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Travel Guide: Cryotherapy in Slovakia

12th Oct 2011 1:53am | By Editor

A dangerously cold chamber hidden deep in the Slovakian mountains? Not the hideout of a Bond villain, but the home of cryotherapy. Words: ROBIN McKELVIE

Soon I was in the anteroom where I watched anxiously as the computer gauge dipped down towards -100°C and then kept dropping. The doctor tried his best to be reassuring as I rather reluctantly entered the first chamber into a world some 40°C colder than I had ever experienced before. The first thing you feel is a distinct sense of shock followed by a slight sting on your skin. Just as I was trying to get used to this extreme, another door opened into the main chamber.

This is the coldest place you can visit on earth. Sinister puffs of icy air swirled around as the doctor watched proceedings through a tiny window. Potocky had stressed the importance of keeping moving and not deep breathing.

Concentrating on both distracted me for the first 30 seconds, but then came the realisation that I had three times that left. Three minutes in here and your system starts to close down; four, and you're entering the dizzy state of euphoria that precedes death.

Just when I thought Potocky's watch might be on the blink, the longest two minutes of my life were over and I was bundled back into the 'warmer' chamber and then the anteroom. Potocky urged me to throw off the headband, gloves and mask as I was marched upstairs to the on-site gym for a spot of cardio, presumably in an effort to make sure my circulation did not seize up completely.

The big question is: did it do me any good? I have to admit my general travelling weariness had been replaced with a bound of energy and I also slept like a Slovakian log that night. It may not ever make it to your local surgery, but perhaps a true test of the efficacy of cryotherapy was that I went back for more the next day - and the one after too.

Things to do to warm up againThe AquaCity complex has no fewer than nine swimming pools and 15 saunas, so you don't really need to leave it if you're only here for a few days. The surrounding region, though, is one of Europe's most dramatic. The resort lies right on the edge of the High Tatras National Park, with a hulking papier-mâché of mountains rising improbably into the heavens right in front of the resort.

There are an almost endless number of hiking options in the summer as well as skiing in winter, the latter catering for everybody from complete beginners needing some lessons to coax them on to the slopes right through to experienced skiers looking to test themselves on more challenging black runs.

A more relaxed way to explore the region is to hire a car and amble around the local countryside, much of it still pleasantly free from tourist development. The most obvious place to head to is the mountain resorts of the High Tatras, but the charming Spis region that surrounds Poprad is also well worth exploring.

Strong Hungarian and German influences surface in the sprinkling of old towns and villages that dot the rolling hills with the High Tatras peaks forming a dramatic backdrop. Chocolate-box towns to see include Kezmarok and Levoca.