Winter is the time for exploring snowy European cities that are full of cosy cafes – such as Zagreb, Ljubljana and Tromsø – especially when they’re served by budget airlines with low-season fares
Take one small city with a heart of medieval mitteleuropean quaintness at the foot of magnificent, snowy mountains. Then add an open-air spa where everyone has year-round fun, be it quietly relaxing in hot pools or screaming down water slides. The happy result is Poprad in Slovakia. Its historic centre, Spišská Sobota, is not huge, but its baroque architecture places it firmly in an old and very central part of Europe. Vino and Tapas on leafy Sobostské Square does great-value fine dining; for accommodation, Pension Sabato (doubles from €60 B&B) has a lovely garden at the back.
Be sure to venture beyond the old town to discover the highlights of other districts, notably chocolatier Bon Bon on Dominika Tatarku, over the river near the station, and the Podtatranské historical museum on Partizánska Street further west. Best of all is the quick, cheap public transport to the High Tatra mountains, with cable car connections for skiing or just enjoying spectacular panoramas. Starý Smokovec is the main village. Back in town, the spa, Aquacity, is hugely popular with locals (family day ticket €52). Those whose idea of enjoying cold weather is a long lounge in an open-air hot pool before breakfast can even stay here (doubles from €119, including spa access).
Dance rehearsals for the Miss Supranational 2016 grand finale were held at Horizont Resort Vysoké Tatry in Slovak Republic. The girls are working very hard!
To many manic drum rolls, not to mention a spectacular light show, a traditional Eastern Slovak Orthodox blessing and the release of several doves into the High Tatras night, Hotel Horizont, Slovakia’s latest luxury hotel, officially opened last Thursday evening – and under precisely the mountainous backdrop depicted!
It was a noteworthy occasion for several reasons.
Hotel Horizont’s location, in Stará Lesna just below the traditional “big three” mountain resorts in the High Tatras (the Smokovec resorts, Tatranská Lomnica and Štrbské Pleso for your information), deservedly catapults Stará Lesna up to the status of mountain resort too. The pretty village of pastille-hued houses straddling a single street sits a couple of kilometres below Tatranská Lomnica, the nearest stop on the Tatras Electric Railway (and as well as being connected by road is also linked by a very pleasant woodland walk). It’s a far more undisturbed community than the sometimes hectic touristy villages of Starý Smokovec and Štrbské Pleso) but is positioned at the very beginning of the foothill forests of the mountains, meaning that the landscape to the north, just as with the “big three”, has protected status.
Four-star hotels do not open in the High Tatras (or in Slovakia, for that matter) every day, either. The “big three” each sport one top-end resort – most notably Grandhotel Kempinski on the lakeshore above Štrbské Pleso – and each of these is a veritable grand dame. But the Horizont, despite its significantly more modern appearance, is comparable for quality and unlike the others, it’s an utter individual: and not a part in any way of an international chain.
Colour-wise, the interior is flecked geometric greys, reflecting the grains of the crystalline Slovak stone which themes the decoration in the public areas and the rooms. The reception ushers you through spaciously to a bar with a terrace overlooking the lofty peaks. Off to the right is arguably the hotel highlight: a gorgeous English-style cigar snug bar designed by renowned Humenné wood specialists and constructed entirely with glossy oak. Behind that, the restaurant is already gaining a reputation for its scrumptious hriba polievka (mushroom soup). As reception is on the second floor, it’s easy to miss upon first arrival the beautiful ground floor pool, poolside bar and fitness centre…
The rooms (six floors of them all told) are a tad above average size for a four-star joint: the tasteful modern decoration extends here too. None of the rooms have baths, which is perhaps the sole disadvantage but they do have balconies, which even rooms at the “big three’s” biggest hotels often lack. However, with the pool below and – another candidate for Horizont’s pièce de resistance – with the seventh floor rooftop sauna and Jacuzzi with their birds-eye view out towards the soaring summits of Gerlachovský štit and Lomnicky štit, pampering at this place is never more than a stone’s throw distant.
Perhaps, to synopsise why a stay here should be a part of your High Tatras holiday, Hotel Horizont must best be described as tranquil, modern, affordable mountain resort luxury: these six words put it in a category all of its own. Grandhotel Kempinki puts a hefty price tag on its sumptuousness; neither the best digs that the Smokovec resorts or Tatranská Lomnica can offer come close for modernity.
And at the same time, the mountaintops (the highest accessible point in Slovakia for non-professional climbers, no less) are a 25-minute walk and an unforgettable cable car trip away.
To hike to Tatranská Lomnica and the cable car station up to Lomnicky štit, turn left out of the hotel’s main entrance and walk along the dead-end lane passing one other hotel (to your left) and skirt on a trackway to the left of a second hotel. A gravelled path then continues in the same direction of through woodland. Follow the gravelled path to cross the Tatras Electric Railway and after more woodland turn left on the road into Tatranská Lomnica.
Along this road, a pavement-path follows the right-hand edge. The main road eventually turns to the left but proceed on the path through a small park to come out on the left-hand side of Reštauracia Stará Mama. Turn right on the pedestrian precinct to reach Tatranská Lomnica’s Tatras Electric Railway station (where you can take the train to Starý Smokovec or Štrbské Pleso). Cross the railway line to ascend to the main road at the left-hand edge of the village’s gorgeously maintained main park (where, turning left, you will pass a historic ski museum (good fun!), the tourist office and the sky-blue Penzión Encian (on the right). Just after this point, by which you will see the cable car complex above you, turn right on the road up to the cable car – where a new adventure to the second-highest point in Slovakia, Lomnicky štit, begins…
Manchester United’s Academy have been on a short break to Slovakia with an Under-17 squad.
The youngsters beat MSK Zilina 4-1 in a friendly match on Tuesday 25 October and there were plenty of other aspects to work on for Under-18s coach Kieran McKenna.
It has become something of an annual excursion for the Reds with the 2013 travelling squad featuring a certain Marcus Rashford. Adnan Januzaj, who is currently on loan at Sunderland, scored on the 2011 trip.
“We’re travelling to Slovakia for a training camp,” McKenna told MUTV before the trip. “It’ll be fantastic to get some of the boys away during the season to spend some together. We’ll have four or five days out there. We can work on some things during the mini-break and come back to start a new phase of the season from there, running right through until Christmas.
“We’ll play a local side out there. I’ve done similar things before with previous clubs and it’s a great chance to get the boys away for a mental refresher. It’s a good chance to get to know them really well off the pitch and have a game against foreign opposition as well.”
Heroes of British soccer have revealed one of the best-kept secrets of Slovakia … for the last eight years Manchester United has been sending its young hopefuls there to a specialist mountainside training camp.
Every October Manchester United’s Youth Team spends time in the city of Poprad training at one of the world’s most exciting stadiums, playing ‘friendlies’ against locals and recuperating in the world’s greenest hotel.
Poprad is an extraordinary place, tacked to the foot of the High Tatras mountains and near to the Polish border.
Thirty years ago though it had daunting metaphorical mountains to climb having been abandoned to the remnants of the Velvet Revolution politics.
But people of vision were already making things happen and now Poprad is one of the most important cities in Slovakia. It has become the administrative, economic, cultural and tourism centre for the whole Tatras region.
And at its heart stands AquaCity, once voted the world’s greenest hotel … and this is where Manchester United hopefuls stay while they undergo training regimes against one of the most powerful natural backdrops in Europe.
Former Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs said this: “It is vital in a young players development that they get to gain as many different types of football experience as possible. Because of the training in Poprad they can relate to playing against different opposition, experience new cultures and food, travelling and adapting to new surroundings. The training camp in Poprad allows all this to happen.”
And last week it all paid off in a big way – youth team players who trained in Poprad were chosen to play against Crystal Palace when Jose Mourinho rotated his squad ahead of the Europa League final.. Manchester United won the game 2-0, with Josh Harrop and Paul Pogba scoring the goals.
The story really begins with former car worker Dr Jan Telensky, his geo-thermal lake 2,000 metres inside the earth – and his belief in cryogenics. Three little minutes that can change your life.
He said: “When I first came to Poprad, I saw a pipe coming up out of the ground. It had breath hot enough to melt your soul. So, I looked into the history of it and pretty soon I realised there was a natural miracle two miles below the earth. An eternal source of power, warmth and health. It’s been there for millions of years and it’ll be there for millions more.
“I decided to harness it, that’s all. The government and the town of Poprad worked with me on it.”
Next door to AquaCity is a magnificent new football stadium, designated as a Slovak National Training Centre (NTC). It is the only ground in the world to be heated by an underground lake and have an all-weather pitch.
The NTC is where you can watch the Manchester United football’s stars of tomorrow train and play some of Slovakia’s Premier League and other overseas teams for a fraction of the price it would cost at Old Trafford. There is a Hall of Fame board inside AquaCity with a list of the stars who have played there.
David Moyes, a former manager at MU who was involved in the training experiment: “This the ideal place for a sports training camp, the fourteen swimming pools and the leisure facililities are enormously popular with our young players.”
And AquaCity offers all sorts of fitness and enjoyment, not only for professional sportsmen but for families too with pools, massage jets, children’s pools and water slides, laser lights to change the color of the water, outdoor thermal pools, blue Sapphire pools, blue diamond pools, and a 50 metre swimming pool.
In the wellness and spa suites there is Vital World, the K-Vital Beauty Centre, the Massage Centre, and the Thai Massage Centre with edible massage treatments such as chocolate, honey and green apples.
Then there is the controversial cryogenics chamber which has been helping sports people and visitors with injuries and ailments.
It is the Big Chill, an oversized deep-freeze which makes you feel wonderful. It works wonders for the skin and muscles, can boost your immune response, ease chronic pain, heal nerve damage, and improve sporting performance.
And Poprad too really is a beautiful place to be, sitting as it does on a vast plain leading to the foothills of the perpetually snow-capped Tatras Mountains.
It came into being in the 13th century, when the king of Hungary persuaded German colonists to move to what was nothing more than isolated arable land. Way back then Poprad was just one of more than 20 farming communities dotted across the plains. It soon garnered importance however, as a main stopping-off point on the trade route between Poland and Hungary.
Another ‘revolution’ took place in 1938 when a military airfield with grass for a runway was built west of Velko village as World War II loomed. The first real runway wasn’t actually built until 1970.
Poprad Tatry Airport finally came into its own in the early 21st century when it was classed as of International standards.
The 13th century Early Gothic church of St. Egidius in the town square still retains pieces of wall paintings dating from the Middle Ages. And then of course there is the Renaissance bell tower built in 1592 with its three original bells.
Warsaw, Poland – October 5, 2016 – Gerhard Parzutka von Lipinski, President of Nowa Scena sp. z o.o., announced today that Miss Supranational 2016 will take place in two countries, Poland and the Slovak Republic will be sharing the honour of hosting this year’s international televised pageant. First the contestants will arrive in Warsaw Poland from where they will travel to the picturesque city of Poprad, located in the foothills of the High Tatra Mountains visiting the holiday resort of Aquacity Poprad, the amazing waterpark and spa whose waters are drawn from natural geothermal underground lakes. The contestants will then travel back to Krynica – Zdrój in Poland for the live final.
“This is very exciting news as it is the first time Miss Supranational will be hosted by two countries and we are delighted to be adding the Slovak Republic as a host country. We would like to thank the city of Poprad and the resort of Aquacity Poprad who will welcome our contestants during their visit to the Slovak Republic. Our pageant has seen tremendous growth in the last year with our wonderful Miss Supranational, Stephania Stegman, visiting so many countries around the world,” commented von Lipinski. ” and we are looking forward to a truly spectacular show.”
Miss Supranational 2016 finals will take place on December 2nd 2016 in the spa resort city of Krynica Zdroj, Poland. The reigning Miss Supranational, Stephania Stegman of Paraguay, will crown the 8th titleholder of Miss Supranational in an exciting evening of glamour, fashion and entertainment in the world’s most spectacular televised pageant.
No trip to Slovakia is complete without a visit to AquaCity in Poprad – the final destination on our fascinating spa journey through Slovakia. AquaCity is an ultra-modern yet fantastically affordable new ‘green’ spa resort, offering something for everyone, while helping to save the environment at the same time. It is situated in Poprad, a short distance from the Tatra Mountains that border Slovakia with Poland – a stunningly beautiful area popular with skiers and hikers alike.
The resort opened in 2004 and is the brainchild of Czech philanthropic entrepreneur Jan Telensky, who stumbled on an old borepipe when pushing his infant son’s pram on some waste ground in Poprad. Curious, he made enquiries and discovered that the pipe had been used some years earlier during explorations in the area for natural gas. No gas had been found, but boring down 7,000 feet, an immense subterranean lake of naturally hot water had been discovered. The council were not interested in the water, but Telensky immediately saw its potential. He negotiated a deal with Poprad city to use this limitless thermal resource to create a superb modern spa resort, the first in the world to use geothermal energy as its primary energy force.
Today, AquaCity uses the latest filtration and treatment systems to channel the thermal water, forced up to the surface under its own pressure, to heat the resort and its two hotels and fill the heated indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms and saunas – even the water in the showers. The water is all recirculated so there is no waste, emissions or environmental damage. Later this year, when three solar panels, each the size of a tennis court, and three wind turbines are built to create an electricity supply, AquaCity will be completely self-sufficient and use no outside energy whatsoever. Eventually, new wells will be bored to supply the entire town of Poprad with water and power.
As you would expect, the modern spa leisure facilities are second to none with many different types of saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, solarium, relaxation areas, ice cave and nine pools. These include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, two children’s pools, the health boosting Blue Diamond pool and three outdoor pools for relaxation and fun at any time of year – especially good in winter when snow is on the ground and outside temperatures plummet below freezing!
A new range of spa treatments is currently being developed, but in the meantime you can have an excellent one-hour massage for less than $20. AquaCity’s most famous treatment is cryotherapy – a sensational experience that costs just $20 a session and is carried out in a state-of-the-art glass building under the supervision of a professional doctor and nurse. First, you have a medical consultation and your pulse and blood pressure checked to ensure you are healthy enough to withstand the extreme cold. Then you change into specially treated cotton shorts, T- shirt, knee-length socks and headband, put on clogs and paper face mask and enter what looks like a sauna cabin, but has no seats and is a chilling minus 76ºF! After a minute of foot stamping and arm swinging, you come out, ready to brave an even colder chamber – this time for two minutes at a temperature of minus 184ºF – colder than an Arctic winter! As the chill penetrates, it becomes impossible to move at all. Just when you feel you can’t bear to be in the chamber another second and want to escape, the session ends and you are helped into the gym for 15 minutes brisk exercise to get the circulation going.
Cryotherapy is widely used in Japan and other European countries to relieve joint pain, depression, circulatory and skin problems and to boost stamina, potency and detox the immune system. There is even anecdotal evidence that it helps slimming by reducing cellulite! Apparently, in the ultra-cold, the brain triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline, endorphins and testosterone into the blood, so even after a single session, there is a distinct feeling of wellbeing. For longer-lasting benefits a course of several sessions is recommended.
With two excellent well appointed hotels on site, fine dining, cafes, bars and a wealth of activities and places to explore in the resort and the surrounding area, AquaCity is rapidly establishing itself as a popular and innovative spa destination. However, Telensky is not content to rest on his laurels and plans further ambitious enhancements by 2008, with more thermal pools and leisure facilities including a tropical beach with water skiing and thermal pools under giant bubbles surrounded by tropical gardens, designed on the lines of the UK’s Eden-Project. The sauna center will be doubled in size with more treatments and therapists – and everything will be entirely energy self-sufficient.
Manchester United have arranged a trip for the youth team to Slovakia towards the end of October.
Paul McGuinness is set to take charge of a side containing his Under-18s and other younger members of the squad for matches against Banik Ostrava and Banska Bystrica. Both friendlies will take place at the Poprad Stadium.
The excursion is becoming a regular date in the calendar for the Reds – Jack Barmby scored a hat-trick against Konoplyvov in 2011 while Paddy McNair, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson were in the travelling party in 2012. Last November, Devonte Redmond captained an Under-17 squad in matches against MFK Ruzomberok and Sparta Prague.
Paul McGuinness is taking the Manchester United Under-18 squad to Slovakia during a break in the domestic fixture list.
The youngsters will face Tatran Presov and Dukla Banska Bystrica in friendlies and a 28-man squad has provisionally been named for the trip. On last year’s excursion, Gyliano van Velzen scored the only goal against Tatran while Jack Barmby hit a hat-trick in a 4-3 victory over Konoplyov Football Academy.
Summer recruits Sean Goss and Matthew Willock are among those in the party this year – as well as 11 players who were on the 2011 visit, including Mats Daehli, Adnan Januzaj and Kenji Gorre.
James Weir and Liam Grimshaw feature after playing their part in England Under-18s’ 2-0 victory against Italy on Wednesday.
United squad: Joel Castro Pereira, Pierluigi Gollini, Kieran O’Hara; Ben Barber, Declan Dalley, Callum Evans, Liam Grimshaw, Nicholas Ioannou, Donald Love, Ryan McConnell, Louis Rowley, Matthew Wilkinson; Mats Daehli, Kenji Gorre, Sean Goss, Joshua Harrop, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, Paddy McNair, Ben Pearson, Joe Rothwell, Jack Rudge, James Weir, Matthew Willock; Jack Barmby, Sam Byrne, Ashley Fletcher, James Wilson.
As temperatures climb higher and the summer sun shines brighter, many people look for a well-deserved vacation destination. Water parks are a high demand attraction and a costly one to the environment in most cases. But one water park is as entertaining as it is environmentally friendly. It is AquaCity Poprad in Poprad, Slovakia. This water park and spa getaway is located at the base of the Tatras Mountains, opened in 2007 and was founded by Jan Telensky.
The water park offers many fun options for both adults and children. The adult pool has massaging jets and is adjacent to the children’s pool play area which consists of many pools and water slides. Both use light effects and laser lights to change the color of the water for visual, dramatic and entertaining effects. The water park also offers outdoor thermal pools, blue Sapphire pools, blue diamond pools, and a 50 meter swimming pool.