I have an obsession with thermal springs. It all started in Bormeo last summer. I was so enamored with the ancient Roman baths as well as the beautiful new facility in the hotel where I stayed. Now everywhere I go, I am on the hunt for mineral springs. The waters are warm, sometimes smelly and are purported to have healing properties. In general, they are referred to as thermal springs in Europe. They all have their respective claims to fame. Some claim that they are great for skin conditions, others are touted for their cardiovascular effects. I’m on the hunt for the fountain of youth; nature’s answer to needles and the scalpel.
Bad Vigaun is very close to the border of Germany all the way in the north of Austria. By train it is less than an hour away from Salzburg. I made my way by bus from the Hallein train station. A twenty minute ride put me practically at the doorstep of the facility. Complimenting the healing thermal waters there is a medical center, hotel and restaurant. Although treatments for relaxation are available here, they are capable of solving bigger problems than just stress. Physicians, nurses and other therapists offer a variety of therapies related to physical rehabilitation after injury, mental health support, diets as well as holistic therapies to support guests. From workplace injuries to mental illness, their offerings look like a one stop shop for curing what ails. My visit was limited to the thermal waters, sauna and restaurant.
The St Barbara spring provides Vigaun with it’s waters. The spring was recognized in 1978 as a healing spring by the Salzburg Provincial Government. The water gushes out at 93°F and is warmed or cooled accordingly for the various pools. The smallest and warmest of the pools is the Roman pool at 97° F. It is round with jets and is the most relaxing pool in my opinion. It is most like a hot tub although not as hot, has jets and is round with seating. There is a large 90°F indoor pool which is great for stretching out, more traditional swimming as well as walking. It has huge windows overlooking the outside pool. It boasts a small circular area where you can let the whirlpool bring you in, swirl you around and then push you out other side back into the big pool. There is also a lovely waterfall area where you can sit under the falling water and let the pressure massage your muscles. This pool is where I spent the most time because I don’t like being overheated in the water, I like to save that for the sauna. Finally, there is an outdoor pool which is 82°F and on the sunny October day I went it was temperate and the crisp air was welcome. There is a convenient swim through from the large pool inside ensuring you warmth and comfort while swimming to the outside pool.
According to the website the thermal spa water is made up of a calcium chloride-sulfate mineral mix and has a mineralization of 8200 mg per liter of water. The facility claims it is suitable for the treatment of degenerative and chronic inflammatory diseases of the joints, spine, muscles, ligaments and vessels as well as for rehabilitation after operations, in conditions after hip or knee replacement, after inter vertebral disc surgery, diseases of the rheumatic type, osteoporosis, exhaustion and general relaxation. My fountain of youth was not promised here, but stress relief and self care are certainly good treatments for aging. My interest was piqued at the treatment of blood vessels and hope for relief for bad circulation.
According to many of the regional tourist websites, the spa is popular among a more mature crowd. I didn’t let that bother me, relaxation is a universal value as far as I’m concerned. I was taking a weekend away from the little paradise town of Kitzbühel to visit Bad Vigaun as well as Bad Reichenhall (stay tuned). I opted for the three hour card for 18.50 euros and it was just enough time. Included in that price is a modern electronic locker system which allows you to use a handy bracelet with a sensor to access your items.
Offered in addition to swimming (with an additional fee) is a solarium (tanning bed) as well as very modestly priced massages. I did not partake in either, instead opting for the sauna which was an additional 4 euros. In both Germany and Austria folks are serious about the benefits of taking a sauna. I have certainly come around to their way of thinking. For me, it is relaxing, benefits my hair and makes my skin feel wonderful. It has also helped me with water retention and improves my overall feeling of wellbeing. It is a meditative experience to sweat in perfect warmth especially during the cold months. As I have written about before keep in mind that saunas are nude and co-ed in this region of Europe. In Bad Vigaun’s saunas, swimming suits are not allowed. You may, however, take a towel in if you feel strongly about modesty. Better yet, when in Austria do as the Austrians do. I came on a Friday during the early afternoon and could have had most of the saunas to myself if I wanted.
There are six sauna experiences and Bad Vigaun has given a description of the purported benefits of them. An aroma steam bath (109°F-115°F) claims to help with blood circulation, relief of muscle tension, joint and limb pain, cardiovascular benefits, skin cleansing and overall increase in physical performance. A brine steam bath (109°F-115°F) is prescribed by the facility for relaxation, respiratory system and blood circulation. The Sanarium (115°F-140°F) is described as an alternative to the classic, dry Finnish sauna. The benefits listed are to circulation, the immune system and stimulation of the metabolism! In addition, they claim it will improve the respiratory track and give a positive effect on sleep and hypertension. The Finnish saunas are the hottest ones that were available indoors at a whopping 176°F-185°F. I love the hot air and spent as much time in these as was comfortable. It is described as being good for relaxation and recreation with benefits to the cardiovascular and circulatory system. Infrared cabins (95°F) are purported to stimulate the metabolism, relax the muscles, promote circulation, stimulate the nervous system and benefit the skin. The Rock sauna was located outside, the hottest of the bunch at 194°F-203°F! but was not open when I was there due to construction.
After soaking, sweating and showering, I had the opportunity to eat at Cafe Therme on site. Somewhat of a culture shock for an American, smoking is allowed at the bar in most restaurants I visited, including the Cafe Therme in the center of this health facility. The smoking ban goes into effect in April of this year (2018) but smoking is always welcome at the outdoor tables and will continue to be.
Goulash had served me well throughout Austria as an economical and positively delicious meal option. It is always served with brown bread and butter to really seal the deal. The goulash at Bad Vigaun was very tasty, inexpensive and was part of a meal deal which afforded me a delicious dessert if memory serves me for about 12 euros. I left feeling full and totally relaxed, ready to continue on my journey. The benefits I felt over the course of the day were subtle but wonderful. My circulation felt improved, I had lost a bit of weight from the sauna and felt much lighter. The benefits to my skin were felt as soon as I got in the water. It felt silky and continued to feel nourished after leaving.
I walked to the town of Bad Vigaun where the train station is through picturesque farmland. Sheep and chickens were grazing right along the trail. There was an old church in the tiny town, lovely little homes and green pastures. Throughout Austria I felt like I was dreaming. The beauty of the land was just out of a storybook with green pastures, rolling rivers and mountains surrounding quaint little villages complete with beautiful town squares and prominent church steeples. Bad Vigaun was very typical in that sense, but having no obstacles between myself and the livestock was even more charming.
If you plan to visit Bad Vigaun, make sure to call ahead for a room. I checked if they had any available when I was there but was disappointed. They have a great reputation and many people come to relax and take the waters. You will most certainly need to check ahead if you would like medical advise or massage. For more information about visiting Bad Vigaun, utilize their webpage in Chrome so it’s automatically translated or you can always email them with questions. It looked like they were expanding on the existing center, with construction taking place while I was there. It did not take away from my experience, but if it would bother you make sure to check the status before going.
There are guest house accommodations nearby as well, with a helpful directory right off the facility’s bus stop with a map and phone numbers. You will also find restaurants and other fun things to do in the area. This would be a hiker or biker’s paradise and there are winter sports available as well in season. Nearby Hallein will certainly have plentiful accommodations, I only passed through but it looks like a must-see if you are in the area. The salt mines can’t be missed as it boasts an education center, a 64 meter long slide and a Celtic village. Check out the website for further details.