Piešťany’s coat of arms features the symbolic “Crutch-breaker”, speaking to the faith put into this city’s healing waters.

As noted in the previous post, I have spent the past three Mondays traveling. The first two trips were to Olomouc in the Czech republic, but the third took me to the small, but renowned, city of Piešťany. Less than an hour from Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, Piešťany would stand out little in the populated region of western Slovakia were it not for its long history as a place of healing.

As far back as the middle ages—before the land even bore name “Slovakia”—the sulfuric thermal waters were recognized for their healing potential, visited by Hungarian monarchs and written about in the books of healing men and scholars. The current infrastructure of the spa was constructed through the late 19th century and into the early 20th. This includes the prestigious Therima Palace Hotel and Napoleon Baths. The main site of which is pictured below.

The centuries-old reputation of these baths persists to astounding degree today. I sat on a bench before a sunny wall of the baths, watching people pass. From aged sufferers of arthritis to disabled children and their parents, all sorts of people walked in and out of those doors, putting faith in the healing waters of Piešťany. They travel from far abroad to soak away their ills or simply maintain good health.

Several water fountains adorn the complex, spilling mineral rich drinking water that is collected by visitors and locals alike. I watched one man fill his entire backpack with approximately seven water bottles brimming with the liquid. My interest peaked and I paced over to try it myself. Ladling a bit of the water up to my mouth with a hand, I nearly gagged with surprise at the taste. Sulfur pervaded, seeming to me like someone had dissolved rotten eggs throughout the entire water source. Knowing little of the health benefits sulfurous water, I had no motivation to fill my water bottle like others were doing.

Built in the 1930s, the Colonnade Bridge has a unique design, featuring separate covered and open walkways, multiple statues and small shops on each end. It is the gateway to the spas of Piešťany and visitors are greeted by a statue of the “Crutch-breaker”, as seen on the city’s coat of arms, when they enter from city center. As I crossed this bridge, I passed a woman who walked with her dog. My headphones were in—a habit I don’t normally partake in while traveling for this very reason—yet, I was fortunate enough to hear her through the music. She spoke to her dog in English! My head spun to look behind me. On her backpack was a Canadian flag patch, much like the one worn by the exchange student in my city who’s from Quebec.

“Pardon, but are you from Canada?” I asked before the opportunity passed entirely.

“Why, yes!” She declared, “Nice to meet you!”

Short of relating the entire conversation, I feel there is no way to accurately describe my surprise other than to do it suddenly.

She was a Rotary exchange student in Chihuahua, Mexico 42 years ago. Sometime after she met her Slovak husband and moved here with him, living intermittently back in Canada for short times. She has traveled independently across the world since her exchange, early in her life as a young adventurer and more recently through her work in the medical field… She was a Rotary exchange student and I just met her on the street!

Needless to say, that encounter made my day, the rest of which was spent wandering the city parks. I found myself on an island between the Vah river and a canal. I passed a few individuals as I crossed the bridge onto the island, but no came near after that. The morning had exhibited miserable weather, grey clouds and chilly wind, but as I wandered this small bit of greenery on the river, the sun came out and it felt almost like Spring. I feel I have said that a lot, “It felt like Spring” or “I want Spring to come” and I do indeed feel a stronger desire for Spring this year. Winter hasn’t been rough in the least bit, yet I long for the warm days and longer hours in which I can explore the places around me.

Anyway, as the sun struck my face, it suddenly became much too warm for my coat, I discarded my winter clothing and went to sit in the grass. There was no reason to move from such a pleasant spot in warming midday sun, yet I found it difficult to remain idle. So, I began to toy with the pebbles and sticks which littered the clearing around me. One thing led to another and I ended up with this little cottage. (As peaceful as it appears, balancing the rocks perfectly caused me no little bit of stress.)

I had a beautiful day in Piešťany. From that island park, I met with my host grandparents, we lunched and then headed back to Poprad. Much like Olomouc, I hope to visit again in the Spring or Summer. Maybe even giving the thermal baths a try.