Dobrna: Tradition & Heaven® in Slovenia’s Oldest Spa

As soon as I left the motorway and arrived in Dobrna, there were two words that immediately sprung to mind – green and tranquil – both of which are at the top of my list when I’m seeking a short break away. Whatever the reason for your visit, it’s impossible not to feel calm and relaxed in this lush environment, which just beckons to be explored.

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The Dobrna Thermal Spa is the heart of this small town. It isn’t the most modern of Slovenia’s thermal spas – it is actually the oldest! Its origins date way back to 1403, and through the years it has seen a lot of history, and historical figures, including, in 1810 Louis Bonaparte, brother of Emperor Napoleon 1, who came to Dobrna to recuperate. During World War 1 it housed a military hospital; in the time between the two wars the spa buildings were renovated and expanded; during World War II it was again used as a hospital. It was after World War II that Dobrna began to boom, and today continues to attract visitors from all over Europe.

Shortly after arriving I went for a stroll around the magnificent Spa Park, which is undoubtedly the town’s star attraction.  The park dates back to around 1820 when chestnut trees were planted to form an alley between the Spa House and Dobrna.

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The immaculately maintained park contains some majestic trees.

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From the exterior some of the  buildings that comprise the spa look as if they would benefit from a lick of paint. However, this is a minor detail, and, as we all know, appearances can be deceptive! Dobrna is steeped in history and tradition, which is as much a part of a visit as are the on-site facilities and services.

I stayed in the four-star Hotel Vita, which is the newest of the three hotels and houses the majority of the facilities – a massage and beauty centre, thermal pools, a medical centre, saunas, 2 restaurants, seminar facilities, and more.

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Those interested in feng shui should consider staying in the four-star Villa Higiea. Built in 1855, it has been renovated and remodelled several times, the latest being in 2007 when the first floor was refurbished according to feng shui principles.

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The three-star Hotel Park, built in 1875, was renovated in 2008, and is particularly suitable for those seeking an active budget-friendly break to explore the surroundings on foot or by bike.

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As with all of Slovenia’s thermal spas, the thermal water is the heart of its existence. The water at Dobrna, is known particularly for its effectiveness at treating infertility and other gynaecological problems, and the spa has even developed its own range of women’s intimate-care products.

The Spa House is the oldest of the original buildings still standing. It was originally built in 1624, and throughout the years has been frequently remodelled. Unfortunately, the building has seen better days and it would take a huge investment to get it back to its glory. Thus, today it no longer operates as a hotel, however, you can still visit to the see the thermal water spring and thermal pool – both originally dating from 1624, to take one of the various thermal and salt baths, or to drink the thermal water direct from the spring.

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Whilst browsing through the list of treatments available at the La Vita Spa & Beauty Centre, one named ‘Heaven®’ particularly caught my eye. It uses a range of organic productsHeaven® by Deborah Mitchell – which, if the claims are to believed, are used by many celebrities including Kylie Minogue, Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé, and even Kate Middleton! Well, if it’s good enough for them, then I thought I’d give it a go! I had the 90-minute ‘bee sting facial’ which uses bee venom to produce a youthful effect on the skin, similar to Botox.

Personally I find there’s nothing more annoying than paying a fortune for a treatment during which a mask is applied by the therapist, who then disappears for 15 minutes to ‘allow the mask to work’. Fortunately, that was not the case here and whilst the mask worked its wonders I enjoyed a relaxing foot massage. I’ve since discovered that this range of products are only available at a handful of places in Europe, so it’s something of a coup for them to feature at Dobrna and definitely worth a try.

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The Medical Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Centre comprises an outpatient clinic, a laboratory and a therapeutic rehabilitation centre. A team of professional doctors and therapists offer personalised programmes in areas including gynaecology, urology, oncology, neurosurgery, neurology, dermatology, rehabilitation, physical therapy and aesthetics.

Those looking for water-based fun should head to the indoor and outdoor pools, where there are also separate children’s pools plus a whirlpool, all containing thermal water, as well as Sauna Land containing steam and Finnish saunas.

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I was up with the lark the next morning to make the most of my limited time to explore Dobrna’s lush, green surroundings. I began with a walk to one of the nearby hills to get a birds-eye view of the surroundings,  then around the forest trim trail, after lunch a stroll on the path by the Dobrnica stream, and finally a swim in the thermal pools.

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The walking and cycling paths are very well marked and there really is a lot of choice. Other sights of interest, which, for the time being, remain on my ‘to do’ list include the ruins of Snake Castle (Kačji grad), the Valley of Mills, the Šumečnik waterfall, and numerous other walking, hiking and cycling trails.

Recommended for – children will enjoy the pools, however, during my visit I didn’t see many and I’d say that Dobrna is more suited to adults and is particularly ideal for those who love hiking, peace, and wonderful nature, as well as those seeking some pampering beauty treatments or a medical/rehab programme.

More information about all the above can be found here – http://www.en.terme-dobrna.si/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016

 

I Love Laško!

I can imagine there are a fair few folk who proclaim to ‘Love Laško’, who, no doubt, would be talking about Laško beer. I, on the other hand, not being a beer drinker, am not!

The reason I decided to title this blog ‘I Love Laško’ is because I really do rather love the little town of Laško, and the fact it is also home to the Thermana Laško spa is an added bonus! Of course, I also love my home town of Radovljica, but if I had to choose anywhere else to live in Slovenia, Laško might feature high on the list!

My most recent visit to the Thermana Laško spa was during the Easter weekend. I stayed in the four-star superior Thermana Park hotel, one of the two on-site hotels, and by far the superior of the two. Unless you are visiting specifically for a medical programme, in which case you would be accommodated in the older Hotel Zdravilišče, I would most definitely advise staying at the Thermana Park hotel. Despite being at full capacity during the Easter weekend, the spacious modern hotel, built 8 years ago, is large enough that nowhere did it feel overcrowded.

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The highlight for most, especially kids, is the Thermal Centre with its retractable glass dome roof, where, amongst others, there is a wave-effect pool, a recreation and massage pool with cascades and underground streams, a children’s water entertainment park, 3 whirlpools and a Kneipp area. All of these are heated to between 32-34 °C.

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And that’s just the indoor facilities! The outdoor facilities comprise a thermal pool connected with the indoor pool, a recreational pool, a children’s pool, a crystal- shaped massage pool and water chutes and slides.

In addition to all the water-based activities, Thermana Laško offers a whole host of other facilities, with something for the whole family, whether you are looking for a relaxing or active break. At weekends, for a special experience, you can also go night swimming.

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Shortly after arrival I headed to the Wellness Spa Centre where I enjoyed a ‘Beer massage’ – well, why not in a town famous for it’s beer – as well as a relaxing foot massage. The centre offers a vast range of pampering and beauty treatments, using recognised international brands such as Decleor.

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The Thermana & Veda Ayurveda Centre is one of the most popular features of the spa centre. Guests are offered an individual approach and holistic treatments based on specialist consultations with experienced Indian specialists and therapists.  A range of Ayurvedic programmes are available, such as the 7-day Ayurveda Detox, 2, 3, or 5 day Burn-Out Programme, for those needing respite from a stressful lifestyle, as well as individual yoga sessions.

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I must also mention the food! Breakfast and dinner are buffet style – though A La’ Carte dinner is also available for an extra treat. There was a huge choice of food, something for all palates – inevitably I ended up trying almost a bit of everything and let full to bursting! I was especially impressed that dinner even included Ayurveda dishes, prepared by an Ayurveda chef from Kerala in India, and at breakfast there was a special Slovene Breakfast corner.

Another highlight for me, as someone with a very sweet tooth, was the Park Café with a huge selection of cakes and other patisserie, all of which are made in-house. The speciality, which of course I had to try, is the honey cake, which was so good I also bought one to take home!

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Guests are encouraged to drink the thermal spring water, which comes from a depth of 160 metres, and has a high mineral content. In studies of the biological effects of Laško water, at the Bion Institute, it was found to have a biologically perfectly functioning biofield, which is stable, harmonious, cohesive and vitalising, therefore having a positive and motivating effect on humans. Well, it’s worth a try, nothing to lose I say!

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During my visit I also used the well-equipped fitness centre, and was very impressed. All the cardio equipment faces towards the Savinja river, providing a very pleasant view to while away the time whilst exercising. The equipment is Technogym and seemed very clean and well maintained – not something that can often be said of hotel gyms.

The surroundings offer a wealth of opportunities for outdoor activities. Directly behind the complex there is Hum, a small hill rising to 583m, seen below. The path up is very steep, so hiking shoes and hiking poles are recommended, but it’s worth it for the views. Or, in the opposite direction, a path leads up to the mountain hut Dom na Šmohorju (784m), which is where I headed on the 2nd morning of my stay. The path begins at the fire station, which is reached by crossing the road and walking through the tunnel under the railway line.

 

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A short stroll on the opposite bank of the Savinja river brings you to Laško Castle, otherwise known as Tabor Castle. It sits atop a small hill just immediately above the town centre. The castle, thought to date back to the 12th century, was razed to the ground by the Turks in 1487, and for the ensuing two centuries it remained in ruins. It was finally bought and restored by the Laško brewery in the mid-1980s.

 

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Recommend for: Thermana Laško really does offer something for everyone. Whether you are seeking a relaxing pamper-break, somewhere to keep the kids amused, a base for exploring the surrounding areas, a specialist medical, wellness or Ayurveda programme – or all of these!

My top tips: If, like me, you are a light sleeper, then I recommend asking for a room facing the river, as the railway line runs in very close proximity. If you like beer, take a tour of the Laško brewery, which includes a tasting session!

Getting There: Laško is located just a 10 minute drive from Slovenia’s 3rd city, Celje, and is easily reached by taking the Celje exit of the Ljubljana-Maribor motorway. The town is also well connected by public transport, with fairly frequent trains from Ljubljana taking under 1.5 hours.

There are also special ‘spa trains’, operated by Slovenian Railways, which run from Ljubljana to Laško, and those arriving by train are also entitled to special discounts and benefits. More information here – http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport/around-slovenia/the-spa-train

Find more information about Thermana Laško here – http://www.thermana.si/en/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016