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Europe's Thermal Water Spas
By: Caroline Rushworth
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the June 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Hungary’s topography has made the region a veritable hotbed of thermal waters, providing the country with more than a thousand hot springs. Here, the Earth’s crust is naturally thin, allowing thermal water to rise easily to the surface.
Whether due to a strong cultural belief in water’s healing attributes or the fact that spas and bathhouses are so abundant, the denizens of Hungary and abroad flock to Budapest and its surrounding cities to relax and soothe their bodies. Treatments range from galvanic baths—in which a mild electric current is transported via the water into the body, to parafango—a treatment mask of paraffin and peat applied onto the skin.
The western coast of France is the country’s epicenter of hydrotherapy—especially Brittany, which boasts a soaring number of spa tourists. The birthplace of thalassotherapy, the province’s marine climate and sea air long have been thought to renew health. However, the water most often is obtained directly from the English Channel, resulting in an abundance of mineral salts, trace elements and living matter, such as phytoplankton.
Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician who often is referred to as the father of medicine, frequently is credited with discovering the therapeutic properties of seawater by noting its healing effects on the injured hands of fishermen. Seawater not only keeps infection at bay, but patients who utilize seawater treatments find that they promote pain relief. In addition, sea salt therapy is believed to assist in the rejuvenation of skin cells, promoting a healthy exchange of minerals and toxins between the blood and water.
Italy is rife with volcanic phenomena and packed with a dense network of groundwater channels. In northeastern Italy, many spas have developed on the slopes of the Euganei Hills in Veneto—volcanic highlands where numerous hot water springs surge. Mud therapy is the most common form of treatment recommended for rheumatic illnesses and respiratory problems. The spa of Abano Terme has nearly 2 million visitors a year, with half of those being tourists from abroad.