"Roman Baths" in Contemporary Spa Tourism
Keywords:spa tourism, health resorts, architecture, Roman baths
The commercialisation of images and symbols from antiquity, so characteristic of Slovenia since its independence, has been reflected over the last decade in spa tourism as well. Since the great crises in the sixties, and especially since the eighties, fifteen Slovene natural health resorts have concentrated on developing wellness and activities programs. This change in orientation has been accompanied by renovations, an expansion of the water surfaces and capacities, and new wellbeing, wellness, spirituality and beauty programs. An analysis of Slovene spas, wellness centres and hotel web pages shows that they frequently offer rooms, usually saunas, which are imitations of the Roman baths. These rooms are usually called "Roman saunas", "Tepidarium", "Caldarium", and "Roman-Irish baths". At Terme Ptuj, Zdravilišče Laško, Šmarješke Toplice, Grand Hotel Palace in Portorož, and Terme Čatež, saunas have been built or renovated in the Roman style. This trend of Roman rooms is a novelty, less than a decade old in Slovenia. The first sauna with a Roman theme, a Roman-Irish bath, was opened in 1997 in the Health and Beauty Centre at Terme Čatež.
Modern Roman saunas are very popular, found not only in Slovenia but also in other parts of Europe, especially Germany and Austria. Their popularity has spread from the areas formerly occupied by the Romans to other parts of world, for example the USA and the Republic of South Africa. An analysis of Slovene saunas and wellness centres reveals a well-established trend to recreate certain parts of the Roman baths. This is attempted not only through Roman-style decorations, but also through certain structures particular to the Roman baths, such as the caldarium, tepidarium, and in one case even a laconicum. The approach, however, is highly eclectic, blending Roman, Greek and, above all, modern elements. The purpose of such rooms is to increase the appeal of the spas, while their design is mostly based on the stereotyped images of antiquity in popular culture.
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