The historic thermal towns, or spa towns in Europe have been centers of tourism and healing for centuries. They have a tradition of welcome which continues to this day, and are renowned for the quality of their architecture, heritage, and spa facilities. Thermal towns have historically been places of innovation, both socially and in the design of the urban form and particular styles of architecture. Furthermore spa towns have played an important part in the development of European society, memory, culture, healthcare and tourism.
Therefore it has only been a consequent step for some of the most important historic thermal towns to found a network in 2009, an idea born in the context of a European project called Thermae Europae. The “European Historic Thermal Towns Association” (EHTTA) was established as a non-profit Association based on the need to encourage, protect and enhance the thermal, artistic and cultural heritage throughout Europe.
These days, the EHTTA is celebrating its 10th anniversary. On October 11th the official gala and celebration is held in Spa, Belgium, in the connection of the association’s autumn general assembly and the European Thermal Heritage Day.
EHTTA has reached significant figures
With half a dozen of new members only this year, EHTTA has reached the official number of 49 members in 16 countries. This proofs that the presentations on a political level throughout Europe and engagements of the association in various projects and activities especially with the Cultural Routes of Europe have led to a wide recognition in the past ten years. Furthermore the recruitment work of the scientific committee and its responsibility to validate the criteria needed for a membership, has been successful.
Recognized Cultural Route of Europe
The first major milestone achieved by the Association was to be certified by the Council of Europe as a “Cultural Route” in 2010 – the “European Route of Historic Thermal Towns”, one of only 38 routes certified by the Council of Europe. Other routes include linear and pilgrimage routes such as the Way of St James (the Camino), the Via Francigena, and the St Olaf Ways, and themed routes such as the European Route of Megalithic Culture, the Routes of the Olive Tree, the Iter Vitis Route, and Destination Napoleon, to name some of them.
“Together with the other European Cultural Routes our route of historic thermal towns represents a milestone for that message of culture and peace of which the Council of Europe has actually appointed us to become special ambassadors, inviting us to extend our borders. We have learned this above all in our meetings with other routes and it has been underlined by the recent attribution to the Cultural Routes Programme of one of the most prestigious European awards: the Carlos V Prize received in Yuste from His Majesty Felipe King of Spain,” states Giuseppe Bellandi, who will now retire, after many years of successful work as EHTTA president.
He is succeeded by José Manuel Baltar Blanco, Governor of the Spanish province of Ourense. “I am sure he will be able to give a continuity and new impulses to EHTTA,” says Bellandi and once more reaches out to the celebrations: “Today is a special date for EHTTA: it is an important birthday, we celebrate our 10th anniversary. It is a first achievement reached in good health and with a strong determination to continue the ambitious project that began in 2009 with the farsighted intuition and political vision of our founding members.
Anniversary Celebrations connected to General Assembly in Spa
The tourism office of Spa together with the Wallonian tourist board are officially hosting this year’s EHTTA autumn general assembly held in Spa. With their support a broad programme and different events have been organized for four days bringing together not only the representatives and members from all over Europe, but also the Belgian media and public.
The official programme starts with a reception of the city of Brussels followed by a press conference to be held in Brussels on 9th October inviting media and political representatives at the offices of the Wallonia Belgium Tourism. On 10th October the general assembly is held, followed by a broad programme of technical exchange among the members and site inspections of the thermal infrastructure and tourism highlights of Spa. On Friday, 11th the official anniversary celebration is held, inviting important partners and companions of the past ten years to celebrate the association and its members. On Saturday 12th October the European Thermal Heritage Day is celebrated, also inviting the public to learn more about the historic thermal heritage in Europe.