Croatia celebrates an important anniversary next year with the island of Hvar marking 150 years of organised tourism in Europe, the first such type of tourism in Europe on what became known as the 'Austrian Madeira', with the aristocracy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire heading down to Dalmatia to convalesce on the island famed for its recuperative climate, as guests of the newly formed Hvar Health Society.
But while the Hvar Health Society may be the first official organised tourism in Europe, foreigners have been coming to Croatia a lot longer than that. Have a look around Croatia, and there are plenty of wellness centres around, but none so big or established as Varazdinske Toplice, less than an hour from Zagreb, and with an impressive heritage to match its magical therapeutic waters.
Above a wonderful video from the Varazdinske Toplice Tourist Board on life as it one was in the town, which still has a strong Austro-Hungarian feel, with its period buildings and cobblestone streets. Varazdinske Toplice in 1870.
But the town's heritage goes much further back than that...
Evidence of human existence here goes back to the discovery of evidence of Neolithic man in the limestone cave of Gradisce, dating back some 100,000 years, but the 'modern' history of the town can be traced back to the Pannonian-Illyrian tribe Jasi, who were living there prior to the arrival fo the Romans.
The Romans liked what they saw, with natural spa water at a constant temperature of 58C coming from a depth of 1800m, and the spa was used for four centuries. Modern excavation has made available some impressive evidence of the Roman era, and a tour of the town's museum and Roman ruins is an essential part of the Varazdinske Toplice experience.
Varazdinske Toplice's modern role as a spa town began again almost 200 years ago, and it was regarded as one of the top spas in all Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, after which it fell into something of a decline.
That is now changing, and its hotels are once more full, its wellness programmes impressive, and it is an ideal weekend destination for those looking for a little recuperation – Slovenia, Austria, Hungary are all close by – as well of course for those looking for longer programmes.
Get more of a feel for the town and its heritage in the video below.