Sophie Benge has teamed up with researcher Alla Sokolova to write a most impressive book that looks at the spa and wellness cultures of Eastern Europe. Beautifully presented with stunning photography, Healing Sources: Spas and Wellbeing from the Baltic to the Black Sea is part travel guide and an historical reference book presented as a coffee table centrepiece. It takes the reader on a journey through the lesser known holistic cultures of Eastern Europe from the Art Nouveau spas of Hungary to the traditional pirts sauna rituals of Latvia.
Offering a glimpse of the spa culture in each country, it’s a fascinating way to see the role that spa has played in the country’s psyche and in its historical development. The architecture, the use of local ingredients and traditions reveals that spa is not a 20th Century fad that took hold in the 1990’s but is part of the way of life for so many people.
And it really gets to grip with the holistic and natural approaches of each region such as respiratory healing in Poland’s salt mines, mineral therapies in Hungary, smoke saunas in Estonia and mud pools in Slovakia.
For example in the Baltic countries, the region’s geography has shaped the spa traditions with pristine, deserted beaches and bogs and marshes rich in peat and plant life. The stories also touch on the potency of Soviet rule and how this has shaped and defined the culture of the country and in turn its spa way of life.
As it weaves its way across the continent, the most surprising story from Healing Sources was the Transylvanian Carbon Dioxide Cure. Who knew?
Shedding light on lesser known spa destinations and wellness therapies, Healing Sources is enlightening, acts as an inspiration for new adventures and is a great way to lose yourself for an hour or two.
Published by Prestel
Photography: Christian Banfield and Helen Abrahams
Sophie Benge is the author of the successful book: Tropical Spa and has worked in the spa industry for several years as a writer and speaker.
Alla Sokolova is co-founder of IWC Balans, Latvia’s first international wellness centre.