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Guest testimonies

Piešťany | Budapest | Marienbad | Smrdaky


1. Testimony by Joan Wittle, who stayed in the Thermia Palace, Piešťany
April 2007

”Four years ago, I had an accident in which I broke my right shoulder blade and damaged the muscles and ligaments in both shoulders. These injuries resulted in a ‘massive rotator cuff repair’ (the surgeon’s words) for the right shoulder and micro-surgery to repair my left shoulder. I received physiotherapy in the hospital gym and also in the hydrotherapy pool, which eventually gave me approximately 55-60% mobility.
During my visit to Piešťany, my limited shoulder movement was targeted with daily physiotherapy, massage, heat lamp and immersion in the 30°C Mirror Pool. The physiotherapist introduced me to several new exercises, which, while initially difficult, gradually increased both my strength and confidence, resulting in the mobility of my shoulders improving to 90-95%. Since returning to the UK, I have continued with the exercises he recommended.
The young man who helped me so much should be able to confirm this level of improvement.”

2. Testimony by Mrs. Miklós Farkas, mystery shopper, who stayed in the Balnea Esplanade Health Spa Resort, Piešťany
August 2009

“I would like to emphasize the result of the treatment: I have had a number of health problems for 15 years and have lived on painkillers during this time. After the treatments and coming home, I had no reason to take my pain medications for several weeks.”

3. Excerpts from a presentation by Serena Mackesy (novelist and travel writer) on Thermia Palace Health Spa, Piešťany

“When I was a young thing, I did a lot of competitive riding, which of course meant a lot of broken bones. It's left me in middle age with a constant Ibuprofen habit. So anything to do with pain management tends to light up a little gleam in my eye.

And the thing is, if you get a massage from an Eastern European spa therapist, you jolly well know you've been massaged. And I'll tell you what, I got a serious head-rush off both the massages I had during my stay.

The Thermia Palace, which has been restored to its former glory after the privations of the Soviet era, was built in Art Deco splendour just before the First World War, with the Irma Spa directly attached to it. The two of them now function as a dedicated centre for treating chronic, painful conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism, as well as circulatory and blood-pressure problems and helping people recover from injury. They do this with a combination of spa water, mud packs and soaking, massage and physiotherapy, and the staff are enthusiastic about the results. People genuinely come to Piešťany in wheelchairs and leave on foot.

It's worth stopping here just to remind you again that a spa like Piešťany is far more than a luxury
relaxation destination. It's heap of strong medicine as well. Spa medicine, as it goes, is actually a
standard leg of medical training across Eastern Europe. And the point is, for certain types of long-
term, intractable conditions, the sort of long, slow treatment available somewhere like this is as
effective, if not more so, than anything that conventional medicine has managed to develop.”


The writer is a radio presenter for Radio Caroline, owns a Native American Shop in London, and is a European/USA Tour Guide. ( &

A few years ago, I stayed for 2 weeks of medical spa treatments in PIEŠŤANY, SLOVAKIA, and I would like to share my journey with you.

In 2002, I fell and hurt my right ankle, and then in 2003 I had a car accident and hurt my lower back. Before the accidents, I was fit and healthy and used to doing lots of exercise. Then my life sort of went downhill, pulling me with it!

Being on crutches for a couple of months led me to hobble along on my left foot and put strain on my left hip. Then, when I came off the crutches, I started having problems in my right hip as well. After the car accident, I started to suffer from pain in my lower back. This aggravated the twisted spine I’ve had since I was little, but which had never given me problems before, and X-rays showed that I had lost some cartilage in between vertebra.

I did have physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, on and off for months, but with no long-lasting effect. I got short term respite from pain, sometimes for a few days, but found it constantly difficult to do simple things we take for granted, like bending down to put on my shoes and socks, or sitting comfortably, or even making love. Then a specialist told me that I would end up needing surgery and hip replacements and I decided to explore what else is available rather than end up under a surgeon’s knife! ... I was in my 40s, for God's sake.

I started researching and began to learn about SPA - Sanus Per Aquam = Health through Water... and the existence of medical spas in areas of Europe where there are thermal mineral springs. SPA? .... isn't that all about fluffy towels and manicures, facials and seaweed wraps, or things like that? Well, I managed to get through that initial confusion, and I am so glad I did. Hey, the Romans knew about the therapeutic use of hot springs... and so did generations since... and more recently a branch of regular medicine evolved around the use of hot springs and muds rich in minerals, and started exploring medical protocols which "combine traditional treatments with a range of modern medical treatments”: "balneotherapy".

I then had the pleasure of hearing about the town of Piešťany in Slovakia, with its sulphur mud and water treatments, under the auspices of a reputable medical spa hotel group. I decided to go there for 2 weeks of intense medicinal spa treatment, staying in the 5-star Thermia Palace, with all meals included and all treatments on site or within a few metres hobbling distance.

I can tell you that there is only so much you can learn from a brochure or website, or speaking with people on the phone, but I did understand that on arrival I would see a qualified medical doctor, who would prescribe up to 6 different treatments a day and that they would take X-rays and do a range of blood and urine tests, or would refer to any relevant material I would bring with me from my own doctors and consultants.

And yes, there WERE fluffy towels... and facials if I wanted them - and part of the healing process according to balneotherapy is all about feeling good about yourself in addition to feeling good in your body. But from the moment you go in through the doors of the hotel, you can feel that the focus is all about helping you to regain health, dignity, and mobility, and I found myself literally in the capable hands of a huge range of professionals who really cared about each and every one of us guests. Being in the spa was not about being surrounded by a bunch of sick people... but being one of a bunch of people who were dedicating a few weeks of our lives to seriously concentrate on getting healthy! I met people of all ages, with arthritis in various parts of the body, recovering from strokes - there to regain mobility, suffering from back pain and sports injuries, after accidents... first timers like me... and those who come back every few years for a "top up".... young kids... and seniors who celebrate that they are still mobile and are avoiding the surgeon’s knife!

During my initial consultation the doctor wrote out a treatment protocol especially for me, which kept me busy for most of the morning and early afternoons, seeing physiotherapists for ultrasound treatments, physiotherapists for electrostimulation treatments, hydrotherapists for individual water exercises as well as group exercise (in lovely warm mineral waters), physiotherapists for manual manipulations and traction, medical massage therapists, therapists for the special hot sulphur mud wraps, therapists to wrap you in blankets to sweat after certain treatments, therapists for inhalations, and nurses for injections (more about that in a moment...)

And the fabulous thing is that it all works like clockwork! You get a card with all the treatment days, times and locations, and with up to 6 treatments a day, I was kept busy! But there still was time for good buffet breakfasts and other meals all taken in good company with my fellow travellers through the journey towards health!

Some treatments I recognised from physiotherapy (e.g. ultrasound and electrostimulation), and a couple were a bit strange, but once the doctor explained their purpose, it all began to make sense! And, what makes the medical spa stay experience unique and more potent in its healing potential is that you don’t just go once a week to the physiotherapist. Rather, you immerse yourself in an intense, focussed and varied treatment protocol for the 2 or 3 weeks that you are there. This helps to re-educate your muscles and free stiff joints, and also re- educate your mind to the fact that you CAN be more mobile and healthy.

Each day had a range of treatments specially formulated for me, so in a day I may be massaged and manipulated, immersed in hot waters rich in minerals, covered in several inches of very hot sulphur mud with a cool pack on my heart, wrapped in blankets to sweat out the toxins, go to the exercise pool for 20 minutes of group exercise, have electrostimulation or ultrasound, have minute amounts of carbon dioxide injected just under the skin in areas of extreme pain so as to stimulate oxygen to flow to that area, or sit back and relax for an hour - breathing in a high concentration of oxygen.... Absolutely amazing!

I have to say that I was amazed not just in the range of treatments, but that in just a few days my limbs began to move better and the constant pain, which I was so used to, began to subside. As I began to feel better, I was encouraged to take time in the afternoons to walk as much as I felt I could, and that was easy to do, as the town of Piešťany is quaint and inspiring to walk around.

The medical spa’s centre was around an island joined to the main part of the town by a bridge, and I had a wonderful time each day exploring the island as well as the town itself. I also took a boat trip, and as I began to feel better, I did have a haircut and facial, and realised that the "healing" process of the body is very much connected to how you feel in your mind as well, and that the haircut was in its own way as important as the extensive treatments!

When I arrived at Bratislava airport, I hobbled out of the airplane, in pain and with limited mobility... When I left Piešťany I literally could walk tall and feel on top of the world. And now, several years later, I still feel that going to Piešťany was one of the best decisions I have ever taken for my health and I stayed pain-free and with fantastic mobility for approximately 18 months after my visit. Cynics may say that I would have felt better anyway, or that I would have benefitted just the same if I had had a regular 2-week holiday, with a bit of rest and swimming and a change of scenery... Well, I don't think so... last year I tried to "just" have a holiday... and the pain and reduced mobility that had crept back into my body did leave for a few weeks, but then came back. So for me, the medical spa stay gave me much more than a holiday could.

Most of the people I met in Piešťany said they felt the most benefit for a year or so after their visit, and I do agree with that. I was also told that it is beneficial to go back every couple of years for a top-up, and my body is telling me that I should do that soon so I can also be one of those spritely seniors that I met, who swear that a 2 to 3-week medicinal spa stay helps them to stay young in mind, body and spirit!

Thank you for sharing my journey and I look forward to meeting you in Piešťany - whether for a short wellness and relaxation visit (yes, you can do that in Piešťany too!), or for the Medical Spa to help bring S.P.A = Sanus Per Aquam.


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1. A convert to the European Health Spa experience: Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget, Budapest - Articleby Dr Lesley Coates, Medical Historian,

February 2008

“I used to be a practical, down-to-earth sort of girl. My skincare regime was simple and inexpensive. I did not indulge in fancy body lotions or creams and I suspect that my cat spent more time on washing and grooming than I did! I have never had a manicure, pedicure or facial, and the thought of staying at a smart health and beauty spa horrifies me. The treatments seem ludicrous, certainly a waste of money and, quite frankly, boring. Experience, however, has forced me to revise my opinion. The Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget in Budapest is a delightful place to stay and is one of the top metropolitan spa hotels in Europe. The hotel is ideally situated on Budapest’s Margaret Island (a good base for sightseeing) and is surrounded by hundred-year old chestnut trees, a Japanese garden and the ruins of a monastery. The spa facilities utilise three of the island’s natural thermal springs, and the newly-designed pool area has lovely views overlooking the garden and woodland landscape. Comfortable rather than luxurious, the ambience is reassuringly calm and soothingly functional. The occasional whiff of pampering - fluffy white towelling robes, for example, to wear as you wander from thermal pools, sauna, therapy room and beauty salon - is in all the right places. A staggering array of traditional ‘therapeutic’ and ‘well-being’ treatments are available, and if, like me, you are unfamiliar with the health spa experience, it can be difficult to know what options to go for. Study the brochure carefully and seek advice from the helpful staff. If possible, book your treatments before you arrive, particularly if your stay is for a few days only. I chose to concentrate on the well-being, relaxation and beauty facilities on offer as follows:

  1. The Hungarian Wine Cream Massage (50 minutes) was divine and a great way to relax after the flight from London, Gatwick. The massage treatment used a unique massage cream made from Hungarian wines and has the reputation for being one of the Spa’s ‘Hungarian Specialities’.

  2. The Cosmetic Pedicure with Varnishing (60 minutes) was a new experience for me and thoroughly enjoyable. My feet were gently massaged and scrubbed to an enviable smoothness. My toenails were tidied and buffed and the French varnish made my pinkies look good enough to eat!

  3. Salt Cave (60 minutes). I was sceptical about the therapeutic benefits of the ‘artificial’ salt cave room. Designed to be relaxing and atmospheric, it also claimed to be effective in the treatment of respiratory conditions. I was determined not to enjoy the experience of breathing in this special salty air whilst listening to the sound of mewing gulls and sea water crashing about on a beach. To my surprise, I found the session incredibly relaxing and walked out of the cave feeling like a limp starfish!

  4. The Kneipp Aroma Bath (60 minutes) was not for me. The Kneipp treatments were named after Sebastian Kneipp, a German priest who lived in the 19th century. They work on the principle of exposing the body to alternate temperatures of hot and cold water. Soaking in a bath of hot water as it slowly cools has never appealed to me and I was glad when the session ended. My companions, however, loved the treatment and could have stayed in the bath forever. The oils did have a nice smell and my skin felt wonderfully smooth and clean after the treatment.

  5. The Wellness Mud Pack (60 minutes) was reputed to be an excellent therapy for replenishing lost minerals from the body and cleaning out the pores of the skin. The thought of being covered in mud from head to toe had to be my ultimate health spa nightmare. But the treatment was not nearly as unpleasant as I expected – I actually quite enjoyed it! The mud was hot, it did not smell and did not dry to form a hard unpleasant crust on the skin. I felt relaxed after the treatment and my skin was deliciously smooth.

  6. When I showed up for the Manicure with French Varnish (60 minutes), the beautician must have looked at my hands and cursed under her breath. I had chipped nails, jagged cuticles and horrible, uneven ridges. I walked out of the room an hour later as a changed woman. My pearly nails gleamed and had beautiful white tips. The remarkable transformation was a credit to the beautician’s skill and tenacity.

  7. The Clarins Pro Facial Treatment (75 minutes) was probably the best treatment of all. My face and neck was massaged, cleansed, exfoliated and buffed to perfection. My skin positively glowed and felt soft and silky for days.

During the intervals between treatments, there was plenty of time to enjoy the thermal pools, sauna and the excellent facilities in the Gym. One could even relax with a drink in the bar! We also had time to venture outside the hotel, see the sights, enjoy the opera and sample the excellent Hungarian cuisine. At the end of my three-day trip, I felt invigorated and toned, perky, mentally and physically refreshed. The damage to my purse – Nil. That’s what comes of having a doting Father!”

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1. Jiří Mikuláš, Faculty of Arts, Charles University Prague, comments on Centrálni Lázně, Marienbad
August 2009

”Dear Mr. General Manager,

Please allow me to wish you and your whole team all the best health and success in the year 2010. On this occasion, I would like to go back to my very successful medical stay in CL (Centrální Lázně ,M.B.) in August 2009.

As in the years before, the medical treatment in Centrální Lázně, together with the wonderful forested surroundings and cultural life in Mariánské Lázně, really helped to strengthen my health, which is so important for my active tutorial work at the university.

With this letter, I would like to thank you for the professional, obliging, friendly and communicative behaviour of the many employees who ensured my medical stay.

Especially Dr. Eva Ublová, M.D., Ms. Jiřina Smutná, the nurses on the ambulance, Renata Uhlířová and others, the front office staff, the meticulous reservationist Ms. Jana Valová, the exemplary, always smiling and devoted spa employee for many years, Ms. Věra Čadilová, and others. I would like to acknowledge the excellent waitress Ms. Ivana Vojtěchová in the restaurant, who with others really helped make this an easygoing stay with quick service, always accompanied by a smile.

I would be most grateful, Mr. General Manager, if you could convey my thanks to the professional team when you have the opportunity.

I look forward to repeating the successful cure again this year.

Best regards
Ing.Jiří Mikuláš”

2. General comment on Marienbad
September 2009

“We have spent three weeks in your hotel.
We feel we must say thank you for the pleasant and good health treatments we received.
It is not only nice to admire the hotel building and the surroundings, but also the dedicated care of the staff.
The biggest thank you goes to the employees of the spa, who displayed courtesy and provided affectionate care and attention. “

3, Petr Knakal

Petr Knakal, born in 1983, the captain of the football team Baník Sokolov, the best club in the Karlovy Vary region, which plays in 2nd national league.

Petr Knakal suffered a fracture of the right outer ankle and a ligament rupture in the right inner ankle during a football match on 25.10.2009 in Prague. Immediately after the match, he was operated on in the Central Military Hospital in Prague. There they performed osteosynthesis of the right outer ankle (a plate with screws) and a suturing of the ligament (Diagnosis: fractura mall. lateralis gravis Weber B.l.dx..Stp. OS, sutura lig. deltoideum).

The ankle was fixed in plaster, which was then removed on 4.12.2009. The Central Military Hospital recommended a full easing of the joint.

On 7.12.2009, Mr. Knakal began spa care in spa hotel Centrální Lázně. The medical examination showed zero mobility in every direction. The following six-week spa programme was set:

Mineral carbonated baths every day
Dry CO2 gas baths every day
Individual rehabilitation exercise everyday
Manual lymphatic drainage 3 times a week
Water exercises in a pool 3 times a week
Use of the Roman Baths 2-3 times a day.

On 18.1.2010, after 6 weeks, the spa care was completed. During an objective examination of the right ankle, it was determined:
plantar flexion 34 deg.
dorsal flexion 20 deg.
supination with adduction 30 deg.
pronation with abduction 24 deg.
The lower limb was completely without swelling and the scars were not evident.

During an examination in the Central Military Hospital in Prague on 22.1.2010, his condition was indicated as healed and completely recovered. Running was allowed, ball work was allowed in three weeks’ time, and in another three weeks’ time the possibility of playing in matches. Immediately after the examination, the player went to a training camp with his football team.

His condition was appreciated as a small miracle by football fans and the general public. Without the possibility of thorough rehabilitation in the form of spa care, the whole healing process would have been extended by a minimum of 2 months.

In an interview with Petr Knakal in a regional daily newspaper titled ‘The spa care did Petr Knakal good - he took his crutches home in a bag’, the player thanked our company for exemplary care and a successful rehabilitation.

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1. Ron Allsopp, Treatments abroad, sampled the spa delights of Slovakia
March 2006

Ron Allsopp wrote articles a few years ago about his experiences at the Dead Sea. He also started the Highwayman’s Psoriasis Group, a group of people who travel together to the Dead Sea. Ron has now been sampling the spa delights of Slovakia, and this is his account:

‘Last August, I and five others from our group attended the Smrdáky Spa Clinic in Slovakia. We were very much guinea pigs to evaluate the benefits of the spa’s treatment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthropathy. We understand we were the first mini-group to ever use the spa.

Out of the six of us, just 3 had psoriasis and 3 also had psoriatic arthritis.

With the increasing problems in Israel and Jordan, many of the group have shown a great degree of reluctance to travel to the Dead Sea, so we were looking forward to an alternative which may bring relief to our suffering.

I am very pleased to say that Smrdáky Spa did not disappoint, in that four of the group had good results with their skin. 3 of us, myself included, had spectacular results in regards to our psoriatic arthritis. We also saw our skin greatly improve, but by far the main benefit was the huge improvement we experienced in our arthritic joints. In my case, things had become so bad that for months before the trip I could only walk with the aid of crutches. In fact, I was still on crutches on arrival at the airport for our flight to Brataslava and needed other group members to carry my bags. Within a few days of treatment at the spa, I was able to walk without crutches, and to this day they remain at the back of my wardrobe.

Similarly, Hasan, another member of the group who walked with a very prominent limp, has since lost his limp and now walks and runs normally.

I have left it till now, March 2006, to produce a report as I wanted to see how long the remission would last. It has now been over six months since we returned and the psoriasis patches have just started returning, albeit not as bad as when we first went to Smrdáky. Similarly, my feet, knees and legs are just starting to get stiff and painful again, but Hasan tells me his arthritis is still in remission. To have six months’ relief from pain and stiffness has felt like being reborn, and having clear skin for the same period has been wonderful.

Some general points

I must stress that Smrdáky Spa is a ‘chill out’ centre, and will certainly not be suitable for those whose intention is a dedication to treatment and having a quiet and relaxing time.

The whole emphasis throughout the spa is on medical rehabilitation, and everything is strictly controlled by what the doctor dictates. The treatments, the frequency, duration and type are strictly regimented, and even what you eat is controlled.

The whole atmosphere at Smrdáky Spa is getting results with very little attention to leisure and entertainment. If you crave peace, tranquillity and total relaxation, you would be hard pressed to find a more relaxing place to heal your body and mind.


Treatments are laid out in a schedule with times and locations, but it is possible to alter times, as the staff do go out of their way to be as accommodating as possible.

I feel I should point out that this is not a place to come if you are shy, self-conscious or in any way embarrassed about your body, as dignity and vanity are not recognized here. All treatments are carried out in the nude (patients, I mean, not staff). In the Balneatherapy Centre the men are separated from the women, but there are male and female attendants working in both sections, with most being female. So if you guys are worried about your dangly bits being on show to female attendants, or you ladies are worried about having mud packs applied to your bumpy bits by some guy, then Smrdaky Spa is not for you. Exhibitionists will love the place.

There is a range of treatments, from mineral baths, hand and foot baths, mud packs and baths, massage to phototherapy.

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