06 MAR 2018: A sense of peace and comfort wafted over me. I was in a cocoon on a journey back to the womb. The reality? I was ensconced in Zion Spa Luxury's darkened room and experiencing its Alpha Sphere treatment. Sometimes the mind lets go of life's stresses and gently moves into a more tranquil state. My eyes were heavy and the body willing as I lay on this uniquely designed lounge style chair in the most unlikely of places - Bratislava, Slovakia.  

Slovakia would not be the first place you think of for a spa or wellness retreat. But it has been popular even with Hungarian kings and queens for many centuries dating back to Roman times. There are more than 1,100 registered mineral and thermal springs in Slovakia.

FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE

My spa oasis is on the 11th floor of the Grand Hotel River Park Bratislava, The Luxury Collection at the Zion Spa Luxury. The view from the spacious pool, lounge and fitness centre is impressive and quite unique. Not only do you overlook the Danube, Europe's second longest river, but also four countries - Slovakia, The Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. Now this is what I call a spa with a view!

The view notwithstanding, I'm here to give my body and mind a rest and rejuvenation.

Stepping off the 11th floor elevator you can see why this spa has the word "Luxury" in its name. It's not over the top ostentatious but more a refined sense of style and decor with staff that are welcoming and helpful. The pretentious attitude you sometimes get at luxurious spas has thankfully gone missing in action here. A spa's atmosphere from the reception area and beyond should immediately convey a sense of calm and comfort. Zion Spa Luxury with its furnishings, lighting and colour choices reflect a calm and sophisticated look.

Across the other side of the pool I watch a couple snuggle up to one another oblivious to the outside world. There is even a bed along one side of the pool - it seems to be calling my name not for more amorous adventures but just to catch up on sleep. I don't just need a "power nap" but a full-on slumber session.

My time clock and busy schedule has produced a sleep deprived state in recent days. How do I catch up in the minimal spare time I have?

THE SLEEP SPHERE

The spa's Alpha Sphere treatment seemed like the perfect solution. I'm led by the attendant into a specially designed room. A moulded lounge style chair is in the centre. I lie down on the chair. I feel subtle warmth infiltrating my body emanating from the chair. The attendant tells me she will come back in 25 minutes. A thick towel is provided to cover my body for additional warmth and comfort but I discard it. An infusion of blue light envelops the room. Steady mantra style sounds are heard as rhythmic vibrations pulsate from the chair.

I close my eyes and try to relax. I find it challenging for the first few minutes to let my mind wander and totally relax. Then slowly and effortlessly my body waves the white flag. No longer fidgeting my breathing is now deeper and slower. My journey back to the womb begins to take its course. My eyes remain closed, my body in a slumber state until I hear the treatment door opening and soft voice announcing the session is over. Despite it being only 25 minutes the period of relaxation felt much longer. The attendant says 25 minutes in the Alpha Sphere can equate to approximately the same as six hours of sleep - now that's sleep efficiency!

GOING DEEP

With more sleep under my belt, it was time to unfurl the mess of knots that have taken residence in my back and shoulders. The spa offers many wraps, massages, facials and other aesthetic treatments. I enjoyed reviewing their list of treatments and the names given to them. Some of the more colourful included: Sizzling Reisling (vinotherapy), Blue River Dream (emphasis on skin hydration), Danube Beauty (herbal aromatherapy) and my favourite, Promised Land Symphony - a 90 minute four-handed massage. The treatment name I had selected was less harmonious - Relief in Istropolis City. It wasn't catchy but my focus was for the therapist to go deep - wrestle those gnarly tissue and muscle fibres of mine into a peaceful and pain-free existence.

Camilia, my Bratislava born and bred therapist, with her steady trained hands was up for the challenge. Though diminutive in size, her skilled hands ruled the day. She rubbed in gently then more forcefully warm herbal extracts and essential oils with ginger and pepper and a very soothing mint balm. Camilia's long rhythmic strokes kneaded my stubborn knots into submission.

After surrendering my body and mind to the spa's Alpha Sphere and deep tissue treatment I retreated to the pool and wellness area for a circuit of swim, hot tub, infrared sauna, scenic views and lounge chair fetal curls. Oh yes and liquid refreshments. With my mind in a relaxed state, I accidentally drank another man's wine cooler the attendant had left on a table - oops!

BRATISLAVA'S FINEST

Zion Spa Luxury is considered one of Bratislava's finest spas and the hotel is seen in the same light. It's no wonder the likes of Sting, Prince Albert, Iron Maiden, Depeche Mode, Larry King and many other well-known personalities and entertainers have stayed at the hotel in its Presidential Suite. For only 6,000 Euros a night the Presidential Suite with its incredible marble floor bathroom can be yours too.

Bratislava and the hotel are located less than an hour's drive from Vienna. Easily accessible and less expensive than Vienna, the hotel has an award-winning Riverbank restaurant with local and international dishes, well-stocked lobby bar and very modern, spacious and technology upgraded rooms and suites.

Slovakia celebrated its 25th anniversary as an independent country January 1, 2018. I was happy to celebrate my body and mind renewal after a visit here with a glass of Slovakian wine.

Rested and revitalized it's time to savour the four country view.

For more info: http://www.grandriverpark.com/

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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