Spa, the city which gave rise to a word now used the world over, was also known as of the the Café of Europe in the 19th century. As in this example from Belgium, the European thermal towns were not only places to take in the cure, but also towns where intellectuals gathered to discuss the political issues of the day, where contemporary artistic creation was celebrated and where debates on ideas were organised.
A series of themed events based around international debates and artistic collaborations have been proposed with a view to reinventing the thermal towns and cities as new Cafés of Europe.
"Invisible Cities". Digital culture & augmented heritage reality: Key challenges for the thermal towns and for Europe.
The inaugural Café of Europe, entitled Invisible Cities, was organised by the Centre des Arts of Enghien-les-Bains in collaboration with the citys Tourist Office. This meeting addressed in particular the role of digital creation in spreading knowledge about and promoting European cultural heritage
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"Water, Pilgrimages and Spirituality" : A history of hospitality through the sources of Europe The purpose of this international meeting was to explore, through a series of round tables, debates and conferences, our relationship with water, an element of ancient worship and a source of healing for body and mind.
The Café of Europe acted as a prelude to Termatalia, the international Spa and Wellness Tourism exhibition which took place in Ourense from 20 to 22 September 2013.
"Travel, other paths through Europe: Journeys and memory" : Organised by the Royat-Chamalières Tourist Office with the participation of the association Il Faut Aller Voir, Rendez-Vous du Carnet de Voyage, this third Café of Europe addressed the theme of Travel.
The event consisted of two round tables on the various forms of travel literature (travelogues, etc.) to increase European peoples awareness.
"The thermal towns of the 19th century as sources of musical inspiration" : Some of the 19th century European towns such as Baden-Baden, rich in tradition, can boast a musical past which flourished. Now as in the past, cultural exchanges stimulate the social life of these towns and cities.
Baden-Baden welcomed the Berlin Philharmonic, of which Pierre Boulez is a regular guest, as a resident orchestra.
"Thermal Activity: The birth of modern tourism" : This conference-come-debate was organised by the Spa Tourist Office, with the help of the Health and Wellness Exhibition.
The purpose of this event was to consider the future directions of the European Union with regard to tourism, its desire to promote Europe as a tourist destination in its own right, and anticipating the potential consequences for medical visits to the thermal towns of the Health Without Borders Directive.
"The thermal towns as places of cinematic production" : This European meeting, organised by the town of Fiuggi, focused on the history of Italian and international cinema and on the spa towns of Europe as places of cinematic production.
The event was organised in partnership with the Fiuggi Family Film Festival, which takes place every year and is dedicated solely to families.
Each year, this festival has invited the Plein la Bobine childrens films festival of La Bourboule, France, with a view to future collaboration.
"Historical Literature in the thermal towns of the 19th and 20th centuries" : The spa towns have been the source of inspiration for many famous European novelists in the past.
This event was a chance to examine and celebrate those authors, and to look into how these works might inspire todays visitors in their interpretation of heritage and history.
The Café of Europe took place in parallel with the 47th Premio Acqui Storia, which is dedicated to the memory of the Acqui Division.
The Acqui Storia literary prize rewards works based on contemporary history (19th-21st centuries).
"The European Spa Towns: utopias of the past and present?" : The Café of Europe of Bath took place during the Bath Literature Festival, which invites famous writers to come and celebrate literature.
In the past, it has welcomed Nobel and Booker Prize winners.
The Café of Europes debate will address the following question: are the European thermal towns past and present utopias? Architects, urban developers, cultural heritage experts and philosophers both local and international will be invited to debate it.