My time in Slovakia – Winter Spa Weekend

The most memorable moment of our time in Slovakia? “There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!” Intrigued? I thought so.

We were going to Slovakia for a spa holiday. Our Slovakian friend was visiting home for the weekend and asked us to join him. I never turn down the opportunity to visit a new country and I never say no to a spa! Since Roman times, spas have been recognized for their relaxation benefits and healing properties, a natural way for your mental and physical health to rejuvenate. We all work in customer service (a known head-wreck) and are on our feet all day, so our time in Slovakia was much needed.

Snow Covered Slovakia

The air was clean and crisp. The cold brightened my cheeks while the sun made my eyes squint and warmed my back. A sunny welcome in snow-covered Bratislava was the perfect way to start our two-day getaway.

We got the early fight from Dublin on Sunday morning after an exceptionally late night at work. Two hours after my head hit the pillow my alarm went off and I awoke to a Canadian dream – the smell of maple bacon wafting through the apartment. Breakfast sandwiches are always a good way to start a trip.

The flight was two hours and we settled in for another three-hour drive. Thankfully we got the music working in our cramped rental car and were able to enjoy the beautiful journey, climbing the Slovak mountains with ’80s throwbacks as our soundtrack.

There was six of us in total. Myself and my boyfriend Steve, an Irish couple Sorcha and Dan, our Slovakian pal Marik, and an Irish fella Jack. We found the Grand Hotel Permon at the end of an icy road set in the alpine village of Podbanské. Waking up to the view of the majestic Kriváň Mountain dominating the landscape and standing out amongst the peaks of the High Tatras was an amazing site.

Our time in Slovakia – The Spa

Slovakian Spa
Hotel Permon Spa Paradise, Photo credit: https://www.podbanskeresort.sk/en/

The spa itself was substantial, a maze of 33 different saunas/baths. We all planned to meet in the leisure centre at a certain hour and went our separate ways. After getting towels, wraps, and a bracelet key, Steve and I wandered into the spa with no idea where to go or what to do. Sadly the friendly woman at reception didn’t speak English so we weren’t able to understand any instructions she might’ve given us. Eventually, we figured out how to work the lockers, found the change rooms, and entered the pool area.

Lovely place, but it seemed to be missing a few facilities. There was a massive pool, one hot tub, and a small sauna. We went for a dip and argued amongst ourselves about where to find the rest of the attractions. I noticed a lot of people were only wearing the purple cloth wrap that was given out at reception, and they seemed to be disappearing down a mysterious staircase. We had a look and interpreted the signs. Staircase, fob key entrance, changing cubicle at the top, and no swimwear signs.

Au Naturel…

A little nervous, we knew what we had to do. We ditched our swimsuits, wrapped up in the purple cloth, and entered the promised land. Steve and I had been to a spa in Amsterdam where most facilities did not allow swimwear, but this was a little different. In Amsterdam, we knew no-one. This time in Slovakia, we were there with colleagues. Yikes.

Down the stairs there was a whole other world. Very dark lighting and the illusion of being underground, there was an abundance of saunas, aromatherapy rooms, tropical showers, and steam baths to choose from. I was in heaven. We came across a beautiful indoor “cave” pool, a dark space with star lights all across the ceiling. The perfect place for a leisurely swim.

“There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!”

There were a few hilarious moments on the trip. Sorcha and Dan didn’t realize until they were in the outdoor jacuzzi that swimwear wasn’t allowed. Dan thought he was being subtle and said to Sorcha, “Quick, take off your swimsuit!” He then proceeded to shimmy out of his shorts and ditch them over the ledge. Later in the evening we all got out of the hot tub and politely tried to cover up as quickly as possible, only to find our wraps had all completely frozen into tiny shapes. That was awkward.

Then there was the time Marik and Jack (also oblivious to the “No Swimwear” policy) wandered outside, stood on the porch and admired all the snow-covered facilities: a massive sauna, salt cave, jacuzzi, huge steam bath, and more. Suddenly Jack exclaimed: “There’s a man rolling around in the snow with his bollocks out!” That man was Dan. Everyone needed a few treatments to relax after the shock of that visual.

The infamous hot tub… Photo credit: https://www.podbanskeresort.sk/en/

Spa Etiquette

All joking aside, in the end the no swimwear policy wasn’t scary. Why the policy? The primary reason is hygiene. The point of using a sauna is to sweat out toxins from the body and clothing can block pores, trap sweat and carry bacteria. Everyone’s in the same boat and are too busy relaxing to notice others around them in an equally meditative state.

Our time in Slovakia - lava stone massage

Our time in Slovakia: The Numbers

Ryanair flight from Dublin to Bratislava: €71 return

Accommodation: We got a special all-inclusive package with Hotel Permon. Entrance to the spa, buffet dinner and breakfast, accommodation, €100pp/night.

Treatments:
Foot and leg massage (25 min) €14
Lava stone massage (45 min) €26
Whole body lymph drainage (90 min) €50
Full price list found here.

Thinking about visiting a European spa? Don’t be a Dan! Stay tuned for my top tips on spa etiquette.

Our time in Slovakia - spa weekend

Are you interested in 24 hour holidays? Check out 24 hour holiday: Top Five Ways to Spend Time in Edinburgh, Scotland

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There’s someone for everyone

I’ve been experiencing some strange encounters lately. I don’t like to say that people are “strange”, but it is the best word to describe the humans I’ve been coming in contact with.

Strange |strānj|
adjective
1 unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand : children have some strange ideas | he’s a very strange man | [with clause ] it is strange how things change.

My Saturday started off abnormally. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off, dreaming of Christmas music. As I stirred from my slumber I realized I wasn’t dreaming of Michael Buble crooning “I’ll be home for Christmas” – the music was drifting up the stairs. I got of bed (slowly, there was no hopping), opened the blinds, and was greeted by whiteness. Snow must’ve been falling all night because everything was covered, and it was still snowing. Yes I am I in Canada, and snow is normal here, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was beautiful, but it was MARCH 17 – St. Patrick’s Day. The weather had been getting nicer and it’s already in the 20s in Ontario, so I don’t think I was wrong in feeling like Mother Nature was being a tease. I am absolutely ready for spring weather and was a little annoyed at this minor setback. As I was getting ready for work N’Sync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” started playing, and let’s just say some shimmying and off-key belting occurred – hey, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to not feel alive when that song is playing, no matter what time of year. You might think this behaviour is “strange,” but trust me – if you know me well you’ll know that this is not unusual. So, I decided to embrace the festive spirit and continued listening to Christmas music on my drive to work.

My first table must’ve been an omen for the day. Three people decked out in denim on denim, heavy duty boots, and the two women with long straggly hair lumber in and the man calls out – “you serving yet?”

I greet their table with menus in hand, and right away they start shouting out their coffee orders, change their minds, then go back to what they originally asked. There was lots of awkward moments in which they avoided eye contact, spoke in a hurry, and they always seemed startled if I asked them how everything was going. An overall slightly awkward experience, but they were friendly and I was happy to serve them.

I had about an hour and a half between my shifts so I decided to grab a drink at Starbucks and curl up with a book. When you approach the counter there’s a separator between the cash register and the line up, with a sign clearly stating to line up on the right side of the separator. I jump in line behind a lady with the Cadillac of all strollers, and I find myself wondering how she’s possibly going to make the tight corner to pick up her drink after she’s placed her order. As I’m standing in line all of the sudden there’s a couple beside me, on the other side of the separator, debating about what to order. The woman, flailing her arms and pointing at the menu, is shouting, “oh there it is! They have it! Caramel macchiato. That’s what we had, right? No! No, mocha latte. It was a mocha latte!!” “Alright dear,” her husband replies, “that must be it. Let’s get in line.” “Oh! Yes, mocha latte. Or was it the cappuccino?” “I’m not sure but we can decide in line.” “Oh, I guess we should just get in line. Yes, yes, it was the mocha. Aren’t you so happy they have it here, Ralph?” “Yes, dear.” “I’m just so happy they have it. I really like…” Meanwhile, I’m wondering if one of them is slightly deaf. It would explain her speaking so loudly that everyone in the Starbucks, and probably those walking by outside, now knows that she loves mochas. The gentleman hobbled over to grab a seat, and of course he sits on a bench right beside the table I claimed with my bag. Why not? She continued to chatter on and on, saying things as he wasn’t listening, but I was called to the front to place my drink order.

After a kerfuffle which was me helping the woman in front of me navigate her mammoth stroller, the friendly Starbucks staff asks what I assumed was “A name for the order?” I couldn’t make out what he was saying because the woman behind me was still verbally processing the entire menu, but I was expecting him to ask me that so I responded with “Grace”. This news delighted the woman who was in front of me because her baby in the stroller is named Grace.

Eventually I sit down right beside Ralph, who has been wearing a Bluetooth the whole time. He turns to me, bares a slightly toothless grin, and says, “It’s so nice to sit down.” I smile and agree that it is, then open up my book. A few minutes later I know that the woman has her drinks before she’s anywhere near me because she starts shouting to her husband that she has them. She comes over and asks her husband if they’re going, to which he replies he’d like to sit a while. “Oh good, good, that sounds like a good plan. I just love whipped cream, don’t you? Can you believe they have the drinks we like? I just can’t believe it!” she says, clearly pleased with her purchases. I smile to myself because I understand how a good hot beverage can make your day. “I’m so excited about this game,” she says as she opens up a plastic bag and takes out a wrapped video game. “Oh! Yes, see here, it says it has levels so I already know I’m going to like it. I guess I should’ve taken it out and looked at this book while I was in the store?” “Yes, that probably would’ve worked,” he agreed. “Oh yes, yes, I can already tell I’m going to like it. So, can we go now dear?” “Not yet, I want to finish my drink.” “Oh, ok. I just know I’m going to like this game.”

Suddenly Ralph puts his hand to his ear and says “hello?” His wife said, “Who is it? Who is it?” “Oh, hi Steve,” Ralph says. “STEVE!” her voices raises an octave, “Tell Steve I say hi!” “Uh huh, uh huh,” “Tell Steve I say hi! Can you believe it? STEVE!” Now I’m curious as to what’s so great about Steve – superhero, model, makes great mochas… “Yep here she is,” Ralph says. “Oh, Steve wants to talk to ME? I’ve never used a Bluetooth before!” I watch in awe as the two of them try to set her up with the Bluetooth as she says multiple times over that she’s never used one before. Once it’s on her ear she yells “Steve! I was just saying I’ve never used a Bluetooth before! Yes. Listen Steve. You’ll never guess where we are! Starbucks!” Ralph try’s to tell his wife that she doesn’t need to yell, but she continues to anyways. Soon after she  starts yelling “Steve! Are you there! Dear, I can’t hear him. I’m left handed. It’s on the wrong ear. I need to switch ears because I’m left handed.” He patiently helps her switch ears, but she continues to struggle and eventually they just use the regular cell phone. I gather from her conversation that they’re going to meet Steve at his house on Monday at 10am, because they like to “sleep in, anyways.” She hangs up and repeats all of the information. Pauses for a seconds then says “Can we go now dear?” “I want to finish my coffee,” Ralph says for the umpteenth time. “Okay then.” Ralph asks her if there’s a washroom, and she replies that she doesn’t know. Ralph then promptly turns to me and asks if I know whether or not there’s a washroom, to which I reply “yes, there is actually. Right there,” I say with a point to the bathroom that is directly beside where we’re sitting.

He returns and she asks again if they can go. “I just want to talk to you,” she says as she lowers her voice to what is a normal restaurant speaking level. I’m wondering what it is she’s been doing all along then, but he seemed to understand what she meant.

After Ralph and his wife left I couldn’t help but feel fascinated by their relationship. As I stared at the falling snow through the window, all I could think was,

There’s someone for everyone.