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Eleven European spa towns honoured by UNESCO

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By Richard Good
Eleven European spa towns honoured by UNESCO
Copyright  Кадр из видео AFP

Eleven Spa towns in Europe are celebrating after their collective addition to Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites. Bad Kissingen in Germany is one of them and the news was welcomed there.

“Super, this is something very special,” said resident Daniela Flint.

“I think it is brilliant for the town and all the work that’s been done in recent years,” said another resident Bruno Heynen.

Towns from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Czechia got together to seek joint recognition from UNESCO.

Tsar Peter the Great helped start an aristocratic fashion

It was the Romans who first introduced Europeans to balneotherapy: the English city of Bath dates from the first century AD.

But it was an 18th-century visit by Russian tsar Peter the Great to the Belgian town of Spa that sparked a new fashion and a new word in the English vocabulary - with “spa” towns springing up across the continent to cater for aristocratic interest in their supposed health benefits.

Spa towns may no longer attract princes and princesses, but they’re popular tourist attractions. In Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic, the drinking water is said to have medicinal value.

“I drink the water because it is supposed to be healthy,” says Czech tourist Marcel. “It doesn’t taste very good, but it’s healthy!”

Prospect of more tourists doesn't please everyone

The World Heritage label is likely to boost tourism for the eleven and that prospect doesn’t please everyone.

"If more and more tourists come,” says Wiebke, a resident of Baden Baden. “More and more flats will be used for Airbnb, so there will be fewer flats for the residents like me. Also, the prices in general are already quite high here. The more tourists, the more crowded the city. So yes, there's a good side and a bad side I would say.”

Unesco said World Heritage status was given to the towns "for their exceptional testimony to the European spa phenomenon".