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Travel Articles - Rogaška Slatina

An Oasis of Healing Nestled Among the Verdant Hills of the East by Ian Middleton.

It’s virtually impossible to travel in Slovenia without noticing its abundance of health spas. However, Rogaška Slatina is not only unique, but encompasses a wealth of hidden gems. It has a long history of quality glassmaking, and among the surrounding foothills you’ll find wine cellars and picturesque villages each with its own story to tell.

It was a cold and misty September morning when I rode my motorbike into Rogaška Slatina with icicles protruding from my nostrils. Brigita, the director of economy at the local municipality took one look at my blue face and melting nose and offered me a hot drink.

As the heat from the coffee warmed my bones, I was introduced to Grega, who would be my tour guide for the day. Brigita and Grega then proceeded to tell me all about their town.

There aren’t many places in the world where you could indulge yourself in some of life’s wicked pleasures, wine and good food, and then ease your guilt by purging your body of all the unhealthy elements of that pleasure by simply drinking a glass of water.

Located about 1½ hours east of Ljubljana, Rogaška Slatina is Slovenia’s oldest spa town. Nestled among the lovely hills of the Macelj range, Boc, its highest peak (960m) overlooks the town. The summit’s viewing tower affords a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. The mountain was known as Monte Claudius during Roman times. A special flower blooms here only at Easter time, called the velikonocnica, and the area is now a protected nature reserve

The town itself grew up around several natural springs that have been known since the Romans and Celts were here. However, it wasn’t until a written analysis was published in 1572 in a book called Pisson by Leonhard Thurneysser that its fame began to spread.

Word of this miracle water spread as far as the imperial court in Vienna and soon people began to flood here, including many famous names such as: Emperor Ferdinand, Franz Liszt and the French Bonapartes. In 1803 the head of the Styrian government, Count Ferdinand Attems, established the first spa resort here. This soon grew into one of Europe’s most popular and grandest, and in 2003 the resort celebrated its 200th anniversary.

The town emblem is the winged-horse Pegasus. Local legend tells of how the Greek God Apollo was riding through the nearby mountain range when he commanded Pegasus to rise up on his hind legs and repeatedly slam his front hooves down hard in order to open the spring.

There are actually an indeterminate number of springs in the area of Rogaška, but the most famous of these is Donat Mg, which is bottled and distributed all around the country. The water from this spring is a veritable cocktail of minerals, but most importantly, it contains an unusually high level of magnesium; an important element for many of the biochemical processes in our bodies. People don’t just come here for a relaxing holiday; they come here to get well. Magnesium is not only said to help illnesses such as heart and liver disease, but can also help reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol, constipation, excess stomach acids, heartburn and obesity.

But there is more to Rogaška Slatina than just its famous spa. The town also has a long history of producing high quality glassware, one of which is Rogaška Crystal. The origins of Rogaška’s glassmaking tradition can be traced as far back as 1665. A project is also underway to create a working museum at the factory where visitors can see firsthand the age-old process of glassmaking by hand.

A new project is also in the pipeline. In co-operation with the neighbouring municipality of Podcetrtek, they will build a large artificial lake on 132 hectares of land between the two towns. The lake will be used for recreational purposes and it’s hoped will be a popular addition to the region’s already burgeoning tourist trade.

The outskirts contain a scattering of pretty villages each with its own church, and many have their own legend as to the origins of the church. Sv. Lenart, where a beautiful tall church greets you upon arrival, is a tiny hamlet wedged into the hills. Local legend says that a church was built here in 1000AD, but a massive earthquake hit the region causing the church to sink into the ground. It was hidden by vegetation for hundreds of years until one day, while some animals were chewing on the grass, the bell rang and the church was rediscovered.

The surrounding karst hills are completely full of water, hence the reason for it’s abundance of springs. In the small village of Zg. Gabernik, where farmhouses dot the verdant hills and a great rocky outcrop looms over them, legend tells of an underground lake where a great dragon sleeps. Locals believe that when the weather is stormy, the dragon is stirring.

After a day of luxurious pampering, or hiking, you can relax at one of the many wine cellars where you can try the municipality’s superb wines.

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Slovenia Times is an English language newspaper from Ljubljana.
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