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The story of the spa – (S)paradise story

The story of the spa – (S)paradise story

The history of the spa begins many thousands of years ago as a favorite habit of the most famous cultures. From the Mesopotamians, Egyptians and Minoans, to the Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, the spa experience was aimed at improving health, spiritual upliftment and philosophical relaxation, just as it is today.


The spa in the Classical Age

Σύμφωνα με τον Όμηρο και τους κλασικούς συγγραφείς, οι Αρχαίοι Έλληνες ήδη από το 500 π. Χ «βυθίζονταν» στα πολυάριθμα δημόσια λουτρά τα οποία επισκέπτονταν καθημερινά, όπως ήταν η «λακωνική», ένα από τα πρώτα spaμε ζεστό νερό. Το 25 π. Χ στα χρόνια του Αυτοκράτορα Αγρίππα σχεδιάστηκε το πρώτο ρωμαϊκό spa, η λεγόμενη «θερμή», η οποία με τα χρόνια γινόταν μεγαλύτερη και πιο εντυπωσιακή σύμφωνα με τις εντολές των Ρωμαίων αυτοκρατόρων, οι οποίοι ήθελαν να ξεπεράσουν τους προκατόχους τους σε πολυτέλεια και ανέσεις, κατασκευάζοντας τα πρώτα ολοκληρωμένα κέντρα spaσε πολλές περιοχές της αυτοκρατορίας. Τα πρώτα health clubs διέθεταν γήπεδα για αθλητικές δραστηριότητες, εστιατόρια, μεγάλη ποικιλία σε λουτρά, ανάμεσα στα οποία ξεχώριζαν τα «θερμά δωμάτια», όπου οι Ρωμαίοι απολάμβαναν μασάζ και spa με αιθέρια olive, δωμάτια ανάπαυσης ενώ σε μερικές περιπτώσεις υπήρχε και βιβλιοθήκη.


From the Japanese Ryoken to the Turkish Hammam

Although the philosophy of the modern spa has its roots in the Roman Empire, many of the types and treatments practiced today are less Western in origin. The first hot spring outside Roman territory was found in 737 AD in Japan near the Izumo area. A few centuries later, the first Ryoken was built there, where the Japanese, in addition to spa treatments in outdoor baths, enjoyed a quality stay with good food in beautiful Zen gardens. A few years later the first saunas appeared in the Baltic, specifically in Finland, in 1000 AD, starting a tradition that Finns remain faithful to today, excreting tons of sweat in wooden canopies or swimming in frozen lakes with plenty of beer and vodka. Another people who gave their own dimension to the spa were the Ottomans. Marble hammams with elaborate mosaics, such as the famous Roxelana Bath built in 1556, are still a favorite custom of the most traditional Turks. In the hammams, in addition to the huge steaming rooms, the Turks lay on the marble platforms for their traditional massage.


The Spa is coming to Europe

The reputation of spas began to spread in Western Europe during the time of Charlemagne. Natural spas around hot springs began to become popular in the Middle Ages, while the Renaissance saw some of the most famous natural springs with healing properties, such as Mount Paeffers in Switzerland, Baden Baden in Germany, and the British city of Bath. The first scientific book on the healing properties of the spa will be written in 1522 by a Czech expert, while in 1890 a German priest will claim that he has found the way to cure diseases with the spring water. However, spa fashion has also experienced decline. In 1350 an outbreak of communicable diseases put a "lockdown" on all European public baths, while in 1538 France destroyed all spas in a desperate attempt to stop the syphilis epidemic that was plaguing the people.


Spa in made in USA

The commercialization of spas began in the US in the 1850s. The luxurious facilities of Saratoga Springs in New York City became the chic retreat of poet Edgar Allan Poe and Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Red Door Salon was the first day spa opened in Manhattan by famed beautician Elisabeth Arden in 1910 and provided full beauty services including manicures and facials and body treatments. The first destination spa, Rancho la Puerta, opened its doors in California, while in 1958 the pioneering Golden Door Spa opened for its time, offering personalized slimming services. This was followed by the first fitness spa, also in California, while the latest trend appeared in 1997 with medical spas, where spa treatments are combined with classical medicine in an environment of unparalleled luxury.


A global habit

Nowadays spa fashion is one of the symbols of mainstream culture. They influence and often determine the course of fields such as fashion, cosmetology, architecture, interior design and gastronomy. The modern lifestyle dictates it and the intense rhythms of everyday life make it imperative for those who never stop looking for real peace.


Eleni Karatza


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