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Opatija – From a Mud Bath to Wellness
The Croatian Museum of Tourism has recently put on an interesting and extensive exhibition entitled ‘From Mud Baths to Wellness’ in the oldest villa in Opatija, Villa Angiolini. It is an attempt to consolidate the overall development of health tourism in coastal and continental Croatia since its beginnings in the mid-19th century when tourism in Croatia was mainly related to health and medical tourism and to portray to the public its intensive development.

Spa tourism is based on the traditional mineral resources that have been known since the ancient times, while the newer health and seaside resorts on the Adriatic coast are created on the basis of beneficial effects of the sea, sun, air, sand and wild plants. The organized arrival of the first guests to the Adriatic coast began in the late 19th century with the development of transport infrastructure, which has enabled a better connection between the major cities.

As the systematic investment in health tourism began, the first hotel built to accommodate patients on the east coast of the Adriatic was Kvarner, built in 1884 in Opatija. As soon as 1889 Opatija was declared a climatic sea-health resort. This was followed by the development of other health spas on the coast: Lovran, Rovinj, Crikvenica, Brijuni, Lošinj and Hvar.

In the continental part of Croatia, mineral water sources were already converted into spas during the 18th century when healing springs were used and balenological therapeutic methods were applied in many towns. Health buildings, baths and hotels were built in the area of Varaždin, Krapina, Tuhelj, Stubica, Sutinski, Topusko, Daruvar and Lipik.

Thermomineral sources are also located on the coastal area, in Split and Mokošica close to Dubrovnik and in the Istrian Spa on the Istrian peninsula. All other spas on the coast are climatic health resorts, while on the continent such spas are in Topusko and Lipik. Particularly interesting is the history of Topusko, a unique spa in Croatia and one of a few of its kind in Europe. Healing mud and its application had been discovered by the Romans, who, in the 1st century AD, established an urban settlement Ad Fines near the thermal springs, which were highly regarded at that time.

At the exhibition ‘From Mud Baths to Wellness’, visitors can view many interesting exhibits that were used throughout the history of medical tourism in Croatia, such as deckchairs, old swimsuits and goggles which are displayed in the ambiental part at the beginning of the exhibition. Visitors will be impressed by old postcards that had advertised the old spas.

The special parts of the exhibition are the portrayals of the two spas, which were turned into elite tourist destinations by Austrian industrialists in the early 20th century - Brijuni and Rovinj. At the beginning of the century Brijuni transformed from an island with a few inhabitants into a favorite destination of the wealthy. The trader and industrialist Johann Georg von Hütterott was responsible for the development of the spas in Rovinj. During the time of the development of railways he managed to turn Rovinj into an elite tourist destination.

The Tourist Board of the Primorsko-Goranska County

The Tourist Board of Opatija

The Croatian Tourism Museum

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