Every year, on the first weekend in June, the oldest and largest thermal spa in Croatia – Varaždinske Toplice revives its rich ancient history.
It was on these slopes, in the 1st century, that the Romans discovered a source of sulfur thermal water that springs at a depth of almost two kilometres, and in this place built an elite Roman spa and settlement known as Aquae Iasae for high-ranking members of the Roman army, and temples dedicated to Minerva, Juno and Jupiter.
Numerous inscriptions, sculptures and reliefs, jewellery and 17,000 Roman coins were found at the archeological site, which the Romans inserted into the “holy spring” from the 1st to the 4th century as votive gifts to Nymphs – demigodly young girls of incredible beauty.
AQUA FEST is a unique cultural event in this part of Europe. For the 15th year in a row, Varaždinske Toplice, at one of the oldest archeological sites in Croatia – Aquae Iasae, the first weekend in June opens its doors to Roman legions, gladiatorial fights, Roman games, lectures and creative workshops, and the special interest of the audience, attract stage spectacles at the Roman Forum performed by artists, actors, musicians, associations, volunteers, and lovers of this time, reconstruct the old Roman customs – the Sacrifices of the Cast and the Burnt, the Sacrifices of Diana Luna, the Legion formations and faithful depictions of gladiatorial battles.
The gastronomic offer is also indispensable, so during the Aqua Fest visitors enjoy the menu of the ancient Romans. Aqua Fest is a special experience for the youngest visitors, where they can make toys from natural materials, jewellery, mosaic, weave antique wreaths, paint pebbles, fight with wooden swords and scutums (Roman shields) and briefly become little Romans.
Check out how Varaždinske Toplice revived the ancient past at the AQUA FEST MMXXII in the gallery of photos below.
Thermal water – its treasure and the potential for Croatian tourism heard at international conference at Varaždinske Toplice
How much of a treasure is the thermal water, what are the possibilities for the development of balneological tourism in Varaždinske Toplice, the potential of this region for the improvement of tourism and the adoption of a transformative model were just some of the topics of the 4th international conference Thermal water yesterday, today, tomorrow, which took place on Friday, 3 June in the Roman basilica of the archeological site Aquae Iasae in Varaždinske Toplice.
Local and foreign experts and a representative of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe spoke at the meeting.
Attendees also had the opportunity to get to know Budapest, the main SPA destination in the world, below which there are as many as 180 springs. Szilvia Czinege pointed out that they often use the thermal baths as a kind of museum, and three thermal baths are more than 500 years old. In this segment, they have built a large part of their tourist offer, on which they sometimes base entire promotional campaigns.
It is worth mentioning that Varaždinske Toplice recently became a proud member of the European Historical Thermal Towns Association (EHTTA).
Tatjana Horvatić from Croatia’s Ministry of Culture and Media spoke about the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, and in order for a city to become a member, its value should be relevant for at least 3 countries. Svažić referred to thermal springs as a factor in the development of the destination.
Connection, or integration is very important, mentioning one Croatian cosmetics firm that uses thermal water from a Croatian source as well as Aquae Vivae from Krapinske Toplice, which further “used” thermal water to greenhouses and is used in agriculture.
Naftalan from Ivanić Grad is another location that uses the benefits of thermal water and he emphasised that there is a great balneological and geothermal potential in Croatia.
Dr.sc. Jadran Antolović commented on the economic value of the archeological site, where it is extremely important to preserve the existing and create new values.
He also suggests connecting educational programs with the archeological site, organising on site workshops, as well as workshops for visitors, who are no longer passive observers.
It is also important to connect activities, such as health tourism with the gastro segment or gastro with the historical segment, because in this way the guest gets an experience.
Dr.sc. Romana Lekić emphasised the notion of transformative tourism, in which profit is less important and social and moral values more important, with the host-guest relationship coming to the fore. In doing so, values such as friendship, respect and love for life are promoted as basic elements of tourism practice.
New tourist models use the narrative and morphology of a fairy tale, the tourist, by integrating into tourist programs, temporarily transforms into a new person, and tourism becomes his stage. New interesting stories can be created with stories related to plants, themed trails and accommodation facilities (small hotels, camps, glampings). Tourism is the only phenomenon that can create an experience from the intangible and consequently generate large revenues.
Creative tourism is experiencing an increasing rise through the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, and the latest research shows an increase in interest in health and anti-stress tourism, as well as in naturism and Robinson Crusoe style tourism.
Croatia is among the 30 countries richest in water in the world, while India is one of the countries with the worst water shortage crisis. Slovenia has constitutionally protected the right of citizens to drinking water.
The meeting was closed with a lecture by Spomenka Vlahović, director of the Homeland Museum of Varaždinske Toplice, who took those present to some ancient Roman times and introduced them to the sacrificial and ritual customs that have long been applied in the beautiful Aqua Iasae.
Attendees also enjoyed the presentation of former Roman forms such as libum (sacrificial bread), Isicia omentata (Roman burger) and bruschettas of Emperor Constantine, as well as homemade juices from acacia, lavender and elderberry.
In addition to the professional gathering, the festival was completed by a procession of Romans, Diocletian’s Legion program, gladiatorial fights, children’s workshop, concert “Water” by Vesna Matana Matić and Sabina Miška, fair of indigenous products, screening of the documentary Elves Bilalić’s Waterways and interactive workshop mythological archetypes of Romana Lekić.