Although in Quebec the interest in spas has been growing in the last twenty years, around the world, the therapeutic benefits of warm water have been known forever. A year before founding the Strøm spa, in 2007, Anne and Guillaume visited ancient ruins and ancient spas to understand how the ritual of thermotherapy was practiced in the past. Here are some of their observations.
Interview with Guillaume
What are the differences you noticed between the thermal circuit of yesteryears and today?
By visiting the ruins of the Thermes de Cluny in France, I realized that the thermal circuit of the past is much like the one we find today. However, I notice a big difference with respect to the accessibility of these places.
The original thermal circuit began in the apodyterium which served as a dressing room. Afterwards, visitors could go to the palaestrae to engage in sports or move to the tepidarium (warm room) or to the caldarium (hot room) to finally get to the frigidarium (cold room). A laundry area was also integrated in the baths. Different circuits, from very hot to very cold, were offered to visitors. Does that remind you of the thermal circuit at Strøm spa?
Open to everybody, from high society to lowly people, the baths were cheap or even free. Today, access to the spa is a little more restricted since it involves a certain expense. Also the services offered are more diverse. Traditional or specialized massages, beauty treatments, creative packages and special events can be experienced by Strøm’s customers!
Are there ancestral spas where it is currently possible to practice thermotherapy?
Of course! In Baden-Baden, Germany, we visited the ancient spa “Friedrichsbad”. The healing powers of its hot springs are still recognized today. While visiting, one can live a moment of unparalleled relaxation in these ancient Roman baths which are presently visited and appreciated for the quality of their facilities. The most impressive fact: realizing that customers lived a similar moment in the same facilities, more than two thousand years ago. With this in mind, it is safe to say that the spa ritual is much more than a passing fad.
What is your observation about the importance given to spas in Quebec?
In Quebec, spas were emerging for the first time around 1990, coinciding with the decline of the Church and the takeover of the liberal society. In recent years, we notice a strong growth of spas in Quebec. It would be wrong to consider this a passing trend, since thermal baths have been popular around the world for centuries.
Why, in your opinion, have Nordic spas developed so late in Quebec?
I think that the ritual of the Nordic baths, which supports various epicurean vices, was not approved by the Catholic religion: nudity, pleasure and rest, instead of discipline and work. Fortunately, the therapeutic and relaxing properties of this ritual are now recognized and lots of people visit Nordic spas to enjoy the unique benefits of the thermal experience.
Photos credits: Atlas Obscura, Island tour
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