Every year on the first weekend of June, the oldest and largest health resort in Croatia – Varaždinske Toplice revives its rich ancient history.
It was on these slopes in the 1st century that the Romans discovered a spring of sulphurous thermal water that gushes out at a depth of almost two kilometers, and on this place built an elite Roman spa and settlement known as Aquae Iasae for tops of members of the Roman army and temples dedicated to Minerva, Juno and Jupiter.
Many inscriptions, sculptures and reliefs, jewelry and 17,000 Roman coins were found at the archaeological site, which the Romans inserted into the “sacred spring” from the 1st to the 4th century as votive gifts to nymphs – maidens half-divine of incredible beauty.
AQUA FEST is a unique cultural event in this part of Europe. For the 15th consecutive year, Varaždinske Toplice, on one of the oldest archaeological sites in Croatia – Aquae Iasae, the first weekend of June opens its doors to Roman legions, gladiator fights, Roman games, conferences and to creative workshops, and to the special the interest of the public, to attract performances on stage at the Roman Forum performed by artists, actors, musicians, associations, volunteers and lovers of that time, to reconstruct ancient customs Roman – caste and burnt sacrifices, Diana Luna sacrifices, Legion formations, and faithful depictions of gladiatorial combat.
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, jewelry, mosaic, weave ancient crowns, paint pebbles, fight with wooden swords and scutums (Roman shields) and briefly become little Romans.
Find out how Varaždinske Toplice revived the ancient past at AQUA FEST MMXXII in the photo gallery below.
Thermal water – its treasure and the potential of Croatian tourism heard at an international conference in Varaždinske Toplice
How treasured 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 transformation model were not just some of the topics of the 4th International Conference Thermal water yesterday, today, tomorrowwhich took place on Friday, June 3 in the Roman basilica of the archaeological 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.
The participants also had the opportunity to discover Budapest, the main SPA destination in the world, below which there are no less than 180 springs. Szilvia Czinege pointed out that they often use the thermal baths as a kind of museum and that three thermal baths are over 500 years old. On this segment, they have built a large part of their tourist offer, on which they sometimes base entire promotional campaigns.
It should be mentioned that Varaždinske Toplice has recently become a proud member of the European Historic Spa Towns Association (EHTTA).
Tatjana Horvatić from the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media spoke about the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, and for a city to become a member, its value must be relevant for at least 3 countries. Svažić called the thermal springs a factor in the development of the destination.
The connection or integration is very important, mentioning a Croatian cosmetics company that uses thermal water from a Croatian spring as well as Aquae Vivae from Krapinske Toplice, which later “used” the thermal water for greenhouses and is used in agriculture.
Naftalan from Ivanić Grad is another place that uses the benefits of thermal water and he pointed out that there is great balneological and geothermal potential in Croatia.
Dr sc. Jadran Antolović commented on the economic value of the archaeological site, where it is extremely important to preserve the existing and to create new values.
It also proposes to link the educational programs to the archaeological site, to organize workshops on site, 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 gastronomic segment or gastronomy with the historical segment, because in this way the customer lives an experience.
Dr sc. Romana Lekić emphasized the notion of transformative tourism, in which profit is less important and social and moral values are more important, with the host-guest relationship at the forefront. In doing so, values such as friendship, respect and love of life are promoted as basic elements of tourist practice.
New tourist models use the narration and morphology of a fairy tale, the tourist, by integrating into tourist programs, temporarily transforms into a new person, and tourism becomes his stage. Interesting new stories can be created with plant-related stories, themed trails and accommodation facilities (small hotels, camps, glampings). Tourism is the only phenomenon that can create an experience from the immaterial and therefore generate significant income.
Creative tourism is growing rapidly through the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, and the latest research shows increased interest in health and anti-stress tourism, as well as naturism and Robinson Crusoe-style tourism.
Croatia is among the 30 most water-rich countries in the world, while India is one of the countries with the worst water scarcity crisis. Slovenia has constitutionally protected the citizens’ right to drinking water.
The meeting ended with a lecture by Spomenka Vlahović, director of the Homeland Museum in Varaždinske Toplice, who took those present to 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 ancient Roman forms such as libum (sacrificial bread), Isicia omentata (Roman hamburger) and Emperor Constantine’s bruschetta, as well as homemade juices made from acacia, of lavender and elderberry.
In addition to the professional gathering, the festival was completed with a procession of Romans, Diocletian’s Legion program, gladiator fights, children’s workshop, “Water” concert by Vesna Matana Matić and Sabina Miška, native products fair, projection from the documentary Elves Bilalić’s Watercourses and Mythological Archetypes from Romana Lekić’s Interactive Workshop.