In 1887, at the insistence of Prime Minister I.C. Brătianu, the government decided to establish Băile Govora (Govora Baths) as a public health resort on Hința Valley. Brătianu in particular was interested in the waters around Govora village, rich in sulfur and iodine, and he preferred them to the ones abroad in terms of curative effects. The first step towards establishing the resort was the creation of the balneary park, even before the creation of an urban settlement. The resort was founded on the basis of what its promotors—the Romanian state, through I.C. Brătianu and others—considered, after examining the famous resorts in the West, to be the essence of balneary tourism: the principle of the garden city. The first action was setting up a Baths Pavillion under the management of Nicolae Popescu Zorileanu and the supervision of I.C. Brătianu himself. The limit of the “thermal neighbourhood” was the park built around this construction.
At the time, Romania was just beginning to create and manage balneary resorts. The state quickly elaborated the legislation necessary to regulate its functioning in accordance with Western standards, but, despite its best efforts, Băile Govora remained underdeveloped. In 1904, the resort was transferred to Govora-Călimănești Society, founded under the management of Vintilă Brătianu, who invested in Băila Govora considerably and turned it into a holiday resort.
In 1908, The Water and Electricity Plant was created, which supplied water and electricity to the resort and pumped thermal waters to the Baths Pavilion. However, what essentially contributed to the image of the resort as we see it today was the replacement of the old Hotel No. 2 with Palace Hotel, the reconstruction of the Baths Pavilion according to the plans of French architect Ernest Doneaud and the redesigning of the Central Park by the landscape designer Ernest Pinard.
The period between 1904 and 1916 brought about the actual construction of the thermal neighbourhood, which led to the touristic development of the resort and impregnated local culture with the practice of thermalism. After the buildings in the Central Park were erected, numerous villa and hotel owners contributed to the embellishing and development of the resort, creating around it the actual town with its post office, town hall, church, school, shops, restaurants etc. Once the number of tourists and residents increased, this part of the resort became more and more dense and extended along the main road.
After 1945, the resort suffered a change of direction, moving away from free medical tourism towards state subsidized mass tourism. This affected the resort’s social landscape, as both the number of tourists and residents went up. Moreover, the cultural life and leisure time activities of tourists gained new directions, subordinated to the politics of the new social hierarchies. But from an urban and economic point of view, the resort went through a period of progress and transformation, trying to raise to the challenges of an ever-growing demand.
A development strategy from a 1980 Systematization Plan proposed the construction of several large capacity accommodation units with treatment facilities and restaurants, but only one of them was built. Carrying out this project would have meant the destruction of the initial concept of the park, restricting it to a purely recreational role. But the park managed to keep its autonomy throughout, reaching a high level of use, just as its founders intended.
As Băile Govora gained momentum through tourism, the decrease in the number of visitors in the last couple of year has led to the reversed process – its decline. The absence of balneary practices and the fading of the resort from collective memory has had consequences not just on the town, but also on social and economic life: the residents have left in search of jobs, most of the buildings are out of use. Today, economic activity has been reduced to four hotels and few small businesses. Băile Govora is an ideal town frozen in time that needs to reinvent itself and its rich cultural heritage can form the basis for its new identity.
Cultural project co-financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN). The project does not necessarily represent the position of the AFCN. The AFCN is neither responsible for the project content nor for the way in which the project results may be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the grant beneficiary.