Vrnjacka Banja Spa – Jewel of Serbia
The health-marvel, fairy-like metropolis of tourism in Serbia – Vrnjacka Banja - lies at 220 to 300 m altitude, in northern woody slopes of Mount Goc (1147m) that is mildly and wavingly slanting toward the River Zapadna Morava, in the picturesque valleys of the Rivers Vrnjacka and Lipovacka.
It is 26 km away from Kraljevo and about 200 km south of Belgrade. The Spa got its present name by the village of Vrnjci where mineral water springs had first been found.
This balneological pearl has had a long curative tradition, but there are no written documents regarding its origin. It is believed that the healing properties of its mineral springs were known even to the Illyrians.
But it was, without doubt, known to the Ancient Romans, as evidenced by archeological finds from the Spa: ruins of ancient pools, an old Roman well (Fons Romanus), coins dated 12st and 4th centuries – discovered in 1925. It has not been determined with certainty whether these thermae were also used in the post-Roman period or in the medieval Serbia, as might have been the case, considering the vicinity of the Monasteries of Zica, Ljubostinja and Krusevac – the capital town of Prince Lazar’s Serbia.
During Turkish rule, the hot springs were used from time to time by wealthy Turkish landowners in the late Middle Ages.
The first data in writing about this renowned natural haven can be found in the report of a geologyst, sBaron Sigmund August Wolfgang Herder, the superintendent of Saxon mines in Freiburg, who inspected the mineral treasures of Serbia of the time, according to the request of Prince Milos Obrenovic and Serbian government.
In his report in 1935, Baron Herder gave a commending assessment of Vrnjacka Spa mineral waters, based on chemical analyses, and compared them to the waters of Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). Dr Emerih Limdermeier also agreed with this assessment in his paper “The Description of Mineral Waters in Serbia” in 1856. Almost a decade and a half later, our well known doctor and botanist, Dr. Josif Pancic, also gave flattering assessments of these waters comparing them to Krenhen Spa in Ems (Germany).
Numerous analyses undertaken later, as well as in our time, confirmed the curative capabilities of Vrnjacka Banja Spa mineral waters and their usefulness and effectiveness in curing of a wide variety of diseases, as well as their suitability for recuperation. All that promoted the development of Vrnjacka Banja into a substantial medical and tourist centre.
It has been registered that jefimije Hadzi Popovic, the local priest, was the first to make a primitive capture of a hot mineral water in 1856. He tested the water on himself and then, in the next year, brought his friend, a priest from Kraljevo (then called Karanovac) to cure him as well. The rumour on the curative properties of the waters reached Joanikije Krasnojevic, the bishop of Uzice, who came to the Spa in 1859 and built there a small cottage, where he used to spend summers till the end of his life.
Pavle Mutavdzic, the regional superintendent of the time, was among the first visitors to Vrnjacka Spa. He is considered to have been the promoter of building of the Spa and its development into a modern health resort. In 1860, he built the first pool and a boarding house, and then launched the action for landscaping the Spa. He also initiated establishing of the first Tourist Organization in Yugoslavia on July 1st, 1868 – the Establishing-Funding Society of the Curative Mineral-Hot Water in Vrnjci.
This Society gathered the citizens of Kraljevo, Krusevac and Trstenik who commenced building of the Spa with their own contributions, and constructed a drinking fountain, hot bath…
It is therefore that 1868 is taken as the initial year of Vrnjacka Spa’s operation. Anyhow, the right conditions for development of the Spa occurred after 1882, when it became the State Spa with a doctor residing in it during the season. That year, a new bath was raised with a stone pool (the old one made of planks was pulled down), water supply system was built, as well as cure-saloon building and State Inn… (Vrnjacka Spa – together with Sokobanja Spa – was the first spa in Serbia to receive meteorological station in 1896.)
In 1910, the railway line was built that connected the Spa to Kraljevo, Krusevac and Stalac and the Spa Management was established and a resident state doctor appointed. The more intensive development of the Spa continued after the First World War, when the edifices of Srbija, Zelengora, Sloboda, and a thermal bath… were built or renovated.
Today, after 130 years of its existence, Vrnjacka Spa has grown into the largest spa resort in Serbia and has become an attractive centre for rest and recreation. Not only is it one of the most visited tourist spots in Yugoslavia, but it also belongs among the three major spas in Europe (besides Vichy in France and Karlovy Vary in Czech Republic.) (The largest number of guests visited this Spa in 1985 -163.018 of them!)
All this has been attained owing to the excellent quality of the Spa’s mineral waters that spring up in several places, as well as thanks to the pleasant climate, i.e. the salubrious air currents, with moderately warm summers and mildly cold winters; the Spa is protected from strong winds by the surrounding heights.
Its success is also related to its tradition in treating illnesses, and to the natural beauties around it, as well as to the extensively developed tourist sen/ices.
Vrnjacka Spa has got six very abundant hot and warm springs of healful mineral water.
Its warm mineral waters – the springs of jezero (25.7° C) and Topli Izvor (36.5° C) belong to the category of alkaline, carbo-acidic homeo-thermae. They are used by drinking, spraying, clysis and in other ways.
Cold mineral waters from the springs of Slatina (14° C) and Sneznik (17.5° C) are the earth-alkaline carbo-acidic acratic waters used only by drinking.
Accommodation, sojourn and treatments of the Spa visitors is realized in several specialized organizations, institutes, services, hotels, rest homes…
The promoter of these services is “Vrnjacka Banja” Special Institution for Medical Treatment and Rehabilitation (established in 1976) equipped with modem facilities for quick and exact diagnostics and for therapies – from laser and an up-to-date laboratory to ultra-sound devices – and with numerous doctor specialists and other medical staff.
There are modern buildings for accommodation of visitors -grown-ups, the young and children – throughout the year (Merkur – the new and old buildings, Mirko Tomic, Romanija, Sumadija).
This institution also provides the bath with thermo-mineral springs, ambulance-clinic department, specialist-diagnostic service, biochemical laboratory, department for physical therapies and functional diagnostics and gynecological-therapeutic department. All modern balneologic and rehabilitation therapies are applied there.
Patients, as well as other Spa guests, can also use special programmes applied in treatment, such as Saturday Clinic – when every second and fourth Saturdays in the month eminent professors from the Medical Faculty in Belgrade examine the patients and where health panels are held. There is also the School for Diabetes, the Linea – treating of obesity by contemporary medical methods, Quick Diagnostic – complete health check-up completed in five days…
Vrnjacka Spa is not visited only for medical treatment, but also for recuperation, or simply for relaxation. Besides the mineral waters, attractiveness of the Spa is supplemented by spacious, nicely landscaped parks covering about 60 ha in lawns, flower beds, roundels, a small lake, numerous sculptures and fountains, linden tree lines, pine, birch, chestnuts… arranged along the banks of the River Vrnjacka that flows through the middle of the Spa.
Visitors can find the tranquility and relaxation there, while walking or resting on numerous benches. (All major Spa institutions are located in the centre of the Spa, including the picturesque edifices, mineral springs and hotels.) It is for those reasons that any season is suitable for the sojourn in Vrnjacka Spa: in spring when its parks become green, in summer when it emirs freshness, in the rich colours of autumn, and in winter, covered with the white snow overlay.
Cultural events and entertainment in the Spa are very rich and various throughout the year. (Even in 1900, the spa doctor, Djoka P. Jovanovic, wrote:
“In this Spa, no one may say to have a lot of time. There are various enjoyments to be organized for the patients. Their worries are to be dispersed, and various entertainment, playing, dances, singing, some lottery, target shooting, ere. since all this has a beneficial effect on the soul and the complete nutrition of the body…”)
Concerts, theatre and cinema performances, promotions of books, poetry evenings, art colonies, folklore and choir concerts and sports events Vrnjacka Banja – all take place in the town library, the Castle of Culture, summer stage, cinema hall, in galleries, in the park, in hotels and sports fields. Since 1977, in mid August, the Spa has been the host to the Festival of Film Scenarios.
But – this is not all that is offered by this spa jewel.
The vicinity of Vrnjacka Spa abounds in natural beauty and is a treasure of cultural and historical monuments. It is possible for the visitors to enjoy, in a short time span, the beauty of numerous medieval monasteries, churches and fortresses, other spas and picnic places, as well as the monuments from the more recent Serbian history.
The attractive valley of the Ibar shelters the best known Serbian medieval monuments – the monasteries of Zica (13th century), Studenica (12th century), Sopocani (13th century), Gradac (13th century), the fortified towns of Maglic and Brvenik, the remains of Nemanjas Ras… In the east, within the fertile West Pomoravlje and vine-growing Zupa. there are the most prominent monuments of post-Kosovo Serbia and the pearls of Moravska School of architecture – the monasteries of Ljubostinja (14th century), Kalenic (14th century), Veluce (14th century), Naupara 114th century)…Lazarica Church (15th century), the remains of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovics capital town (35 km), Koznik fortress…