Let’s Go Exploring! Piestany and Bratislava: Slovakian Spa Paradise

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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After the disappointment of AquaCity in Poprad, we decided to go for a do-over in Piestany, where they was a entire island full of spas—appropriately named “Spa Island”.

The bridge to Spa island

As soon as we arrived we knew we were going to have an intense relaxation experience given that people from all over the world (60% of the people who visit Spa island are foreigners) come all the way to Slovakia to get treatment for all sorts of ailments—like rheumatic arthritis, muscle injuries, and overall stress relief.

The treatments are so successful and world renown that their symbol for Spa island is this:

Photo source: Robert Kühmayer [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

So we crossed the bridge into Spa island, went to the Irma Spa and asked for the “mud bath” treatment, which is not only supposed to release tension, it’s supposed to also get rid of dead skin and make your whole body feel completely smooth like a baby’s butt.

We got a 1 hour package and went our separate ways into the change room (men and women are separated in Slovakian spas). There were 5 of us women in the group, and we were given lockers to put our clothes in and a massive sheet-sized cloth to wrap ourselves.

First up was the thermal water, naturally steaming at 67-69 °C. I floated happily for 15 minutes, staring at the domed art deco ceiling.

After 15 mins, the attendant, a stocky smiling Slovakian woman, told us it was time to move onto the mud spa.

I followed the other women carefully, while holding onto a railing, taking the stairs down into what looked like another thermal pool, but this time the bottom was completely covered with mud. The attendant demonstrated reaching down, cupping a handful of mud and rubbing it over her face, neck, and arms, and we followed suit, being careful to avoid our eyes.

Staircase down to mud spa

At first it felt a bit awkward to be wading around in slippery mud, but I soon got the hang of it and started to rubbing the stuff all over myself, feeling like a kid.

Once I was properly covered in mud, I floated around a bit, and after 20 mins, the attendant told us it was time for my wrap.

So I got out (carefully) and rinsed off in the hot showers right outside the domed mud spa.

After that I was directed to a room with massage beds separated by dividers. I lied down, closed my eyes, and it wasn’t long before someone showed up and wrapped me up like a burrito.

Feeling sleepy and warm, I quickly drifted off and didn’t wake up until an attendant gently tapped me and told me it was time to have the last shower and get dressed.

I met up with Wanderer outside and he told me he had an equally relaxing experience.

I left the Irma Spa feeling like a million bucks, even though I’d only spent 15 Euros for the whole experience.

After we left Piestany, we took a train to Bratislava, about an hour away—where I ended up finding the nicest McDonald’s I’d ever been in. Now, our general rule when travelling is to avoid restaurants from back home, and try the local food, but I was so thirsty for a smoothie, McDonalds was the only one that had remotely what I wanted.

Who knew McDonalds could be fancy?

This is what we ended up getting, and to this day, I haven’t been able to find another McDonald’s quite like it.

After I was sufficiently hydrated, we joined a walking tour, where we found out that Bratislava was the setting of the 2006 horror movie Hostel, which had the effect of dropping tourism by 70%. Yikes! Despite the fact that it was depicted as rundown and dangerous, the actual city was far from it. I mean, clearly it’s a beautiful city is Hans Christian Anderson ended up calling it “a fairy tale”. But our tour guide told us that the city council tried to get the director of Hostel to come to the city for free so they could prove his impression of Bratislava wrong, but maybe he was worried that he was going to get murdered or something because to this day, he refuses to go.

Which is clearly his loss, because walking around the city, we saw beautiful fountains, historic buildings, and even a massive castle:

There was a church that looks like a giant blue wedding cake or a smurf’s house. The guide said the church was so popular for weddings it’s usually booked out 3 years in advance!

There was also Tatra tea—which is as opposite from tea as you could possible get. Don’t let the shiny, pretty bottle fool you as this stuff is practically lethal at 72% alcohol!

We also found the Slovakians have a great sense of humour when we discovered this quirky little statue sticking out of a sewer grate in the old city. The story behind it is that this is “Cumil”—which translates to “Watcher” , depicting a sewer worker from the communist era watching people pass by. Some say that he’s there to peak under women’s skirts and that’s why there’s a sign above that says “watch out for creepers underfoot”.

Ha, jokes on him! I’m retired so I barely wear pants most of the time, never mind a skirt.

Overall, we had a great time in Slovakia, and after leaving Spa island, the luxurious feeling of relaxation stuck with me for a long time afterwards.

Here’s how much we spent in Piestany and Bratislava:

Category Cost in USD/couple Cost in CAD/couple Notes
Accommodations: $39 USD/night $49 CAD/night
Food: $21 USD/day $26 CAD/day ($15/day for eating out, $11/day for groceries) Food was extremely inexpensive in Slovakia, and the mcCafe's was shockingly good! 
Transportation: $8.70 USD/day $11 CAD/day
Entertainment: $14 USD/day $18 CAD/day We spent 15 Euros for the mud spa treatments, 8 Euros each in tips for the Bratislava tour, and 8 Euros each for entrance to the castle. Not sure the castle is really that worth it since I've been better castles in Europe but it was still nice to look around.
Total: $83 USD/couple/day $104 CAD/couple/day Slovakia was slightly more expensive than Poland but we enjoyed the spa experience in Piestany and the walk tour in Bratislava. Definitely worth a look if you're going to Poland anyway, since they are neighbouring countries.

 



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17 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Piestany and Bratislava: Slovakian Spa Paradise”

  1. Nice travel write up FireCracker. I never considered traveling to this part of the world, but you make it seem pretty appealing.

    What’s the local food like? I assume they have local flavors that aren’t smoothies and McCafe’s.

    Our FIREd family travels a lot, and food is a huge part of deciding where we travel!

    1. Good question. We found Slovakian food similar to Polish and Hungarian food–Goulash, perogies, cabbage soup. Hearty and good.

  2. I highly recommend visiting Bratislava. We were there only one day, Christmas Day, and a lot of places were closed. We enjoyed a nice lunch in Roland Restaurant Cafe and had a private Christmas concert in an old abbey. I look forward to returning to this city for more leisure time. Thanks for the look back.

    1. Good tips. We’ll have to go back and try the beer–but first need to muster up the nerve to try the 72% alcohol Tatra tea.

  3. Spa Island sounds a lot like Karlovy Vary in Czech where people from all over go to rid themselves of their ailments. I couldn’t get over everyone drinking the “magic water” from cups that look like bongs. I took one sip and couldn’t stomach it!

  4. Since you seem to travel around in Europe-have you ever considered travelling to Romania? It has 2 cities in the nomadlist top 15 (cost,internet, weather, fun etc.) . Transylvania was Lonely Planet destination #1 in 2016. It has mountains, castles, vibrant cities, and sea (and spas). Romania has 5th fastest internet in the world.
    It is not in Schenghen; it is part of the EU that guarantees free movement between its countries. I think for a traveller, the main difference is that within Schenghen, once you enter a country, you don’t need to show your passport in the next one; vs EU rules, where you can travel between countries freely, but need to show the passport or ID.
    I am Romanian-Canadian and travel from Canada almost every year usually combined with another EU trip. Last year we did Italy and Romania. A 40 min cab from the airport to downtown Bucharest is 40 RON or about $12. Compare with 60 Euros Rome to airport. Or sim phone card in Ro: 5 euro for a month, internet included.
    Let me know if you need more info or tips. Here are some links.
    Btw : thumbs up for your blog! – one of my favorite.

    https://nomadlist.com/cluj-romania
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/travel/romania-europe-bargain-family-travel.html?smid=fb-share
    http://www.business-review.eu/news/romania-has-fifth-fastest-broadband-internet-in-world-says-ookla-145764

    1. Oh sweet! Definitely putting Romania on my list 🙂 This year, since we have the German youth mobility visa, we’ll be optimizing our time in Europe by going to as many Schengen countries in the Europe zone. Once that’s expired, Romania seems like a great place to visit and to wait out the 90 day lock out period. Thanks for the tips and links!

      1. I also endorse Romania and I’m not even Romanian-Canadian! We particularly liked Brasov (they do urbanity right) and the Dracula castle (Bran).

        Slovakia is on the list, we were thinking of going there in June but might have to delay it. Hi from Segovia, though. (It’s reading week…)

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