Wooden buildings of the Spa Baths around the natural thermal water can be traced back to the 1820s. The modern development of Lipik Spa Baths started in the middle of the 19th century when the area around Spa Hospital was bought by Antun Knoll. It was the time of the first tourists - his concept was not only to further develop the place for healing of the ill, but also to create the modern Spa center that would be the place where the healthy people could take a rest, socialise and have fun.
The building of Stone Baths was finished in 1870, followed by hotel Garni (1872), neorenaissance Kursalon (1883), neoclassicist Marble Baths (1886) and hotel Dependence built in 1890s. In 1897 railway arrives to Lipik and the whole town develops around the Spa Center that had a capacity for 400 persons.
The concept of the Spa Baths is inseparable from the Spa Park. It is the place of peaceful walks, social meetings and well being. Visitors arrived from all parts of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The most famous among them was King Franz Joseph. Lipik also hosted world famous singers of the time - Fjodor Ivanovic Saljapin, Enrico Caruso and tenor Tino Pattiera.
During the Roman times Lipik was known as Aquae Balissae, a place with hot thermal baths with underground water at the temperature of 64 degrees Celsius. It was one of the first Iodine baths in Europe in 18th century and developed into exclusive Spa center at the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of 20th century Lipik had 1000 inhabitants, and up to 3000 visitors every year.
In 19th century many Spa centers were created in continental part of Croatia (Daruvar, Topusko; Stubicke toplice, Krapinske toplice, Varazdinske toplice, ...). Lipik was one of the most exclusive, and its Spa Park is considered one of the masterpieces of Spa gardening in Croatia. With its area of more than 10 hectares, it is also one of the largest.
The original coloured plan of the Park on cardboard is saved, showing the park consisting of two main parts: late baroque geometric gardens in front of the main buildings and neoromantic landscape park that surrounds it.
Today, the fountain and the ruins of Wandelbahn are waiting for new investments.
Nearby swimming pools and recreation complex was reconstructed and opened in late 1990s. The reconstruction of the main park is not that easy task, as it is the protected cultural monument. Most investors that were interested in rebuilding the Spa center were interested only in fast profits. Lipik saw several projects ranging from new casinos proposed in the historic complex to big expensive hotels for the rich clientelle.
The park is still the central focal point of the place, and the main magnet for profit-seekers. So far, local and central government rejected the inappropriate proposals, and the old park is still waiting for more sensitive investors.
No more watersprays in the fountain. No more roof on Kursalon. No more orchestra playing in the Central Garden.
Just total silence.
After the area was again under the control of Croatian forces in 1995, it was checked from mines and cleared from the most dangerous ruins that threatened to collapse. The priority of reconstruction were of course people's homes and places for jobs.
Five years after the total reconstruction of the park, it was totally destructed.
First by shelling of the local Serbs and the Yugoslav Army in 1991, and then it was occupied and controlled by local Serbian rebel authorities for three years. During this time park was neglected, and buildings systematically destroyed. Everything that could be placed on military trucks - furniture and equipment - was transported to Serbia. The rest was destroyed.
In the 1980s there was again the change in the interests of the tourists. The concept of Sun & Sea was no longer enough. People started to seek for other activities, and the concept of cultural tourism emerged.
In the mid-1980s Lipik tried to inscribe itself on the list of tourist itineraries of Croatia - a hard task competing with all the magic of the Adriatic coast.
Modern swimming pools were built nearby, and park was reconstructed. Growing trees were cleared, new plants were put according to the old plans.
Wandelbahn and Kursalon were reconstructed and repaired, and music was once again playing in the park, visitors being able to choose between the retro dance ball or the modern rhythms of the nearby disco clubs.
The second part of the 20th century introduced new concept of leisure travel focused on sea and beaches. After the WWII tourism was strongly developing on the Adriatic coast, and Spa Centres in continental Croatia were Health centres usually with one or two hotels built in the best socialist style of the time.
The hotel in Lipik was built in the 1970s inside the old park. Although the number of visitors was still high, it was no more the place of noble walks and grand ball evenings. Local bands were playing on hotel terraces, and communal companies took care of the old garden.
Without the old gardeners and in the context of socialist economy the park started to decay, and its old glory could be seen only on old pictures hanging from the white walls in restaurants and halls of the new hotels.
For those who preferred more intimate walks away from the fuss of the Central Garden the Spa Park offered many walkways, hidden pavillions and benches in its romanesque part.
A small artificial lake with an island was one of the main features of this area, and nearby artificial hill with Jelka's pavillion offered chances for walks up- and down-hill and some nice views of the surrounding areas.
The Main Fountain in front of the Kursalon and Wandelbahn was the focus point of the Park. It was one of the most popular motives for taking photographs, and the most featured element of the park on the postcards.
People arrived here for the healing effects of the local water, and the fountain was celebrating this fact in full richness of its watersprays.
Kursalon and Wandelbahn close the Central Garden area – a formal garden with the central fountain. On its eastern side (right on this photo) it was closed by Hornbeam Alley, that also provided shelter from the weather.
The Central Garden was the place to see and to be seen. It was the place where visitors would walk around the fountain – ladies wearing the latest fashion of the time: permanent exhibition of the colorful dresses and most extravagant hats, while Orchestra would practice in the nearby Kursalon for the Main Dance Ball of the evening.
Wandelbahn is a long covered walkway that was used for walks in open air during the rainy days or summer days with strong sunshine. On the postcards of the period we usually find the name of the building written in three languages: Pokriveno šetalište (covered walkway – in Croatian), Wandelbahn (in German) and Fedett sétány (Hungarian).
Visitors would take a glass of the healthy water from the nearby Well Pavilion and enjoy drinking it under the cover of Wandelbahn or sitting in front of it while the Music Orchestra would perform its regular programme. This was also the starting point for the strolls around park.
Fondest memory: Neorenaissance building of Kursalon was the center of the social events in the Park at the turn of the 19/20 century. Regular festivities were held for the Franz Joseph's birthday, while dance balls and music evenings were held throughout the year. Spa center had its own orchestra, and among the regular performers were also Czech Military orchestra, italian belcanto singers, gypsy violin players from Budapest and women choir from Zagreb.