Retreating to a spa for relaxation and restoration is familiar to modern Americans, though it is usually considered a luxury. American spas tend to emphasize exercise, diet, and relaxation; nowadays, the old focus on healing treatments with mineral-laced water, mud, and deep massage is secondary. In Central Europe, however, the tradition of therapeutic spas dating back many centuries is still strong and, in many cases, is not seen as a luxury but rather an integral part of the medical system.
Slovakia’s largest and best known spa town is Piešťany, about 50 miles northeast of Bratislava on the River Váh. Its hot medicinal springs were already popular in the Middle Ages. They became the property of a succession of noble families who built the elaborate buildings that now provide housing (today amounting to some 2,000 beds), dining, and a large array of treatment facilities. The town grew up around these facilities and was only incorporated in 1945.
Piešťany has also been a significant center for the arts. It hosts an annual sculpture exhibition, and in the town center there are numerous shops as well as highly creative public art pieces and fountains.