The rebirth of polish Health Spas


European integration is doing its bit for cross-cultural experience - this time with rebirth of polish Health Spas. The small southwestern town of Swieradow was a luxurious German upper class spa before World War Two. Under communism, it declined to a dowdy, cheap, health resort. Today, Swieradów is finding a new prosperous era as western tourists, especially Germans, rediscover its charms

Mineral water rich in radon works wonders in the southwestern Polish spa of Swieradow in the Izerskie Mountains. Until the Second World War, Swieradow, under the name of Bad Flinsberg, was a trendy German spa frequented mostly by rich Berliners. After the war, Swieradow served as a state welfare resort in Poland's new western territories to mend the health of the working class. But its previous glory had gone and the infrastructure was badly degraded. The town's mayor Zbigniew Szereniuk explains that state subsidies were not enough to ensure high quality services:

"To 1989 Swieradow was a social service spa. Polish patients came here almost free of charge. It wasn't a good time for development. A lot of buildings were destroyed."

But The political and economic changes of the last decade and Poland's imminent European Union membership have once again turned the attention of the German people to places in Poland

Germans, mostly elderly pensioners often with local roots, prefer a stay in a former German spa in Poland to costly holidays in the Mediterranean. Lisa, an elderly lady from Hamburg says she and her husband have enjoyed a very pleasant stay in Swieradow. It has been their second trip to Poland over the last two years:

"We like it very much here. It is a nice, quiet place; the people are friendly and helpful. We have come here to have a good rest and drink mineral water. We feel emotionally linked to the region as my husband's family comes from the town of Brieg which is now Brzeg in south-western Poland."

Germans and other west European holidaymakers have discovered that treatment in Swieradow can be as good as one in a similar western European spa. This plus low costs of accommodation and therapy as well as Swieradow's favourable situation in the Polish-German-Czech border triangle have combined to give the little town a great opportunity to join the west European spa business. With profits from tourism and support from Polish and German funds, the town's authorities were able to replace obsolete installations with environment friendly ones. A modern telephone line was built and the local water and sewage treatment facility was modernised. Swieradow, with a population of some 5 thousand, can receive up to 15 thousand guests at a time.

The presence of German tourists here does not evoke unwelcome reactions as it would some 20 to 30 years ago. Some Poles, like 24-year-old Yurek, may still have their reservations:

"The Germans are arrogant. They think that they can do anything because they are rich."

Others, like Kuba, 28, believe cooperation is the call of the day:

"Well, I have nothing against the German people and I do business with them. They usually keep their word."

The residents of Swideradow are learning modern entrepreneurship. They know that a stable tourist business is a great opportunity to leave the twilight zone of economic oblivion.