Germany’s unusual cures
The nation that coined the word ‘wellness’, has a lot more to offer than just naked saunas.
Schroth. Being woken at 4am and wrapped in hot towels may not sound ideal, but the whole idea of Schroth is to stimulate the body’s natural immunities with a series of nudges, in diet, in routine, in exercise. There will be therapeutic fasting, and strict drinking rules, but you don’t necessarily have to go without your glass of wine! The whole body-wrap thing derives from an early practice of trying to correct scoliosis, curvature of the spine. The alpine resort of Oberstaufen in the Allgau is officially recognised as the Schrothkur centre.
Kneipp. The 19th century Dominican priest Sebastian Kneipp is described as the ‘father of hydrotherapy’, after curing himself of tuberculosis by jumping into the icy Danube, then climbing out and running home as fast as he could. After doing this a few times a week, his health returned. The modern therapy is based on the same principles of physical exertion to warm the body; a very short, very cold dip and immediate physical exertion, while the skin is still wet, until the body is rewarmed. The Danube’s role has been usurped by hot and cold showers, rinses, baths, and compresses. Bad Schandau near Dresden is a centre of Kneipp therapy.
Felke. Another 19th century priest, the pastor Emanuel Felke, devised his own treatment involving the earth (or clay) from the Moselle region in order to treat joint pain, obesity and high blood pressure. Felke originally made his patients take cold baths and sleep on clay floors or straw sacks in open cabins, but these days the emphasis is more on the application of ‘curative loam’ (posh word for earth) either in compresses or by the bathful. The Felke cure is offered in the resort of Bad Sobernheim in Rhineland-Palatinate, southwest of Wiesbaden, which also has Germany’s first barefoot trail, so your toes get some good earth too.
Radon gas. Radiation and therapy are not ideas that are often associated, but there is a school of thought that believes that low volumes of radon gas, naturally-occurring product of the radioactive decay of uranium, is actually good for certain conditions, particularly arthritis and to various respiratory problems. Mostly this is administered by sitting in a radon tunnel or even a mine, and being exposed to low doses. There are radon spas at Sibyllenbad, on the border with the Czech Republic east of Bayreuth, at Schlema, also near the Czech border south-east of Zwickau, and with a radon tunnel at Bad Kreuznach, south-west of Wiesbaden.
Hay. A roll in the hay may suggest anything from soft-porn movies of the 1970s through to an attack of allergic sneezing, but in the Allgäu region of Bavaria (particularly the resort of Obertsdorf) hay baths (cut from organically-tended alpine meadows, natch) supposedly release essential oils, stimulate the blood circulation and improve skin texture.
Whey. Hay bath, whey bath, wha-hey bath. Yes, you can even bathe in this cheese-making byproduct, also in the Allgäu, if you really want to. Supposedly good for the skin, too.
Beer. Now surely you’re taking the piss? No? Another one that’s good for the skin, apparently. The original is supposedly the Kummerower Hof in Neuzelle, on the border with Poland east of Berlin.
Naked walking. OK, so it’s not really a therapy, but the proponents of a newly-launched 18km naked hiking trail between the towns of Dankerode and Wippertalsperre in the Harz Mountains, certainly believe that textile-free ambulation has its holistic benefits. Possibly not to the eye of the beholder, of course.