Something is special!
“Protected from all winds, except for the ocean breeze, this location all the way out in the archipelago, with its even and somewhat sloping sandy beaches, is spectacular and seems specifically by nature meant for its purpose”
We don’t know who once wrote these words, but we do know that they were written sometime in the 1800’s. It’s been known for a long time that Apelviken and its surroundings are indeed very special and holds a history and a culture of spa which is still alive today. People have come to the health resort of Varberg for the past 200 years to relax and rejuvenate.
Drink it briskly while standing up
Svartekällan (Svarte spring) is the name of the spring where the tradition was once started. The spring is located close to Apelviken and was found in 1811, this is when people started to come to Varberg to drink spring water for its apparent healing powers. The spring water was sold by the litre to visiting spa guests and was to be drunk in accordance with the following recommendation: briskly, standing up straight and preferably while walking.
An old times health spring
In the early 1800’s the Swedish health care system was poorly developed and one of few possibilities of recovery when suffering from chronic disease was to travel to one of the country’s health resorts to drink spring water. Through strong faith and by drinking huge amount of water from the springs, it was supposedly possible to rid oneself of several illnesses according to local folk belief. If the water was drunk in accordance to the rules, spa guests could recover from both such illnesses as melancholy and hysterical blood flows. It was even said that the deaf could regain their sense of hearing if spring water was injected into their ears. As early as 5 am people started coming to the spring to drink the healing water. First came the miserable and poor, then came the peasantry and last came the people of rank who didn’t have to get up as early as the others.
From Svartekällan to Brunnsparken
Drinking of spring water became more and more popular. In 1817 a spring house was built above Svartekällan but after a few years it was decided that it was more practical to move the house to the center of town. The spring house was taken down and rebuilt in a park just to the west of the church in Varberg. This park was named Brunnsparken (The Park of Springs). The water was moved from Svartekällan to Brunnsparken up until the 1890’s. The origin of Svartekällan is marked with a cultural monument, but the spring itself is no longer usable.
Hot baths, cold baths and nude baths
As the intake of spring water became more and more popular it was supplemented with taking baths in hot and cold water. A bath house was built north of Varbergs fort and Socitétsparken (The park of Society) emerged. Varbergs first bath house was built in 1823 in between where the open-air bath and the customs house are located today. 1852 was an important year for Varberg as the steamboat traffic started operating along the coast from Gothenburg to Malmö. This increased people’s desire to travel to Varberg. As the number of visitors rose and bathing increased in popularity the bath house was renovated and extended. In 1860 the building had 12 bathrooms which were served by 6 female bath attendants. A few years later a new and more modern bath house was built, it had 20 treatment rooms and it was possible to take baths in both seaweed and mud. One could also get a massage, visit a sauna or take a shower. This bath house is still standing and is the building where Varbergs Kurort was located up until 1992 when we moved to Lilla Apelviken where we are situated today.
Varbergs first open air baths was built in 1860 but was destroyed in 1884 by a terrible storm that ravaged the west coast of Sweden. Two years later in 1886, the new building was finished. Now it was possible to swim straight out into the ocean but unfortunately this building was also destroyed by another storm in 1902. In 1903 the new open air bath was finished and this is still a popular place for both locals and tourist today.
Varberg also have a long tradition of ocean baths. Separate nudist beaches are available for both men and women along the cliffs and the beachfront promenade north of Varbergs Kurort. These stem from workers taking dips in the ocean during summer. By the peasant village of Apelvikens sand beach, the camping and beach life of Varberg has continued to develop since the 1930’s and today Apelviken is known as one of the best places to windsurf in all of Sweden.
How a simple wooden pavilion became the best Spa in Europe
Lilla Apelviken, where Varbergs Kurort is located today is often called KÅSA. This is an abbreviation of Coastal Sanatorium Apelviken. The sanatorium was started in 1904 by the pioneer J S Almér who had a small wooden pavilion built close to the armlet.
J S Almér was a local Doctor who on his own initiative successfully started treating children with tuberculosis in the summer of 1902. He was often referred to as the “Sun Doctor” as he was convinced that sun, fresh air, salty baths and a nutritional diet would have a curing impact on the disease. During the first summer he treated 6 children, they stayed together with a nurse at a small farm (called Apelviksgården) which is located just outside of the hotel grounds. Two years later the small wooden pavilion was built.
After eleven years the first stone building was established on the ground, this is the building which accommodates our hotel reception today. The business kept developing and became a hospital which was open all year around with 188 beds. The number of patients increased and so did their age, it was no longer only children who were admitted at the sanatorium but also adults who suffered from other types of tuberculosis than of which was originally treated. At the time of J S Almér’s death in 1927 the sanatorium in Varberg was the largest sanatorium in Scandinavia with 574 beds and around 200 employees. At this stage the area was self sustaining and for example kept its own farming, bakery, carpentry and school. Almér died on his 66th birthday and was the first person to be buried on the newly built cemetery.
After the death of J S Almér the business developed from a polio clinic to an orthopedic clinic and eventually became the town hospital. When the new hospital opened in Varberg in the beginning of the 1970’s only long-term medical care and a nursing school remained in the old buildings. Actually, many of Varbergs Kurorts employees got their nursing education through this school.
Before major renovations were undertaken in the late 1980’s, the county held a competition where businesses got to submit development proposals for the site. The winning proposal got to do the renovations under the condition that the areas atmosphere must be kept and that the new buildings must fit with existing architecture. In 1992 we moved our business from the bath house in town to our current location. Our direction changed slightly from a strict health focus to a more balanced view on body and mind with a hotel and restaurant in the same building. Since 1996 Varbergs Kurort is run by the Danish hotel chain Comwell.