Along a health-resort path
From experience, people found out that there are some places they thrive better in than anywhere else, for instance in the mountains, in the special natural conditions. The High Tatras are plumb studded with natural climatic spas that use these specific facilities of the region.
The healing power of the climate here is precisely scientifically documented thanks to exact investigation. The first sporadic notes referring to the meteorological conditions in the High Tatras date back to the 18th century.
From the year of 1875 the first records of the meteorological observations of the southern slopes were made under the leadership of Doctor Mikuláš Szontágh from Starý Smokovec.
However, his records are not complete as at the time only the observations in the summer and winter seasons were used to be made. In July, 1897 the Meteorological Observatory Station in Tatranská Lomnica came into existence, where the observations have been made up to nowadays. The building of aerial cableway in 1939 enabled to establish an observatory station in the place of 1769 meters above the sea level, in Skalnaté pleso. In the war year of 1943 an another observatory came into existence even in the higher located place – at the Lomnický peak, 2635 meters above the sea level.
All types of climate
The basic natural healing factor is the therapeutically efficient mountain and alpine climate that has favourable and complex effect on a human body suffering from some of the diseases like for example asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, chronic rhinitis, etc.
The High Tatras are unique, because all types of the mountainous climate are covered within such a little horizontal distance. Slovakia occupies the southern and south-eastern slopes of these mountains on which the solar radiation falls under a considerably higher angle than on the northern slopes. Therefore the southern slopes get as much Sun's light and warmth as if they were geographically situated much more to the north.
The High Tatras lie above the dust atmosphere layer and are far away from industrial centres. Furthermore, air cleanness is ensured by different vegetation and in winter time by continual snow cover as well.
The first settlement
On the northern slope of the Slavkovský peak, 1010 meters above the sea level, mineral water spring has been outflowing since the time out of mind. Thanks to that the first Tatra settlement – Starý Smokovec was founded here in 1793. Count Csaky, the forest owner decided to build a forest lodge right under the peak near the acidulous water springs. It is likely that he knew an official report of the county doctor Ján Zikmund Kreysel from Levoča about thermal and acidulous waters in the Spiš region from the year of 1764 in which he praised the water of the land.
More than two hundred years ago the first buildings, pubs were found here, the first visitors started coming here who used the resort for walking in the nearby forests and drinking water from the mineral springs. Rumours about the pleasant surroundings and healing effects of drinking cures and spas caused that Starý Smokovec became a favourite aim of visitors from all over the Spiš region. Due to a great interest the Spas had to be extended by another bathhouse, rooms for stay and first restaurants in 1818.
The Golden Age came to Smokovec together with Ján Juraj Rainer in the 1830s. A park and health-resort paths to Hrebienok, Slavkovská vyhliadka (Slavkovska view) and to Pekná vyhliadka (Nice view) were built. The priessnitzovská water therapy, which was used for almost hundred years, was introduced there and thanks to that new method the climate resort started officially to be called Spas.
The beginnings of cold water therapy were very simple and primitive. At first patients used cold spring water for shower and later a swimming pool with showers and bathhouses were built. The main objective of the therapy was blood pressure and blood circulation regulations and overall regeneration. We can hardly talk about scientific healing methods in that times, but beginnings are difficult. And this is the same with establishing of spas.
In the first half of the 19th century the spas were in use just in summer season. Spas visitors used to come there to try healing water and admire beauties of the High Tatras as well as to relax and recover or eventually live social life there.
The important milestone in the High Tatras development was building a railway line between Košice and Bohumin in 1871. So whole the Tatra region became much better and faster available. Together with development of tourism more and more attention was also paid to healing effects of the climate in the High Tatras - climate therapy.
One of the first doctors who started to deal with the healing method was Dr. Szontág who built sanatoria in Starý Smokovec in 1875 and the spas started to work not only in summer time but throughout all the year
An increasing number of patients suffering from tuberculosis determined a new direction for the Tatra health services. In 1925 a treatment was started in the Palace Sanatorium in Nový Smokovec. The therapeutic centre in Tatranská Polianka has been in existence for more than 100 years (from 1902). During the World War II a sanatorium in Vyšné Hágy came into existence. From the year of 1889 there was a tourist hotel with a bathhouse in Tatranské Matliare and since 1928 a modern therapeutical centre for lung diseases has been working there.
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century spas were established also in Štrbské pleso and building of hotel complex on the southern lakefront followed where the climate therapeutical services under a doctor's supervision were provided.
For children patients the Šrobarov Sanatorium in Dolný Smokovec was opened immediately after the formation of Czechoslovakia and since 1928 the Sanatorium of Dr. Opatrný in Horný Smokovec was put into operation.
In the first decades of the last century there were a lot of spa complexes built in the High Tatras that was admirable as the economical conditions in post-war Europe were not very easy. This forward-looking health service policy laid the foundations for modern Czechoslovak pneumology and ftizeology that resulted in the high number of successfully cured patients.
Time is changing....getting better for the Tatra health service?
In the last decade there have been significant changes as a result of the fast development of the region, changes in property relationships and due to economical transformation of the health services. The number of beds in sanatoria has been reduced, a lot of well-educated doctors and experienced specialists and nurses. The transformation of the Tatra sanatoria has had rather a negative impact on the Tatra health services. The sanatoria vegetate and their previous glory is disappearing.
Fortunately, this can not be said about climate spas. The standard of the services provided has increased, bathhouses have been modernized. The spas became popular aim not only for chronically ill patients, but also for new clients. It is especially young people who worship the cult of health and beauty and come to the High Tatras for reconditioning and relaxation stays.
The visits of the other new-built and established aqua parks at the foothill of the High Tatras (for instance AquaCity Poprad, Aquapark Bešeňová, Vrbov....) are the favourable supplements of the stays in the mountains. Thanks to the warm mineral springs the climate therapy is so supplemented with a thermal element.
Thus overall complex product affects on a whole human body, on all the age and professional categories of visitors.
We can say that climatism and thermalism represent substantial very perspective economical tools of the development of the High Tatras and of the entire region.
The motivation for visitors is very strong and together with another range of historical sightseeings and geographical features of the unique High Tatras National Park it belongs to the main aims that Slovakia offers and that is worth visiting.