Healthy Autumn in Lviv Wilderness - Lviv Regional SPA options

  • Healthy Autumn in Lviv Wilderness - Lviv Regional SPA options
Issue 7, November 2008.

Healthy Autumn in Lviv Wilderness

 

 The countryside surrounding Lviv is not only strikingly beautiful but also famed for its recuperative powers and medicinal treasures, with numerous spa resorts and mountainside retreats offering the perfect opportunity to recharge your batteries. Although the most celebrated Lviv Oblast resort remains Truskavets with its high-level Soviet and post-Soviet connotations, the more understated resort of Morshyn remains a wonder of Prykarpattya and one of the finest mineral water sources in eastern Europe.

People have been visiting this small resort town, which is nestled some 90km from Lviv in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, for hundreds of years to treat everything from heart and liver complaints to headaches. They have been attracted by more than just sensational mineral water – the area abounds in picturesque lakes and untouched forest backed by gentle mountain slopes, with wild deer often the only thing for company. This part of the world has changed hands more than perhaps any other region on the planet and it is not hard to imagine what drove men to sacrifice everything when you spend time here enjoying the beauty of the environment and the richness of the earth itself.

 

Healthy mineral water diets

 

Specialists at Morshyn’s numerous health resorts prescribe courses of mineral water tailored to meet the most detailed of personal needs. The waters at Morshyn have been likened to other renowned Eastern European spa towns such as Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), Wiesbaden (Germany) and Hunyadi Janos (Hungary).

 

 Ancient salt mines of Prykarpattya

 

 Long before the famed Ukrainian choomaks (medieval Ukrainian traders who collected salt on the black Sea coast and then brought it to Eastern European markets) of folklore first began to travel to Crimea for salt, in the neighbourhood of today’s Morshyn underground deposits of salt were discovered. Primitive salt works employing vats and deep wells to aid the evaporation process were constructed in medieval Morshyn, making it a regional technological centre for the era. These rather basic production facilities were known as “Banyas”. For this purpose people dug deep wells, which were laid out inside by wooden panels. The brine was lifted by buckets, poured into special vats and heated. The water evaporated and the salt remained on the bottom. Such primitive salt works were called “banyas”

 

This ancient salt-making tradition has been remembered in the place names you will encounter when travelling around the local neighbourhood. Between Morshyn and Lisovychi village you will still find the small village of Banya Lisovetska, while in nearby Kosiv district of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast you will come across the village of Banya Bereziv.

 

The first written mention about Morshyn village dated back to 2 January 1482, but in the course of the next four hundred years the resort was not distinguished by any guests or events of particular importance. According to local ethnographers, in the middle of the 16th century the owners of the village tried to establish a new salt mine here but found that the areas they tried produced a particularly bitter taste and so eventually stopped trying. The authors of the guidebook “Morshyn” Ivan Varyvoda and Stepan Cherkes note: it is exactly this bitterness which represents the unique medical value of Morshyn minerals.”

 

Railway puts rural retreat on the map

 

 In 1875 during the pomp of the Habsburg empire in Western Ukraine the Stryy-Stanislav branch of the regional railway was finally opened, linking Morshyn and the surrounding countryside to the outside world. The town’s convenient connections with Lviv and Stanislav (today’s Ivano-Frankivsk) helped fuel the transformation of what had been a small village into a well-known resort which within 25 years was already being referred to as “The Halicyan Carlsbad” in gushing period brochures. In 1878 the merchant Boniface Stiller, who was sole owner of Morshyn at the time, opened the functionally-named, “Establishment for Treatment of Thoracic Diseases,” complete with three buildings for patient care and curative baths. Enterprising entrepreneur Stiller even found a way to immortalize his own name: even today one of the springs he helped promote commercially is still called “Boniface” in his honour while a second is known as “Matilda” in honour of his wife. In the late nineteenth century the resort’s third spring became widely known throughout the local neighbourhood as the “Matka Boska” (Holy Mother in Polish). Legend has it that the Virgin Mary once appeared before a village girl at the spring. Eventually a statue of the Holy Mother was placed here, followed by a colonnade and, finally, at the end of the last century a chapel appeared.

 

 Polish rule brings building frenzy

  

In just five years Stiller managed to develop an entire laboratory charged with investigating the properties of the local waters and mineral wealth. His untimely death led to the foundation of the Society of Galician Doctors. After the First World War, the Society leased the resort to Polish Resorts, a company specialising in health tourism during the brief boom of the 1920s. This inter-war period was also a high point in the resort’s fortunes as it became famed in the Polish Republic as a wonderful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the world and get back to nature. The period of Polish rule also witnessed the largest building boom in the resort, with villas and guest houses appearing with regularity and new scientific and medical institutions arriving every year in impressive new premises. The architecturally distinctive pump room which today serves as the symbol of the resort also dates back to this inter-war period.  It is interesting to note that the Polish Almanac of Health Resorts, which was published in 1934, actually begins its narrative of Polish resorts  with an article entitled: “Morshyn and its Curative Qualities.”

 

 From Polish palace to Soviet trade union

 

 In middle of the 1930s a grandiose construction project got underway to build the Morshyn’s Marble Palace. It was to be

a resort complex with all possible conveniences and state-of-the-art equipment from the finest manufacturers in the world. As soon as construction finished, the Red Army invaded Western Ukraine as their side of the Nazi-Soviet patch and took control of both the resort and the newly completed palace structure, which they quickly nationalized. At first the palace was given to the state itself, then to the empire’s trade unions, and then not so long ago when the Soviet Union collapsed many interested parties found different ways to nationalize and later privatize this and other local assets. Today the Marble Palace remains the most prestigious and expensive of Morshyn’s health resorts and although the facilities are no longer as cutting edge as those envisaged by the vision of Polish 1930s utopia it remains a splendid place to unwind and feel the mood of the ages.

 

 Healthy holidays in a worker’s paradise

 

 The end of the 1950s and the height of the Khrushchev era saw the start of the mass market health tourism culture in the Soviet Union, and Morshyn played an active role as a popular resort for higher ranking party officials and droves of regional functionaries. The close proximity of Europe and the alpine freshness of the Carpathian region gave resorts like Morshyn a sophisticated continental air that many social climbers within the Soviet hierarchy were instinctively drawn to and at its peak in the early 1970s the resort was receiving 10,000 visitors from across the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries. The Soviet authorities loved to promote a culture of physical excellence and despite having the lowest life expectancies in the northern hemisphere, managed to foster widespread support for the ideas of healthy living long before such notions took hold in the West.

Thanks in part to its slightly out-of-the-way location the resort developed a reputation as a down to earth location quite unlike the stuffy atmosphere and strict code of conduct adhered to by guests of the more celebrated spa resorts of the Black Sea ring. Morshyn was a European retreat where workers and their bosses could relax together and enjoy the simple pleasures of cleansing mineral water and forest simplicity. Soviet planners sought to play on this European theme by modeling their building projects on standard alpine architecture from Western and Central Europe. However, these structures have not dated well are no longer lend the resort the kind of Euro ambience that their authors had intended.

 

 Morshyn health resorts

 

 West Ukraine’s health resorts remain a well kept secret to the outside world but as service standards improve and local entrepreneurs appreciate the scale of the potential for health tourism, more and more international guests are opting for relaxing and curative breaks in the region. Morshyn offers a low-key and tranquil alterative to more well-known resorts.

 

Marble Palace

2, Parkova Sqr.

Tel. +38 (03260) 60510, +38 067 2095302

 

Morshynska Vezha

1a, 50 Richha UPA Str.

Tel. +38 (03260) 61194

 

Lavanda

33-a Ivan Franka Str.

Tel.: +38 03260 60459

 

Morshynskyi

5 Dzherelna Str.

Tel.: +38 03260 60706

 

Perlyna Prykarpattia

5, One Hundred Ricchia Kurorty Morshyn Str.

Tel.: +38 03260 60 416