Sunday, July 30, 2017

Growth

Hot spring hunting continues 😱☺️ I think this one is my absolute favorite! Soaking in warm water with this view 👌🏼 #Iceland
Let's start this news update with what seems a totally unnatural situation. 

Iceland's Blue Lagoon hot spring is the epitome of unnaturalness as it comprises thermal waters discarded from a nearby geothermal power plant to cool down. From a ramshackle state of affairs it's evolved to be the icon of soaking and a symbol of Iceland. Heavily touristed, if anything it proves that soaking is popular way to pass time and stands as a question of why not elsewhere in Europe.

Now financial pundits have been putting a value on  the Blue Lagoon? 96 million $US has been offered for a 30% stake in Blue Lagoon. So reports Think Geoenergy (Jul. 12). That's a hefty sum for what's essentially a large pool with free geothermal hot water and a hotel restaurant connected.
'The growth of the Blue Lagoon has been enormous in recent years. There was no change last year, but the company’s income totalled EUR 77.2 million (ISK 10.3 billion, or around $81 million), based on the average exchange rate of the euro in 2016, increasing by more than 43 percent between years. In 2012, the Blue Lagoon’s income in comparison amounted to only EUR 25 million. For the first time, the number of visits reached over a million last year, with 1,122,000 visitors to the Blue Lagoon in 2016, about 200,000 more than the previous year. Revenues from bath guests amounted to about EUR 45 million, or about 58 percent of the Blue Lagoon’s total income'.
It shows that there's big money to be had in the soaking biz and understandably such would initiate a scramble elsewhere to seek likewise financial gains. With the exception of Iceland itself, little modernization is taking place in Europe, so we may be spared; the old and poorly developed hot soaks remaining. But for how long?

Morning shower at a secret hot spring waterfall somewhere in Iceland ;) #hotspring #visiticeland #secrethideaway
More on extinction. 
Love or not (I do), soaking and nudity often go hand-in-hand. 
However a CityLab report (Apr. 21) focuses on Germany's love of nakedness and questions it's vitality:
'Nudity, or Freikörperkultur, has long been a part of public life in Germany. Can it withstand an era of increasing globalization and tech?
...
... social and technological change is reshaping habits, and locations for public nudity are being regulated by law. Cameraphones and social media are chipping away at naturists’ sense of their own anonymity, while tourism and Germany’s growing multiculturalism are affecting popular attitudes in complex ways.
...
Naked bathing was once the rule across much of Europe, when people regularly bathed naked in rivers and lakes, albeit often segregated by sex. Indeed, the casualness of the way the medieval manuscript the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry shows French peasants warming themselves before a fire suggests attitudes radically different from today’s. In Germany, nude bathing became somewhat taboo towards the end of the 18th century—but elsewhere, such as in the under-populated countryside of Scandinavia, the practice never fully died out'.
marcoprofino.tumblr with modern day possibilities to enjoy natural thermal hot waters naturally:
Nice wellness place near Munich in Germany, Therme Erding.
There you can swim naked, enjoy in awesome sauna world as well as in massage and spa time
So since the 18th century, swimming and bathing nude has always been a fringe activity with possibly the exception of West Berlin and the former East Germany. Exceptions have been so-called sauna worlds (photo above) where tradition (and hygiene) dictates clotheslessness though even here small cracks are letting the clothed in.

If the above is the future (let's face it: there are more of us with more free time and we are getting more multi-cultural (with distinct shades of conservatism)), I'd prefer to stay in the now. 
If only to offer future choices, it requires us to maintain the advances of humanity and to protect the few bastions left offered from the clothing onslaught. Or am I being unnecessarily pessimistic?

Destruction
My next item is a blog from Mandmtravelllers who have been trolling some lesser known areas of Southeast Europe. 
For instance they find the hot springs of Permet (Albania) not so hot (Jun. 27):

They also visit the Greek hot springs near Thermoplyae (Jun. 6).

'There is a strong smell of sulfur and therefore we decide not to take swimsuits to destroy them and go only in panties and shirts. Nobody is here. It looks like everyone is just going to the waterfall at the parking lot ... ... as if no one knew about it. The better for us. So we have privacy and I can be up without ... without shyness: DThe whole pond and only for us! Private Spa - Do not disturb!'

Bulgaria (May 26) I believe and I guess Southwest Bulgaria; apparently translation was not yet introduced on the blog.






And Kalmeny (Slovakia, Apr. 18):















All in all a nice overview of some of what remains before the developers (and /or hordes?) move in. Funny, hordes refers to Mongol / Tartar invasion forces of Eastern Europe (Wikipedia).

Cure All
Reykjavik Grapevine (Apr. 18) reports on what it calls Seaweed city:
'It’s [green seaweed powder] also used at Sjávarsmiðjan: a lo-fi seaweed spa dreamt up by an enterprising local named Svanhildur and her husband Tómas. “It was 2011 when we decided to try this,” says Svanhildur, as she prepares us a seaweed bath back in the town. “We have a lot of hot water here—it’s used for the houses and the swimming pool, but I was thinking of using it for healthy things. This house was built by my husband’s father—we put these two tubs here to test the idea.”
...
“When it’s clear you can see the Snæfellsjökull glacier from the tub,” says Svanhildur. “We’ve had some great responses from people who camp here in the summer. Next, we will get a new spa by the seaside. We hope to start building it next year—we’re saving money, and talking to investors.”
It's a very interesting concept, find more info at sjavarsmidjan.is. Icelandmagazine (Jun. 7, 2016) has an article on the same:
'Landowners in the small village of Reykhólar, in the South Westfjords on the north coast of Breiðafjörður bay, are planning to construct a large geothermally heated seaweed spa and bath, offering travelers the opportunity to relax in warm water by the edge of the water'.
So plans have not yet taken off? 

Iceland Monitor (May 8) reports on the introduction of beer baths in Iceland:
'Kaldi brewery in Árskógssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.
...
There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.
According to Sigurðadóttir [CEO] bookings are going well even though they haven’t opened yet, she points out most people are interested in doing something different'. 


An Icelandic beer bath of sorts?  bmar101:
#Landbrotalaug #Hotsprings #Iceland
August 2016
Likewise you could also use clay for a bath. I found this on clay baths from 2015 (May 11) on the clay of Pelakas beach, Corfu, Greece:
'In Greece, you don’t have to go to the spa for a fancy clay mask. You can just walk down the beach.
In the town of Pelekas, on the island of Corfu, there are pockets of clay hidden beneath rocks at the edge of the sea, just a short walk from the pier.
We heard locals rave about the clay’s exfoliating, detoxifying, and cooling benefits and decided to give it a try. The best way, they said, was to break the clay off in big chunks, water it down, and rub it on your skin.
We covered ourselves from head to toe and lay in the sand to watch the clay dry, feeling as relaxed and tranquil as any spa day with a better view.
The clay felt immediately cool and damp on our sun-soaked skin. As it hardened, we felt our skin tingle and tighten, freezing our faces in straight expressions and cracking wide when we laughed.
The best part?
Jumping in the sea naked and washing it off.
Isak Dinesen had it right: “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”
More clay baths, on the island of Menorca, Spain. bmamores 
Negrita tropical🙌👳 #calacavellaria#fang#argila#benbruta#bañosdebarro
A year later the same author visits little known salt baths on the Algarve, Portugal; an equally compelling destination.

Bang
A classical concert  at Viterbo's (Lazio, Italy) Bullicame hot spring source (reported here at Tusciaweb, Jul. 8) was set to end with fireworks.
 Whether or not that happened, what they may not have been counting on is the lamentations of Bullicame's Association president. 
 In Lafune (Jul. 12) he jots down the facts why this special place is not so special anymore as private thieves are somehow getting away with siphoning all it's waters.

And then the real fireworks. Lafune.eu (Jul. 29) reports on advances being made as hopes of restoring Bullicames waters are raised. Local officials are sticking their necks out and are supporting a plan which would see better distribution of Viterbo's thermal waters between a number of private operators and (partial) public concerns.

Coming up soon, some original entries on hots springs on Italy's island of Pantelleria. Warming ourselves up by this:

3 paperelle
#scauri #pantelleria #acquecalde
   
Hunt
An Icelandic soak-off (Reykjavik Grapevine, Jun. 26):
'Iceland is dotted with wild, natural geothermal hot pots. They’re diverse and eccentric in nature—each one is different, whether a converted sheep bath with piped-in water, a warm river, or a naturally occurring pot for two. You should be prepared to use your GPS to locate them, as many aren’t signposted; remember to respect the environment by leaving them as you found them, and show sensitivity to the privacy of others if there’s another car in the parking lot. Also, please don’t lose your shit in the comments section because we’re not “giving anything away”, all of these pots are well documented in books, magazines and websites. With that in mind, let the hot pot hunt commence…'.
Featuring  8 hot pots.

World of Flossy reports on a snowy trip on Iceland (Jan. 21). Includes hot pots.
'Visiting Iceland in winter is magical and we delighted in seeing beautiful nature covered in a white carpet of snow. When it is cold outside, there is no better time to enjoy an Icelandic hot spring'.
Landbrotalaug was our favourite natural hot spring in Iceland.

A guide to hidden hot springs in Iceland by asideofthesweet (Jul. 7):
'Looking back, I think these hot springs visits will be some of our best memories of Iceland. Each one was completely different and beautiful in its own way. One was at the base of a mountain, one was a tiny hot pot just big enough for two people, one was a misty green wonderland right out of a fairytale and of course there was Iceland’s most famous (and not secret) Blue Lagoon'.
Two Travel Itineraries soaking in Iceland:
Swimming in a natural hot spring on a mountain, just the two of us! Such an amazing experience :p
More ratings from the same source (Apr. 7), but this time of Reykjaviks swimming pools with it's swim waters geothermally originated and heated.

Comments on the 6 step guide to swimming in Iceland (IloveReykjavik, Dec. 26, 2014) go on forever and seem increasingly far-fetched. Not all though, here's a recent query and answer:
Q: 'My wife and I would like to visit pools in Reykj. that allow nudity. Are there any? Can you suggest some? Or other places to enjoy skinnydipping? Anybody else have suggestions? Thanks so much!'
A:'There are no pools in Iceland that allow complete nudity. Women can go topless but it’s not something that is normally done so you’d get a lot of stares probably. It’s quite common that people skinny dip in the natural pools though'.
Finally, some (lesser) news. The special rambling hot spring of Hrunulaug is charging (voluntarily) it's visitors (Instagram Jul. 10).

Worthy the contribution? michellesnots at Hrunulaug
 I rate Iceland as the #1 best place to PMS. #hrunalaug #naturalpool #hotspring #nature #travel #adventure #selfie #portrait #iceland
Normal
Found a website on northeastern Greek hot springs; emtgreece presents the 8 hot springs of the region. It limits itself to those within it's administrative borders thus you are missing those closer to Thessaloniki.

getnakedgreece at Loutra Pozar, northern Greece, closer to Thessaloniki: 
#baths #loutra #pozar #greece #ellada #nudist #naturism #naturist #getyournudeon #getnaked #getnakedgreece #freedom #loveyourbody #explorenaked #outdoors #adventuer #normalisenudity
An interesting tumblr entrance on budapestbug on the Kiraly baths:
'A bath without hotspring - Kiraly bath Budapest
Király Bath is the only thermal bath of Budapest, which was not built over a hot spring. Moreover, the only bath, which was really built by Turks. A widespread belief, that bathing culture arrived with the Ottoman Reign to Hungary, though thermal baths existed far more before, already in the Roman times, and later also in tne 13th century (on the place of Sait Luke’s, Rudas, Gellert and Racz bathes)'.
Termas de Caldeiras (island of Sao Miguel, Acores, Portugal) seems to have got it's act together. They seem to be offering massage / wellness as well as the possibility to take a swim (below):


I wasn't lucky, I deserved it
Apparently in business since beginning of the year (they only have a Facebook page), Tripadvisor reviews have been diverse:
'We cannot recommend this "spa" to other tourists as it was overall very disappointing and dirty'. 
'... bad vibes there are places far more beautiful to get a SPA go to Furnas that's magic !! and cheaper !'
'Amazing place for relaxing'.
Authentic
Finally, when researching hot springs one comes across some gems of information. I've never heard of Peter of Eboli. Apparently he wrote what is considered as the first guide to thermal bathing (12th / 13th century) otherwise known as 
De Balneis Puteolanis ("The Baths of Pozzuoli").
According to Wikipedia, the guide focuses on hot springs of southern Italy. Though it actually describes the benefits of thermal bathing in the current neighbourhood of Naples, Pozzuoli. A plate from the book:


A current day experience (though still from 2012) from A Long way from home:
'The Pozzuoli region of Naples is situated upon whats known as the Campi Flegrei, of Phlegrean Fields, a volcanic caldera, lying mostly underwater, comprised of over 24 craters and volcanic edifices. In the Campi Flegrei, there are areas along the sea where natural, hot volcanic steam will heat underground seawater and it will make its way out to the surface like a spring.
...
Now when I say the words “thermal spa,” lots of things come to mind. Maybe beautiful, cavern-like springs a short walk from the sand… or weathered volcanic rock pools on the beach at the foot of a cliff, filled with hot water, with steam rising off the surface… uhhh no. Where we ended up was a far cry from any of these things. We arrived at Lido lo Scoglio, or “the rock beach,” to find that unlike a luxurious spa, it felt much more like a weathered campground complex. 
...
So then we get outside, and right in front of me are 3 jacuzzi size pools, side by side, filled with hot, cloudy brown water and more dudes. At first sight, a hot salty seawater wave of horror came over me.
....
You know that feeling you get when you know you made a great decision? Yeah. 
...
Nando claimed the thermal seawater had healing powers, and I believe it – Chris & Scott were nursing some rough hangovers that morning, and by the time we were leaving the spas, you’d swear those two were resurrected back to life. I know I was a million times more relaxed (so relaxed that much later that evening, I fell off my bike and scraped up my leg and elbows, but thats a whole other story.) As we start to leave, Nando turns to me with a big grin on his face and says, “I’m glad you liked it! Its funny because it looks kind of like a shithole, but once you start to enjoy it, you begin to love it here!” I couldn’t agree more. Lido lo Scoglio was definitely a hidden gem only the locals posess, and had we not had open minds and the opportunity to experience it to the fullest with Nando, we would have totally missed out. I’m pretty sure we were the only Americans they’ve had there all year, and we were sort of a novelty to lots of people we met that day, since Italians love to practice their English with Americans whenever they get the chance. Often I write about places you absolutely must see if you ever visit Naples, but I’m not going to say that this time. The notion of “communal baths” is relatively new and sometimes strange to Americans in comparison to those of other countries – from ancient Rome to present day Japan, communal or public baths have not only been used for therapeutic reasons, but also as places to meet and socialize for thousands of years. As an American, and I consider myself an open-minded one at that, I can say that this experience is definitely not for everyone, specifically anyone that has a fear of a little dirt here and there, people who are afraid of being in water where you can’t see the bottom or anyone who suffers from claustrophobia or are generally uncomfortable with the constant invasion of your own personal space… yeah, you know who you are… this isn’t for you. But hey, if you think you can get over your personal qualms with it all & do as the Neapolitans do, give it a go – the “beauty in the mess” at Lido lo Scoglio is a perfect example of what it really means to be Neapolitan; I’d be hard pressed to say I’ve had a more authentic experience than this yet.   
Lido di Nerone / mytravelblog.it

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Possible

Sascha has taken it upon himself to travel to the northern Greek island of Samothraki (Samothrace, Σαμοθράκη), an island still largely untouched by the mass tourism which thrives on many other Greek islands. Lacking an airport, Samothraki's rugged, mountainous and sparsely populated nature serves as the main attraction to those willing to take the roads less travelled. 
Hot springs feature, but are apparently no comparison to the islands waterfalls. But maybe I should let Sascha tell his tale first.

Expectations
Samothraki has 4 natural thermal pools that are very close together near the town Therma on Samothraki Island. 

Depending on your residence, the trip to the island can be long, therefore, the trip should be considered as part of the holiday. Maybe because of the difficult access, the island is not well known in Western Europe. This is rather positive because the touristic infrastructure is rather on a low level and cannot cope with tourist masses. 
I started from Düsseldorf Airport with a direct flight to Kavala. It is advisable to rent a car and drive to Alexandropoulis where the ferry starts once a day to Samothraki. The car hire is much cheaper (around 160 per week) than renting a car on the island which is around 80 per day. Alexandropoulis offers some comfortable hotels if you were not able to catch the ferry on the same day. 
After 2h40 you reach the island and after 15 minutes by car you finally reach the village of Therma. 

Therma is close to the mountains and offers beautiful forests, fabulous waterfalls and the hot springs. In a review I would say, the waterfalls (with drinkable water) are more spectacular than the hot springs, but they are in any case worth the travel. Some hostels are around the market place as well as in the surroundings of the village. Do not expect 5 star hotels on the island; accommodation is rather simple and easy.

Crushed
Concerning the hot springs, you come first to the official building with a pool inside. Opening hours are in the morning and in the evening from 18:00 to 21:00 but in June the building was still closed and opens apparently only in the high season. 
 

On the left side of the official building is the old thermal pool building which gives free access (photo above). I only checked the temperature and took some pictures because some party people crushed some glass bottles around the pool.


On the same side you find the real source as well as the source with drinkable hot mineral water. Be careful, some wesp nests are close by.






Varied
To find the open air and free hot springs, you have to take the gravel road on the right side from the official building. After 200m, on your right side a small path goes down to the first pool. The temperature varies a lot, at the days of my visit, it varied between 40°C-43°C. The water comes out of the spring at 52°C and locals told me that on some days the pool is too hot to soak in, but in winter it is too cold to soak because of the reduced water in-flow. Probably June was a perfect month, also because the tourist masses of July and August had not arrived yet.


One of the advantages of this pool is that it is around 1m deep, so that a real soak is possible. The pool is clean and of concrete which means it is clean without algae but with a strong sulphur smell. Unfortunately, the concrete surrounding takes away the beautiful view to the sea when you are inside the pool.
 
Absolutely recommended is to soak in the early morning. When your body gets really hot, take the car, drive down to the beach (about a 2 minute drive) and cool down in the sea. If you want to socialize with other tourists or hippies, better soak in the evening.


Recommended
If you continue the gravel road until the left turn (about 100m further up), you see on the right side three other pools, also made of concrete but this time you have a great view to the sea. It is foreseen only to put the legs in the pools but it is also possible to soak inside.


Water temperature of pool 1: 34°C, pool 2: 38°C and pool 3 (with algae): 34°C. 
This is the right place if you want to stay for hours in the pool but protect yourself during the day against the strong sunshine. 
Naked soaking is possible but I recommend it rather in the morning …


Conception
Thanking Sascha for the above I've looked up on internet if there's more to add. The Greek official tourism site, visitgreece notes:
'The thermal springs of Therma, Samothraki are located 15 km away from Kamariotissa, at the port of the island.
Known since the Byzantine period, the thermal springs have therapeutic effects for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic rheumatic conditions, gynecological conditions, peripheral angiopathies, secondary skin conditions and obesity. Visitors will find a spa with group and individual baths. A study for the creation of a new spa center is currently being conducted'.
One of Greece's best sources of hoot spring info (though also slightly outdated), greece-islands.us writes on three hot springs near Therma:
'Therma
According to tradition, Olympiad conceived Alexander the Great in Therma. This rumor still attracts women who can't have children today. The springs were built in 1981. They have two basins (or more like pools), one for each gender, and 13 individual basins, 8 of which are relatively new. There are also two old tanks, one of which is used to cool the water (197o F).
How will you get there? Therma is about 14 kilometers away from the Kamariotissa harbor. The way there is a rather enjoyable ride. The public springs facilities are at the end of the settlement, across the bus stop.
Where will you stay? There are two camps. There are also hotels and rooms to let.
So, here it goes. Take a bath in the "pools". The water is bright, salty and with a feeble odor of sulphurated hydrogen. The temperature is about 98-100o F. The pools are in a good condition and there are stands where you can rest around. The springs are open from June 1st to October 20th.
Pigi Frikion (Freak Spring) Climbing up the dirt road to the hill of Psarotherma, you'll find a spring on your right side. The water supplies two basins, one of which is open-air (the other one is roofed with a cement closet. The water is rather warm. The spring is one of the most popular ones in Samothraki, the Freak Spring. Elderly people avoid this spring; perhaps because of the high temperatures
So, here it goes. It's worth a try. The water is rather hot in the open-air basin (140o F), while in the other one it's just hot (105-120o F). It's salty and the atmosphere is kind of heavy due to the sulphurated hydrogen. The basin at the closet can fit up to 2-4 people.
Pigi Podoloutron, Psarotherma Just above the Therma spring, you will find another three open-air basins if you climb up the dirt road and look for them to your right. Two of these have water. This place is the elderly hang-out spot. The basins are shallow and the visitors sit around the bench and place their feet in the water.
So, here it goes. The water is dim, with just enough sulphur. The water is renewed, it takes about 15 minutes for the basins to be filled again. The temperature is pretty good too'.
A statement to Samothraki's hot springs: Tripadvisor's Things to do on the island does not include these. Though 3 waterfalls are listed.
There's a good video of all three hot springs  of Therma on youtube.
A blog on the hot springs in Greek from 2009 with great pictures of all the soaking sites.

To finish I've included a photo of how nice a night time soak may well be on Samothraki:

"You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself."
— Ella Maillart

#tobyintheworld#behappybefreevagabond#latergram#samothraki

Euro soaks visited