Sunday, May 12, 2013

Conception

 The snow-capped mountains of Kaimaktsalan on an early May Sunday

God
Natural soaking in Europe tends to be a fringe activity: the closer to the fringe of what calls itself Europe, the better the chances of a real natural soak. 
And with real I mean not some over-medicalised, over-wellnessed place but a place where water gushes from the earth and where you can bathe in un-adultered H2O preferably in it's natural habitat.

Greek Macedonia is one of those European fringes and thankfully the geothermal god(s) (Poseidon? Amongst others he's the god of earthquakes ... Or Tethys, mother of springs?) are favouring the mountains of this gorgeous place of the world. 

Blessed with a fair doses of sun and welcoming natives there are still a few soaks to be had in natural and little enhanced bathing sites.

Forthcoming
And hot springs hardly come less spectacular than those of Loutra Pozar (sometimes known as Loutráki; note that a hot spring with the same name is located in Korinthia). Loutra Pozar is located in Edessa (Pella region, Greek Macedonia). 

Where the local stream enters from it's hiding place behind the high mountain cliffs of Kaimaktsalan there are a number of springs set alongside the swift flowing river.

The river itself is quite spectacular. Precautionally a number of man made waterfalls have been created each dropping about 5 meters at a time. This to let the river drop speed before it gushes onto the plains.

Under and aside of at least two of these falls, hot springs come forth. 

Stuff of what dreams are made of ...
The lowest of these two pools is surrounded by a restaurant complete with changing facilities where visitors must pay the 2€ entrance fee for use of the facilities and the better soaking pool. 
Inside the building are more bathing facilities (see below); but why come Trans Europe to soak in a chamber cell?

There is still nothing better than soaking in warm water with the river crushing down just meters away.

The next waterfall upstream has a non-enhanced more natural but smaller pool. Above this cataract and beyond the waterfall, a half size Olympic pool has been constructed with a packed terrace; this being Easter Sunday. Many a visitor seems to be more interested in soaking up the looks of potentials suitors ... Well sort of at least. Not my cup of tea.

Poolside: packed

Away from the hedonism, on the opposite bank is a small pool which after a little inspection proves to be a hot spring. No soakers taking an interest though ....
You think it's a hot spring?
Beyond all this though are the added wonders of near limitless tracks and trails heading up, in all directions along the valleys and up the still snow covered mountains (see above).

 
Great falls
After a mild walk we return to the smaller more natural pool and join others in the delight of soaking next to the gushing river. The noise of other visitors is drowned out by the crashing falls. This pool even has it's own massage jets, naturally powered!

Just big enough

If any comment would be required, it would be that there is an absence of pure natural outdoor soaking, as natural as possible of course ...

In general the soaking site is well laid out and neatly organised. There´s quite a lot of parking space. Near the first parking space is a small market where local produce is sold.
Mental
The best site for more info would be that of the organisation running this nice show but somehow their English is a bit scratchy. Example:
'A visitor takes care of personal physical and mental hygiene in the entrance of the outdoor pool Pozar, leaving the gurgling warm water to act with beneficial properties. Receives the therapeutic properties of spa water in the hot Pozar'.
The organisation is actually a local municipal set up, apparently:
'Since 1990 the spa has been under the administration of the communal enterprise "Loutra Loutrakiou Pellas" which nowadays is an immiscible [= 'Not forming a homogeneous mixture when added together'] municipal enterprise'.
This hotel web-site has the following information to add:
'The temperature of the thermal water baths in Pozar, at the 6 main hot springs is 37 degrees Celsius. One can enjoy the water in one of the specially formed private swimming pools (privet spa), internal steam spas or at one of the also internal 40 bathtubs. The adventurous ones [?] can make use of the large outdoor pool with hot, running, spa water during both winter and summer.
For the even more daring ones, the countless waterfalls with running healing waters along the riverside and the 5 natural lakes where the hot water steams from the ground create the perfect setting for relaxation through a natural hydromassage'.
Note the many ways to sell a hot spring to the public. Locally Alex is a hot selling topic:
'Immerse yourself into natural therapeutic waters as Alexander the Great did over 2.500 years ago. The Loutrá complex has adopted a modern luxurious spa profile offering invigorating therapies for your body and soul.
The Pózar Thermal Baths boast two modern hydrotherapy centres: the one comprises 48 private thermal baths, 2 indoor pools and 2 private hamams, whereas the other, founded in 2005, boasts 6 modern beautifully decorated private thermal bathing pools with artificial waterfalls.
Visit also the outdoor facilities of Pózar Baths: let the sparkling waters of the waterfalls flow through your body, or go for underwater swimming in the big outdoor thermal pool. No matter how cold the weather is, the water temperature remains steadily at 37°C!'
More info:
'Recommended for rheumatic, dermatological, gynecological, and respiratory and circulatory system conditions, the hot springs of Pózar are beneficiary for everybody’s health and well-being not just while bathing in them, but also when drinking their water. Still, that’s just half as natural and healthy as you can go'.
Tripadvisor rates this a five star attraction, based on 9 reviews ... That's not bad ...

There's also quite a few youtube vdo's out there, here's an example.

Note this visitor report:
'Nevertheless, most of the visitors drive up here to enjoy the warm water and majestic surroundings and it is common knowledge that hundreds of local children were conceived in this romantic setting'.
What else?
Besides the already mentioned hiking trails, a quick day visit to Loutra Pozar may be combined with a visit to the spectacularly located town of Edessa. Perched on a slab of mountain high above the eastern plains Edessa is wellknown for it´s waterfalls; the local river dissects the town and drops off the plateau on the edge of town.

 
Edessa drop off

Elsewhere in the same region are the hot springs of Loutrohori. More info on these:
'Further south and some 20 kilometers from Edessa lays the village of Loutrohori, which is also adorned with hot springs of water rich in minerals such as sulfur. Their healing qualities are recommended for skin diseases, rheumatisms or arthritis'.
p.s. Artemis is actually the protector of hot springs ... (source)

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