This little piggy went to the spa
Jacoline Vinke, Trufflepig’s Greece planner, heads to Euphoria Retreat in Mystras, and finds that taking it easy ain’t so rough after all… :
Give me some Greek dirt to dig into and I am happy. I find truffles. An old man – son of a miner – taking me for a walk into abandoned mineshafts on the little island of Serifos. A tiny eatery high up in the mountains of Epirus where the goat stew has been cooked for long hours on the wood burning stove used also to heat the place. A Santa Claus lookalike potter on Santorini inviting me to throw some clay on the wheel. The little underground bar in Athens where on weekends a couple of musicians play and sing their heart out. An archaeological site in the Cretan hills the guidebooks don’t tell you about. My kind of truffles.
And then I am invited to try out Euphoria Retreat, a new spa hotel in the Peloponnese, built on a wooded mountain slope right below the (UNESCO World Heritage) site of the Byzantine city of Mystras, with views over the valley of Sparta. I’ve read about it in the press. A holistic approach to spa and wellness, based on a synthesis of ancient Greek and Chinese spirituality, philosophy and healing techniques, with the five elements – earth, water, fire, wood, and metal – at its centre. In crisis-stricken Greece, this destination spa is by far the hottest new opening in a long, long time. Against the backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery, Byzantine-inspired local mountain architecture is combined with striking design. While the restaurant and 45 comfortable rooms and suites are in traditional looking buildings, the spa with at its heart a 25-metre tall Kneipp Therapy Waterwell is a light-filled world of modern Zen.
Now here is something you should know about me. I am a down-to-earth sort of piggy, and I take pride in keeping my hooves firmly on the ground (unlike some of my cousins who think they can fly). Metabolic medicine and healing? Emotional, physical and spiritual transformation? I am stubbornly happy-as-I-am and I enter the spa convinced I don’t need any of this. What a rebel. I do my best not to show it, and am welcomed with smiles, explanations, a tour, and a massage appointment. After changing into a bathing suit and robe, and soaking my feet in the warm water at the bottom of the Kneipp Waterwell, I start feeling that I might actually fit in quite nicely.
I walk by the fitness room but pretend I don’t see it. I am more intrigued by the Watsu Pool; the idea of aquatic bodywork therapy while floating in warm salty water sounds rather appealing. I ask the first person I see if he is the therapist in charge, but he tells me he’s the fitness guy, and kindly offers me a personal workout session instead. I have already skipped the early morning hike as well as a yoga session (had a bit of a lie-in and a lazy breakfast that managed to be healthy and rather sinful at the same time), and politely turn down another opportunity to transform into a fitter self. The truly magnificent sphere pool lures me in, and while it is supposed to make me relax and unwind, it brings out the little piglet in me. I dive down in the sphere, play with bubbles and water sprays, briefly open the sliding door to swim outside, but – it is December – quickly come back inside to the warmer air.
Back in my robe, I drink some lemon- and mint-infused water in the relaxation space, continue to the Tepidarium where I lie down on a warm marble-tiled bench. I try the Finnish sauna, take a two-second dip in the icy plunge pool and then soak up some more heat in the steam room. It’s hard to admit, but this little pig, feeling all clean and rosy, is actually really enjoying herself. And the best is still to come. The five-elements massage. I have no idea what that entails and feel too shy to ask. The therapist mentions the theme water and gets to work. I close my eyes and let it happen. Whatever stress, tension or anxiety I may have carried with me, they are gently stroked, kneaded and cupped away. I pray to the Greek gods that these 50 minutes will last forever. All my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are definitely met. Whatever needed healing is healed. I am transformed. I was a happy piggy to start with. Now I am euphoric.