GERMANY: HEALING SALT CAVERNS OF BERCHTESGADEN
by Victor Wishalla
Certain locations on our planet have long been known for curative powers.
Ten miles from Salzburg (the name means Saltfortress), Austria, across the border in Germany's Bavarian Alps, the Salt Healing Cavern Berchtesgaden happens to be such a place. It is said the Dalai Lama even called one of the nearby peaks the Heart Chakra of the Alps.
It’s about 10 p.m. when our group of about a dozen people, mostly from Europe, depart the entrance of Berchtesgaden Salt Mine via an electric shuttle train for the 10-minute trip to the Salt Healing Cavern where we'll spend the night.
In times past, wars were fought over the rich rock salt deposits – “white gold” found here. Today’s battles are confined to winning over health challenges. Healing Cavern operations manager, Jan Freiherr von Werthern, says, “retreating to caves for healing is not new. This particular grotto allows us to immerse ourselves in the energy of millions of tons of natural salt from the original ocean, 250 million years ago. Regardless of health, most visitors find that being in that kind of energy helps them with stress relief and deep relaxation.”
Evaluating visitor reports, cave employees have concluded that three week programs, with a daily cave stay of two hours each day offer the most promising chance of long-term improvements for chronic conditions. According to promotional literature, past visitors have indicated improvements in a range of conditions including hay fever, depression, asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism, allergies and sleeplessness. Overnight stays and day visits are also available.
While not yet universally accepted as a complementary treatment by the medical industry, studies are said to have confirmed positive health effects from over-nighting in the cave.
Nearing our destination, we find the air, naturally purified by salt, feels soft, refreshing, relaxing and revitalizing. Overnight visitors bring personal items with them while the operator provides cots, sleeping bags, mattresses, pillows, blankets and hot tea and breakfast the following morning.
The wood floored, terraced, tastefully decorated cavern interior reminds me of an indirectly-lit sauna landscape, roughly the size of a tennis court. It’s obvious, this is no ordinary cave but a natural underground healing sanctuary. Mother Nature has set temperatures at a constant 12 degrees Celsius, night and day, year-round.
For maximum benefit, cave operator Dr. Wolf Buerklin and his colleague, Freiherr von Werthern, recommend visitors stay awake for a while, taking time to contemplate, notice salt vein patterns and allow the energy to sink in.
Relaxation comes easy, with a barely tasteable hint of sole ( pronounced ‘so-lay’, water & salt solution ) in the air, a “sound massage” from a Tibetan metal bowl, and the gurgle of fountains in a softly lit sole pool at the cave center.
Early morning another “sound massage” reminds the group that it’s time to rise. Back on the surface, as the group celebrates their adventure over a healthy gourmet breakfast in a restaurant attached to the mine, special moments are shared:
“...like being in a womb...like floating in amniotic fluid (saline solution)...reminded me that we are all born of water and salt.” A few tears (also saline solution) start to well up.
How does one feel after the cave?
“...like having my ‘batteries fully recharged..." smiles a silver haired gentleman. “...relaxed, revitalized, healthier.
Not tired at all, although I stayed awake most of the time.”
Easy to appreciate, those with breathing problems do better in naturally purified, humidified air. But - how does one explain relief from other chronic conditions here, like Tinnitus? Is there more to this mysterious cave than meets eyes and lungs...?
According to literature from the cave operator, one factor could be that salt neutralizes radiation, which turns the cave into a sheltered ‘bubble’ supporting unusually deep relaxation. What the healthy person experiences as significantly reduced stress levels is said to activate and maximize self-healing powers in those with health challenges.
Also, scientists tell us that all substances vibrate at a frequency, conveying information. Besides water, our body is made up of combined elements we call salt, just like that in the mountains. Their presence is so vital we could not even think a thought without them.
Can salt in the human body resonate with salt in natural surroundings like this cave and thereby receive important ‘information’ conducive to recovery? According to some researchers, including a biophysicist who co-authored a book on water and salt, that possibility may not be as far-fetched as it may first sound.
Healing salt cave CEO, Dr. Buerklin, relates that a few years ago, with the help of this grotto, he found relief from personal health challenges including Tinnitus. The experience changed his life. Convinced others could benefit as well, he leased the cave and continued to make it available to the public.
To complement cave healing programs, artists and practitioners occasionally stage special events including concerts, Chi Gong, guided meditations, relaxation for pregnant women, fairytale hours for children. “Musicians appreciate the unusual acoustics,” says Freiherr von Werthern.
His vision for the cave includes a medically-guided fasting program with daily grotto visits, nature hikes, therapeutic massages and drinking water from artesian wells.
The quality of life essentials like water and salt are taken seriously in these parts. For example, artesian water like that from St.Leonhardsquelle (St.Leonard Spring) has a reputation for assisting in healings since the early 18th century.
Japanese researcher and author Masaru Emoto, and scientists from one of Europe’s oldest hospital departments for natural healing have reportedly been studying its unusual properties.
Besides drinking healthy water, cavern-fasters will be able to hike around Koenigssee (Kings Lake), a beautiful mountain lake near Berchtesgaden boasting some of the cleanest water on the planet.
For more information: www.salzheilstollen.com
(Note: The English section of the healing cave homepage may still be under construction as you read this, but their office is able to handle inquiries and reservations in English.)
Many airlines offer discount rates from European cities to Salzburg, Austria, at 12 miles the closest airport to the salt healing cavern. Taxis, trains, buses and rental cars available. Munich, Germany, 100 miles from the cave, has excellent Autobahn, air (via Salzburg) and train connections with Berchtesgaden county.
Where to stay in the Berchtesgaden region:
The “4 You” wellness hotel Hochkalter in Ramsau, www.hochkalter.de
Guesthouse Mauthaeusl in Schneizlreuth: www.hotel-mauthaeusl.de
Berghotel Rehlegg: www.hotel-rehlegg.de
For info on Berchtesgaden County: Berchtesgadener Land Tourismus www.berchtesgadener-land.com
To complement your salt healing cave experience with ‘wellness-biking’, ask the Berchtesgaden Land Tourism office about a new program which allows your whole family to explore the area in an environmentally friendly, relaxed and pleasant manner with the help of Swiss-designed, silent, electrically power-assisted mountain bikes for rent and return at various locations.
vicTor wishalla is a freelance travel, wellness and spa writer and broadcast producer based in S.E.Asia. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org