I’ll be blunt: Germans have a very hands-on attitude to their health. I will never forget a woman telling me she was fasting, “Oh,” I said, “Do you want to lose weight?” “No,” she answered, “I’m doing it for the bowel.” It was as if her bowel was an annoying neighbour she needed to keep in good humour.
It is absolutely normal for Germans to have all sorts of supplementary health tricks up their sleeve, including various massages, baths and wrappings as well as visits to Salt Grottoes and drinking waters containing special minerals and elements.
One can only hope the bowel appreciates all these efforts.
Many places have been doing this for centuries, and have built an entire industry around the treatments, as well as the ‘Cures’ and rehabs which are often funded by one’s health insurance. Sometimes these towns or cities can add the word ‘Bad’ to their name, meaning ‘Bath’.
Years ago we visited Bad Elster in Saxony, and drank the waters there (they were not delicious, and we were not even more full of vitality afterwards):
Such towns feature a ‘Kur Park’, a beautifully planted park where one can gently stroll. If you’re lucky, there will be a bandstand, where you can attend free concerts, readings and performances.
Anyway, our holidays over the years often included some sort of hiking, and coming down into the valley somewhere in Germany it was not unusual to find a sort of rectangular, tiled basin of cold water at the entrance to a village. You’re supposed to take off your shoes and socks, roll up your trousers and walk through it. It’s good for you. It’s called a ‘Kneipp basin’.
And 17 May is the 200th birthday of good old Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest who believed in the healing power of cold water.
Father Kneipp lived and worked in the Allgäu, in Bad Wörishofen. Since then it’s been a centre for his treatments:
True fame in Germany comes in strange ways. Many famous people get a stamp, here’s Sebastian’s:
But true fame is only realised when you get your own Playmobil figure.
Excitingly, Sebastian is now part of the Playmobil catalogue. Of course we ordered one immediately, and are impatiently awaiting his arrival, so he can stand on his own platform in our living room, next to Playmobil Martin Luther.
I think I will now go and eat a slice of today’s cake: rhubarb meringue sponge. It will be good for The Stomach.