Bled is one of the most famous destinations in Slovenia. First visitors here were pilgrims and admirers of the idyllic landscape, and in the second half of the 19th century health tourism started developing in earnest. Rikli is one of the people responsible for this. On the shores of Lake Bled he built the Natural Healing Institute (Naturheilanstalt Mallnerbrun) and successfully managed it for half a century.
A few months ago, the first monograph about Arnold Rikli’s life was published, called "Retracing the Footsteps of Arnold Rikli." For the occasion its author, Vojko Zavodnik, a Slovenian writer and historian, told us: “It’s a story of a man with ambition and passion, who believed that one can truly be healed through natural methods and reconnecting with nature. We could say that Arnold Rikli is a worldwide-recognized symbol of naturopathy, whose teachings and ideas inspired many highly respected intellectuals. Arnold Rikli’s story is one of rare authentic tales, which–if presented in right way–could satisfy the demands of high-class guests with the desire for authentic, unforgettable experiences. The return of this segment of guests would be very beneficial for the local community and future touristic development of Bled.”
The natural conditions of Bled—the fresh mountain air, mild climate and clean water—remain the same, but what happened to Rikli’s heritage?
At the Natural Healing Institute, Arnold Rikli used many alternative methods with his patients: sunbathing, showering, and constantly breathing in fresh air. Walks were compulsory every day, males and females were strictly divided into groups according to the how demanding the walk was. The patients were prohibited from drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating meat. Even though his treatment was far from cheap and–as it turned out–quite demanding for many patients, Rikli’s methods attracted people from all over Europe.
A century after he died, interest in the natural healer has returned. A path he used for his patients to Straža hill was named after him. Every year a traditional ´s hike to Straža using "Rikli methods" is organized.
Last year Sava Group opened Rikli Balance Hotel to promote Rikli’s lifestyle. These methods include getting up before sunrise, drinking fresh water on an empty stomach, walking barefoot in meadows, enjoying light meals, swimming, sunbathing, and taking lots of walks in fresh Alpine air. In hotel’s Živa Wellness Centre, they also offer treatments adapted to Rikli’s healing methods.
Still, whatever you may think of his legacy, it offers a wide range of wellness treatments and holistic therapies. In his book, Vojko Zavodnik details what has happened with Rikli’s heritage after his death and proposes ways to enhance Bled’s heritage tourism potential by using it. He strives to preserve cultural heritage by building a brand that combines Rikli’s unique story with high-quality service, a holistic approach, unforgettable authentic experiences, and reconnection with nature.