased to present a guest blog by Jan Marie Smith, our water yoga instructor.  Jan is a 30-year aquatic professional who offers aquatic movement workshops, children’s and adults’ swimming classes, private swim clinics and water yoga classes throughout the Southwest. Jan is also a professional chef, a singer and a writer. When she’s not in the water, you can probably find her singing karaoke or whipping up a pie with organic fruit from her own cherry tree.

Photographs of Hot Sulphur Springs as it is today were graciously contributed by Eli Duke. View more of his photos on his Flickr page.

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“Warm Waters of Mother Earth”

by Jan Marie Smith, Water Yogi

I was nineteen years old and fresh out of suburbia. Living in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, I had always been in awe of these giant natural cathedrals. I grew up with the Rockies due west out my backyard — skiing in the winter, hiking, repelling and camping in the summer. I was a mountain girl at heart. And by sheer luck and grace I had ended up as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a historic hot springs in northern Colorado: Hot Sulphur Springs.

Hot Sulphur Springs, by Eli Duke

The year was 1980. The springs had only been owned by two families since the Ute Indians were driven out in the later 1800s. The springs were acquired by William Byers, founder of Denver’s first newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News. I was working for the family that had purchased the springs from the Byers family in the 1940s.

I lived in a cabin above the hot springs that was built in the 1860s. I chopped wood. I cooked on a porcelain wood-burning stove. There was something mystical about the pies that would come out of that old stove. I hauled my own water. My main water source for bathing and showering was the bath house; the smell of sulphur permeated my skin. I soaked in the springs every night.

Organic Cherry Pie by Jan Marie Smith

Sometimes, in the back caves of the bath house, I could feel the spirits of the Utes when I stood or floated in the waters, quiet and still. I could feel their gaze when I walked up the hill to The Cabin at night. Hot Sulphur Springs had been the Ute Indians’ campsite for millennia before the white man drove them out. It is said that they burned everything in their path on their exodus.

Now I was living on their sacred ground. I was becoming acutely aware of a change in body, mind and spiritual patterns. I was living with the energy of the earth and sun and the past and present. The stars cast a never-ending milky way over Mt. Bross, the old mountain that stands in the shadows of the springs like a protective father.

Hot Sulphur Springs, by Eli Duke

So many magical, almost mystical experiences occurred while living at The Cabin. Food tasted better. The smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm was elixir to the senses. Soul travelers from near and far landed on my stoop the next two summers. The dreams that were formulated there shape my life to this day. How many people get to wake up every day, roll into a hot spring and get paid for it? I worked there off and on for the same family for eighteen years.

Hot Sulphur Springs, by Eli Duke

Many times, life’s road map can be charted in the lines of a person’s face. I “grew up” to be a swim teacher and water movement teacher. I teach people to move in the water through swimming, water exercise and water yoga. My life has been centered around the water and hot springs.  These earthen cauldron vortexes fascinate, soothe, and regenerate me. Hopefully you can see it etched on my face!

Look for my Water Yoga classes and workshops at
The Sand Dunes Pool
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort


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Text copyright Jan Marie Smith, 2012
Photographs copyright Jan Marie Smith and Eli Duke

January 24, 2012
by Anne Tourney
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Easy, Healthy Spanikopita

Our diet has a heavy Mediterranean accent — not because we consciously chose to follow the heart-healthy culinary traditions of the Mediterranean, but because we love dishes that feature tons of fresh vegetables, garlic, a bit of olive oil and moderate quantities of cheese or eggs. Our second “good food” post features a tasty, easy-to-make Spanikopita, now a regular entrée in our evening meals. Under the flaky, golden phyllo dough crust lies a wealth of vitamins, minerals and protein. A serving of Spanikopita features a generous portion of spinach, which is rich in iron, vitamin K, beta carotene, folate and manganese. This classic Greek dish includes more greens in the form of cilantro or Italian parsley. The onions and garlic in Spanikopita provide the allyl sulfur compounds that promote cardiovascular health and gives these foods their pungent flavor. We use two to three times as much garlic as the original recipe calls for. Eric has tried a few different improvisations on the basic ingredients and they were all equally tasty.
This Spanikopita recipe contains eggs and cheese for protein, and all of the cheeses we use have lowfat or even nonfat varieties. Although we don’t go overboard on eggs, we don’t lie awake worrying about them, either. Eric’s running idol Amby Burfoot, a 1968 Boston Marathon winner and lifelong vegetarian, attests to the health benefits of eggs. A 2011 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that there was no relationship between egg consumption and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in a group of Mediterranean participants.

Spanikopita Ingredients

1/3 cup olive oil
1 – 1 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large bunch green onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups ricotta or lowfat cottage cheese
6 ounces crumbled feta or extra sharp white cheddar cheese
20 sheets of ready-made phyllo pastry, defrosted
1/4 cup olive oil
Prepare all ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach and parsley (or cilantro), pepper and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, and feta/sharp white cheddar. Stir in spinach mixture.
Lightly oil a 9 x 13″ baking pan.
Lay each sheet of phyllo dough in baking pan, brushing each sheet with olive oil.
10 sheets phyllo – make sure it hangs over all sides of pan
All spinach filling
Fold dough over filling to seal it in and brush top with olive oil 10 sheets phyllo – tuck all in at top and brush top with olive oil
Bake in preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve while hot.
Sources Garlic Onion Spinach
Photographs copyright Eric Havelock-Bailie, 2012