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Kitzbühel

“Auxiliary verbs should only be used in imperfect tense, it’s more elegant.” Hans announces, matter of fact. No wonder I have struggled so much to learn German, I am not even fluent in basic grammar. I am not only translating German to English in my mind, but also trying to draw on almost forgotten basics. Hans is interested in teaching me the right way to speak German and the right way is elegant. I had classes one on one with Hans just by virtue of good timing. Two classes every morning, each 45 minutes long. In addition, we met three times per week in the evening for a walk or a beer. Hans was funny, witty and helped me immensely with my German skills. He was very generous with his time despite the fact that I was so limited in my skills -which made speaking difficult. He was easy on me, I only had to use the phrase he taught me, “entschuldigung, das ist mir sehr peinlich” (excuse me, that embarrasses me) once or twice.

 

 

My journey to Deutsch-Insitut Tirol in Kitzbühel was somewhat last minute. It was chosen solely on it’s proximity to the other part of my journey near Kufstein. I found Deutsch-Insitut Tirol by searching “language schools” in vicinity of Sonnhof Ayurveda on Google Maps. I read a few reviews, visited the website and realized that this would be a perfect way to experience a very small region of Austria. I have been studying German since high school and for some reason, it compels me. German is something I want to learn but my immature attention span places it just out of reach. So I toil away in spurts, then the rest of the time my mind is constantly coming up with the German word for whatever I’m thinking of in that moment.

 

I spoke to the proprietor and teacher of Deutsch-Institut Tirol, Hans both over the phone and via email. He was able to take me on with less than a month until my trip. Hans set up accommodations for me with Pension Oberhauser and the rate was extremely reasonable at 37 euros. What’s more, the pension was right across the street from the school. My trip was completely set; two weeks learning German with Hans in Tyrol and a week doing detoxing at Sonnhof Ayurveda near Kufstein.

 

Pension Oberhauser was a beautiful quintessential Tirolean home, flowers and all. Herr and Frau Oberhauser were extremely friendly and warm, I immediately felt at home there. The pension had three rooms, each with a shower and sink. There were two shared bathrooms in the hall. I had everything I needed to be comfortable including my own balcony. Included in the price was a traditional cold Austrian breakfast every morning and even more valuable, German conversation with Frau Oberhauser. She was very patient with me despite my limitations. I felt I understood a good deal. Normally quite chatty, I was not able to speak as much as I would have liked. Nothing like confusion to hold the tongue! Not only was I right across from school, there was a footpath next to a beautiful stream which leads right to Kitzbühel. Depending on your pace, you can be in the center of town in 20-30 minutes. Conveniently, there were two grocery stores and a restaurant, Alpenpizzeria minutes away by foot.

Kitzbühel is a very popular ski resort and the annual World Cup alpine ski races are held on the Hahnenkamm mountain. Skiing has been a part of the culture since 1892 when Franz Reisch first set out on some planks from Norway. Alpine skiing was born! To this day it is a hugely popular destination for skiers from all over the world. There are many races throughout ski season. For those who want to come and learn while skiing, students at Deutsch-Intstitut Tirol take classes in the morning then ski in the afternoons. When it’s not covered with snow, many folks will take the cable car up and hike down the mountain. Hans told me this is very hard on the knees, it’s much better to hike up and then take the car down. It may be better but also much more difficult! Once at the top of the Hahnenkamm, there is a restaurant with outdoor seating on an enormous patio with beautiful views. The Schwartzsee Lake just outside of town offers an easier course for a leisurely walk. It features stunning views of the surrounding mountains as well as a place to grab a beer to drink right on the lake.

 

Kitzbühel has loads of charm no matter what one decides to do. The high end shopping is impressive, but even on Sundays when shops are closed you will find folks wandering through town. That’s because every shop has a beautiful window display with their finest wares to peruse. This is great for those who’s budgets only allow for looking! I was searching for a dirndl for my daughter while there. Venturing inside one shop I found the proprietor very knowledgable and friendly. I found a very unique blue dirndl designed by Swarovski. It had shiny eyes in Swarovski crystals all over it. In the end I was too unsure about it to purchase without my daughter there to try it on.

Good food was plentiful and although there were many high end places there were deals to be had. Especially at lunch. Goulash Suppe with hearty German seeded bread and butter could be found easily for 8 euros or under. That would entitle you to lounge outside on the patio and people watch. The grocery store could beat that price easily. You could have a do it yourself sandwich for a euro or two. Benches abound for free, sometimes even with musical entertainment. Alpenpizzeria is close to the school and offers a delicious, economical lunch special.

The Aquarena is the public pool and it was my favorite thing in Kitzbühel by far. I love a good sauna and The Aquarena had so many different options in their enormous sauna room. There was a Turkish steam bath, Kneipp pool, as well as three different kinds of saunas. Remember that saunas in Austria are all in the buff and co-ed. I was told that there is one day per week when ladies have at least part of the sauna area to themselves. The prices for admission to all facilities for the day range from 8.20€ if you have a cable car ticket to 16.50€ for a full price adult. There are two large pools, one for athletes and another for soaking. There are slides and children’s play areas as well as a restaurant to grab a bite.

My time in Kitzbühel is very special to me as it was the first time I was able to focus solely on German language learning. Traveling alone meant that I had to constantly seek out interactions with strangers -in German! Tirol is a fantastic area of Europe to spend time in, no matter your interests. It’s filled with beautiful architecture, exciting sport activities as well as great food. I found it to be a wonderful base even on the weekends to explore the surrounding area via train. Of course the people are the real treasure in Austria. Hans and The Oberhausers made my time very enjoyable. Most of the people I met greeted me with “gruβ dich” in Kitzbühel and “gruβ gott” in the environs -meaning something like ‘bless you’ or ‘God bless you’. I continue to plug away at my language skills, striving for consistency in practice so that I can return with better fluency than when I left.

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Bad Reichenhall

On an absolutely gorgeous day in October, perhaps one of the last nice weekends of the season, I had the good fortune to visit Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria. Although located in Germany, it is closest to Salzburg, Austria. Like many other mineral spring towns, it was built around salt production which began thousands of years ago. Today, it is a thriving spa town which thrives on tourism. My home base was in Kitzbühel for this trip and I chose to go away overnight and visit two thermal baths in two days; Bad Vigaun on Friday and Bad Reichenhall Saturday. I returned to my home base in Kitzbühel Saturday evening.

 

It is always a mistake to judge a town by it’s train station but I did worry when I stepped off the train that I had made a mistake rolling in at dusk without a hotel reservation. A friendly bus driver took me on the last bus to the Rupertus Therme. I went in to get information on hours and admission fees but because it was late I decided my time would be best spent finding a nearby hotel. I was delighted to find that the pool lobby had free wifi. I made my booking on my phone and headed over to my accommodations. The baths would have to wait until morning. It was completely dark when I walked to the Galerie Hotel from the pool.  I couldn’t see what I was walking through very well but I followed the paved walking trail going through a park, a courtyard and another larger park. Galerie Hotel is an economical choice and offered a clean, well appointed single room. A mineral water pool was available and for 2,50€ as well as a sauna and steam bath, but with the hotel bar closing soon I decided to have a drink before retiring for the evening. Breakfast was buffet style, delicious, and included in my 72€ rate.

 

Because I checked in when it was already dark, my surroundings were a bit of a mystery. The next morning the sun was bright and it was set to be a gorgeous day. I found that the hotel was situated right on the most exquisite park I had ever seen. The architecture and common spaces are positively stunning and were built for showing off. The Königlicher Kurgarten (The Royal Spa Garden) is 39,000 square meters of gorgeous plants from all over the world. The weather was stunning and there were flowers absolutely everywhere. The park featured the AlpenSole Fountain which was surrounded by people relaxing and enjoying the healthy mist on one of the last warm days of the season. Gorgeous buildings speckled the border of the park with exquisite architecture including Das Gradierhaus right near the fountain which puts out this wonderful salt air.

An interesting structure, Das Gradierhaus is visible from the hotel. It is made of wood and has two corridors. This structure is really quite amazing! Over a tall wall of  blackthorn salt water trickles down. The water comes from the Old Salt Works and has 26% alpine brine, but is mixed with water until a 5% solution is attained. Then, depending on which way the wind blows the water trickles down the thorns on either side of the structure. There are covered corridors on each side and it is suggested to walk down the aisle where the water is not coming down, against the wind for a half hour. Breathing in the salt air that has passed through the thorns slowly and calmly, the aerosols are said to clear dust from the lungs, improve immunity and nourish the respiratory track. Even Mozart was smitten with Das Gradierhaus calling it “the most beautiful outdoor inhalatory in the world”! Walking in the park you get the benefit of the AlpenSole air.

Around noon I finally made my way to Rupertus Therme. The walk was about ten minutes from Königlicher Kurgarten. After passing the bank courtyard fountain, I embarked on a ten minute walk down one of the finer lanes in Germany. Beautiful architecture lined the avenue to the baths on one side, on the other side there was a beautiful park.

I didn’t feel like I had enough time to visit the saunas, so I only utilized the pool. Absolutely everyone was in the pool outside. The sun was shining and it was probably over 70° outside. I started in the almost empty pool inside where there were waterfall features, big jets and the beautiful large windows looking out at the sunshine. Unlike my visit to Bad Vigaun, there was no water pathway from the inside pool to the outside pool. I had to get out and walk outside (gasp!).

The sun drenched everything outside, people were just basking in the warmth. The lounge like seating inside the pool was really wonderful with jets directed at the back. It allowed total relaxation while looking on at the gorgeous surroundings. The air had a crisp quality because it was fall, but the sun was warm enough it felt like summer. It was one of those rare days on the edge of the season where luck can bring sunshine and warmth or a cold and rainy storm. My luck was good!

I did not have time to partake in any extras because I lollygagged in the park for longer than I anticipated. I had to make it back to Kitzbühel before day’s end and the trains on Saturday can become very full. I only utilized the baths and paid 19,50 € for four hours as well as 6 € for towel rental. Day passes are also available. The sauna area looked absolutely fabulous. In addition to the sauna, a wellness center offering massage as well as a fitness center with exercise equipment is on site. Physiotherapy and water exercise therapy is also available upon request. A lovely bistro with outdoor seating looked very welcoming. All items are charged individually including sauna access.

Rupertus Therme was time well spent and could easily be done in a day trip. Morning could be spent dreaming through the town with it’s gorgeous fountains, lush foliage and absolutely stunning gardens, then lunch and a dip at Rupertus Therme in the afternoon.

Full information about pricing at Rupertus Therme as well as hours: https://www.rupertustherme.de/de/home/

For more information on the Galerie Hotel:

http://galeriehotels.com/

For more information on Königlicher Kurgarten and the lovely Gradierhaus: https://www.bad-reichenhall.de/koeniglicher-kurgarten

http://blog.berchtesgadener-land.com/2014/06/04/das-gradierhaus-bad-reichenhall/

And on more information about the town of Bad Reichenhall itself and the many sights of the area:

https://www.berchtesgaden.de/en/come-see/towns/the-spa-town-of-bad-reichenhall

Webcams with views of both Königlicher Kurgarten and Rupertus Therme:

https://www.stadt-bad-reichenhall.de/de/webcams/

 

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The Fountain of Youth in Bad Vigaun?

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. IMG_20171013_163707403

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.

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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.

 

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Gruß Gott!

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Losing it Like the Europeans

Ayurveda is the folk medicine of India; a holistic approach based in traditional wisdom. The idea has captivated me for years. We are made up of three doshas; Vata, Kapha and Pitta. If they are out of alignment we are prone to dis-ease. I was looking for balance when I began searching for a reprieve from my every day. Especially since my everyday was no longer; I was facing big changes in my life. The end of an era and a realignment of sorts. I was looking for my new normal and wanted to be sure I had the right tools to find it.

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A retreat was in order, but I was interested in balance rather than a total revolution. A loving and nurturing plan to a healthier life. It was between two places; Sonnhof in Hinterthiersee, Austria or Parkschloesschen in Traben-Trarbach, Germany. Both were between one to two hours from major airports, both offered Ayurveda programs and both had great reviews. Sonnhof is small and family run and offered both accommodation and treatment packages at very competitive prices. The staff was very receptive, answering every question quickly. The most important part; the most thorough, well rounded treatment package that fit my budget. After finalizing that piece of my journey I planned the rest of the trip around the retreat. I decided to stay mainly in Tirol and I’m so glad that I did. Tirol is like heaven on Earth. The people are warm and funny, the countryside is stunning and the food is delicious. I filled my time with language, thermal springs and hiking all alone. Sonnhof was the perfect way to close out my three week journey in Austria.

While researching Sonnhof, I was surprised that there were not more American reviewers online. I inquired beforehand that English would suffice and I was reassured. Although I speak some German, it was good that the staff was fluent in English so there were no misunderstandings. I found that the activity instructers, the therapists and the reception staff all spoke English very well. The dining room staff were not as fluent.

I booked the Detox Light Program which included a pulse reading to give me a roadmap for my time there. My treatments are listed below in the order I received them. I have also included Sonnhof’s descriptions from my therapy sheets:

  • Consultation & pulse diagnosis
  • Udvartana – herbal powder massage
  • Virechana – colon cleansing
  • Udanavata© – special abdominal massage
  • Special back treatment approx. 60 mins
  • Vishesh – energy massage
    • Energetic deep tissue massage with stimulating and revitalizing effects. Similar to Abhyanga, but applied with greater pressure and speed.
  • Basti – gentle enema
    • Herbal internal cleansing with regenerative effect and a healing and calming effect through deeply penetrating warmth and special herbs.
  • Jambira Pinda Sveda – bag massage
    • Full body problem zone treatment using warm lemon poultice bags. This is a highly effective cellulite treatment.
  • Shirodhara – flowing oil treatment
  • Abhyanga – Ayurvedic full body oil massage
  • Nutritional consultation
    • Exit consultation with home instructions

Other included amenities

  • Detox diet – acid-alkaline balance
  • Weekly programme of yoga & meditation
  • Infrared heat cabin
  • Herbal remedies for the duration of your stay
  • Hot water & ginger drinking treatment
  • Use of the AyurvedaCentre

The morning after arrival I had a aloe vera drink, then my pulse diagnosis with Dr Sharma. He knew my history without a single word from me. He knew that I had suffered as a child with upper respiratory problems. Allergies were my curse from birth. He also knew that I bruise easily and have ovarian cysts (which I have never formally been diagnosed, but I have the symptoms and it runs in my family). He knew the areas from which I sweat the most and by looking at my tongue he knew that I had toxicity and lung problems. My liver and lymphatic system weren’t working properly but my nervous system was in overdrive. He said I needed to stop reading so much and start listening more. I am naturally very curious, a voracious reader and always researching everything. He had me figured out.

His diagnosis was that my Vata was far too high (50%) my Kapha was too high as well (30%), with Pitta being far too low (20%). According to the Sonnhof’s website, “Vata characterizes people who are slender, constantly on the move, forgetful and prone to anxiety. By contrast, Pitta types are of medium build, good at decision-making and predisposed to anger. Kapha types have a calm nature, keep their heads in stressful situations and have a tendency towards to idleness.” It would seem that in order to be in balance, each would be at 33% so in that case my Kapha should be too low as well. However, on my intake form it clearly says that my Kapha needs to come down.

His diagnosis was that I lack fire, especially in my digestive system.  My instructions were to breath deeply, sip copious amounts of tea slowly, take the Vata sauna three times daily and do yoga twice daily. I was to take supplements, avoid drinking 30 minutes before and after my meals, and put lemon on all of my food. These things would help build my lackluster digestive fire. He prescribed supplements to take while at the resort, they would be on the table at mealtimes. 

After my pulse reading I was given a tour of the Ayurveda center with three saunas and steam rooms: Kapha detoxifying steam bath, Pitta herbal clay sauna and Vata gemstone & saltwater therapy (the sauna I would spend the most time in). In addition, there is a Moon Sauna, Sun Sauna and 5 infrared heat cabins. A fitness room (which I was advised not to use for my program) and an indoor swimming pool overlooking the beautiful garden. Special teas for the different constitutions (Vata, Kapha and Pitta) were also available throughout the day in the Ayurveda lounge. Thermoses of hot water were available throughout the day in the dining area. I was also given a hot water bottle for the daily liver pack I was to prepare in the mornings and keep on for a half hour. Fennel seeds were also provided to assist with any stomach aches and bad breath associated with detoxing. Later in the day I was given the herbal massage (Udvartana) which just felt like a salt exfoliation. I was up every hour urinating through the night.

My first night I stayed in the Tirol Double, which is the next least expensive room category from the single room (unfortunately it was unavailable when I was there):

My second day was Virechana- day of cleansing. I drank a purging cocktail for breakfast. I was given a liver detox pack to rest with for an hour. Then I was to do special exercises to do in my room while reciting mantras. In between exercises, I was to drink a cup of hot water every quarter of an hour to total 2 liters during the process. Drink, exercise, excretion and record. That’s right; I was to record all of my bowel movements on a spreadsheet noting the color, consistency and volume. Lunch was a salty rice soup. According to Sonnhof, the rice soup supports the liver and was given to clean out the intestinal villi and drain the connective tissue. At my afternoon check in I was deemed clean enough to eat my normal detox regime the next day. Dr Sharma would have liked me to do another Virechana during my stay but the rice soup wasn’t something I was anxious to repeat. In a masochist twist I was to receive a stomach massage later in the day. Although it seemed very cruel considering I had just finished purging my guts, to my surprise it was actually the best massage of my entire life. I felt as though I was floating and was able to completely let go and relax. Dinner was very salty rice soup but with vegetables this time.

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The day of cleansing and at various times during the week, I felt sadness. I found myself thinking of the past- more specifically unfortunate things; things that could not be changed. I felt certain they were brought on by the purging of toxins. I was reflective and became emotional at times.  The morning after my day of cleansing, on my breakfast table was the daily newsletter with an excerpt about joy & sorrow. I found it comforting and very relevant.  I had a headache starting from 4 am and was not well throughout the day.  Later I would have a deep tissue massage (Vishesh).

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For the rest of the time I returned to my detox menu. Everything was absolutely delicious and many things came from their own organic farm. I ate a solid breakfast every morning with steamed fruit and a choice of spelt porridge, quinoa porridge, coconut-oat porridge or kitchary. I always chose the coconut-oat porridge because it was so delicious. I was to eat mainly cooked foods the entire time I was there, mostly warm. I ate a three course meal for lunch and soup for dinner with some special whole grain crackers. Two nights out of the week we had a solid dinner. I was never hungry. I can only assume this was because of the quality of the food I was being served. My meals for the week were breakfast as described above (except my day of cleansing I was given the power elixir in lieu of breakfast and the last day Saturday I ate a normal breakfast buffet) and the following lunches and dinners:

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On the whole, the activities were very light. On my first night I went to a yoga class that I (and it seemed many others) found very challenging. The rest of the time was very relaxing and I was able to learn about many types of breathing exercises. Some of the classes offered were Detox Yoga, Qi Gong and a lecture about the three constitutions which was free for those participating in Panchakarma but 10 euros otherwise. Swimming was also very nice with a relaxing jet in the pool and lawn chairs overlooking the gorgeous garden.

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Another guest told me about e-bikes they loan out which require advance reservations. I was happy to hike around the tiny mountainous town of Hinterthiersee. It consisted of a few hotels, a lumber mill, a church and a small store. There were cows speckling the landscape and beautiful Tirolean architecture.

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On the third day I was transferred to my second room, the Veda Suite. This suite had yoga mats and I was able to exercise in my room. This was very nice on the day of fasting when I was not feeling up to group classes. This room had a separate bedroom, living room and two balconies.

The Veda Suite:

Sonnhof’s massages, treatments and facilities were an absolute dream. Every massage or treatment had a purpose but was also extremely relaxing. My fourth day I had an herbal oil enema for strengthening the colon after the detox. I thought it would be awkward as I have never had an enema before, but I was in and out in five minutes. I explained to Ms Mauracher (she administered the enema) that I would be starting my period any day and I was a bit uneasy about the impending treatments. In order to accommodate my unwelcome visitor and to put my mind at ease she changed every treatment to female therapists. A few hours later, I had a deep tissue massage which was very nice although I was a bit worried about the oil which was still working it’s way out of my arse. 

One cultural difference to be aware of that you will find in Germany and Austria; the saunas are co-ed and nude. In the interest of experiencing the culture, you might try it in the buff first. I was apprehensive when I first experienced a German sauna but it’s so natural to everyone that it seems to be a non issue. It is a little intimidating the first time you go in, speaking to a member of the opposite sex naked. It’s trial by fire for language learning, you are speaking a language you are not comfortable with in a situation you aren’t comfortable in. If it really bothers you, no one will say boo if you choose to wear a swim suit at Sonnhof. Unlike the other facilities I went to, there are no signs forbidding swimwear in the saunas.

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On my fourth day I moved to the Alpine Spirit room. It was in a newer wing of the hotel.

My fifth day I did the stamp massage (Jambira Pinda Sveda). This consisted of the therapist taking what appeared to be herbs wrapped tightly in cheesecloth and heated in a pot with hot water. It was rubbed all over and then pounded with a good amount of pressure. I found this agitating. The lemon coupled with the pounding felt like it was moving things out of the body. It is described as a cellulite treatment. Many of the times during the week when I felt the worst were after treatments in which water was released. There was a lot of releasing during my stay at Sonnhof. By design a detox is meant to get rid of the things that aren’t serving our health, but that didn’t prevent me from feeling unease and sadness as they were leaving. After the stamp massage I had a headache and was sore. I didn’t sleep well that evening.

I met with Dr Sharma on the sixth day for an exit consultation. He sent me home with a plethora of information about how to care for myself. My care instructions were simple and completely doable; nothing extreme. I was told supplements to take, how to eat and how to exercise. I was advised to continue to use saunas, ideally after taking a bath. He suggested many supplements specific to my issues with my menstrual cycle. He suggested foods for my specific issues to avoid outright and ones to eat only cooked. The overall theme for everything was moderation. He said to give preference to grilled meats. One time per week eat white meat, one time red meat. Twice per week I should eat fish, twice vegetarian. One day per week should be for soups only. Another recurring theme was warmth; warm sauna, warm liquids and warm foods especially in the winter months. His exercise advice was to maintain moderate exercise; walking and yoga. 

I was excited when I weighed in 9 pounds lighter after only a week at Sonnhof. I felt lighter and so much better. 

When I detox at home, I have to plan my meals and activities. It can be exhausting when I am not feeling well to try to make meals that are healthier and sometimes labor intensive. The guesswork is taken out of detoxing at Sonnhof with all the things I need at my fingertips. Europeans know how to live well. The combination of Tirolean hospitality and Indian Ayurveda is absolute perfection.

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Visit Sonnhof’s beautiful website (available in English) and check out the different programs beautiful photos. There you will find more information about planning your own stay including brochures, packages, pricing and reservations:

https://www.sonnhof-ayurveda.at/en/

To learn more about Austria’s heavenly region of Tirol:

https://www.tyrol.com/

 

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Carson Hot Springs

As cliche as it sounds, I began thinking of my health as the new year has been looming. Because today is the first day after the hustle, bustle and pigging out of the holidays I began to take seriously the options for improving my health. The gym was the obvious answer but as much as I hate exercise, I hate crowds even more. The thought of beginning a vigorous workout routine among the new year resolution crowds was too daunting to consider seriously. As of late I had really been missing the hot saunas readily available in Europe. I knew I needed to find somewhere to begin sweating regularly- other than the gym.

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My obsession with healing via hot springs began in Bormio, Italy and I further fed the obsession by visiting Bad Vigaun and Bad Reichenhall in Austria and Germany respectively. I can’t get enough. Each time I take the waters, I feel completely treated. In addition to healing waters, all of the thermal baths I went to in Europe (and even the public swimming pool) have saunas with varying temperatures. On a recent health retreat, I was taking a sauna three times per day by recommendation of the resort’s ayurvedic doctor. Upon leaving the retreat his parting advice for my home regiment was a bath followed by a sweat in a sauna.

Today I made a special trip to Carson in order to test the waters literally. Tuesday’s special is $25 + tax for a soak and wrap. With the use of the sauna included in the price, both of my boxes were ticked. Upon arrival I went into the old St Martin Hotel to buy my ticket and headed into the bathhouse. Two rows of antique claw foot tubs lined the bathing room with white modesty curtains separating the individual baths. I met my attendant and gave her my ticket. She gave me the option to choose the length of tub, I opted for a long one. She said my 25 minute time begins after the tub fills up, but she usually gives an extra 10 minutes so that folks can fiddle with the temperature.

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After stripping down I headed over and sunk down into my long tub. The smell of sulfur hit me right away. It stinks to high heaven and lets you know that this isn’t just tap water. It seemed to provide more buoyancy than a bath at home. When the tap was on it felt like a hot tub jet was going. Bubbles were shooting under me. I was reveling in the bubbly stinky water and wondering if 25 minutes would be enough. The attendant checked on me and generously told me to take my time in the water and to come out for the wrap when I was ready. The leeway was much appreciated.

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When I was able to pry myself away from my hot bath, I was ushered into a room with beds covered in linen sheets. I chose my bed under an open window. The attendant wrapped me tightly in linen, covered me with a cozy blanket and provided a wrap for my head. She said she would be back in a half hour, but I was welcome to get up before that if I so desired. The weather was cool and stormy. The notorious gorge winds were blowing and it was absolute heaven laying in warmth listening to nature’s music. Occasionally I got a refreshing whoosh of cool air over my face. I stayed in this indulgent state for about 10 minutes and opted to start my time in the sauna.

The dry sauna is nowhere near as hot as the ones I relish in Europe, but it would have to do. Because I was out of practice I decided to do ten minutes in the sauna, cool off with a shower, then go back in the sauna for a longer run. I was delighted to find that the showers were also pumping out the stinky mineral water. It isn’t often you can have a spa day for the price of a cheap haircut, but that’s exactly what I did today.

Details: Bath and Wrap is provided on a first come, first serve basis. The cost Monday-Thursday is $30 +tax with Tuesday being discounted to $25 +tax. Friday-Sunday and holidays are $35 +tax. Massages and facials are available. There is a larger common soaking pool which has it’s own rate schedule and requires a swim suit. The bathhouse and soaking pool are all strictly 18 and over. Check out Carson’s website for more details. https://carsonhotspringresort.com/services