Wellness Questing in The Crystal Grotto – Berchtesgaden, Bavarian Alps, Germany

The Cave
The Cave

Certain locations on our planet have long been known for their curative powers. However, in a world focused on doing things and being there, these have become rarer, if not well kept secrets. Ten miles from composer Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg, Saltfortress, near Berchtesgaden, Germany, there happens to be such a place. (It is said the Dalai Lama even recognized one of the local peaks as “Heart Chakra of the Alps”).

Blessed with rich rock salt deposits, past wars were fought over possession of the “white gold” found here. Today's battles are confined to winning over health challenges. Would you believe adventurous seekers of optimal health claim to get better here simply by visiting a unique Salt Healing Cavern deep in a mountain range? Quackery? New fad? Healing Cavern operations manager, Jan Freiherr von Werthern, knows differently.

“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 staff have concluded that three-week programs with a daily stay of two hours offer the best chance of long term improvements for chronic conditions.

According to promotional literature put out by the cavern office, salt cavern visitors surveyed have reported improvements in a range of conditions from neurodermitis, rheumatism, hay fever and allergies to stress, asthma, bronchitis and sleeplessness.

While not yet universally accepted as a complimentary treatment by medical systems, according to a spokesperson of a regional medical association, earlier studies did suggest positive effects.

Most following the call to the womb of the Earth seem to care little about learned findings and are quite happy to find out for themselves what this is all about.

People are here for their own reasons. One lady shares how her asthma has been getting better since she started salt-spelunking. “It’s not totally gone yet, but I’m really happy with my progress.” Inspired by a friend who supposedly found relief from bronchitis after only four cave sittings, a middle aged gentleman next to her hopes the cave will help him with an ear problem.

Ten o'clock Evening, Salt Mine Office, Berchtesgaden. Tonight's overnight guests, about a dozen people mostly from Europe, straddle a bright green electric shuttle train speeding through narrow tunnels 650 yards into the mountain.

"Please remain seated during the ride" urges Hilde, one of the attendants.

Getting near the cave, visitors note the air is naturally purified by salt's negative ions. It feels soft, refreshing, relaxing and revitalizing.

“Breathing is more fun here”, the Polish lady comments as the group starts cracking up, inhaling exaggeratedly to verify her findings.

Mother Nature has set temperature in this cave at a constant 12 degrees Celsius, night and day, year-round.

Most visitors tote jump suits, sweaters, jackets, and socks. “Not to worry,” Hilde's co-worker reassuringly smiles at the worried-looking first timers, “You will be totally comfortable. We have sleeping bags, blankets and hot tea for you inside."

The wood floored, terraced, tastefully decorated, exquisitely designed cavern interior may remind one of an indirectly lit sauna landscape, roughly the size of a tennis court. It’s obvious this is no ordinary cave, but a luxurious natural underground healing sanctuary.

Adjustable Cot
Adjustable Cot

Soon each person finds an adjustable cot for the night and settles in as attendants tuck in blankets and sleeping bags. For maximum benefit, cave operator, Dr. Wolf Buerklin, and his colleague, Freiherr von Werthern, recommend people stay awake for a while, taking time to contemplate, notice salt vein patterns, allow the energy to sink in.

Relaxation comes easy, with a faint taste of sole (pronounced so-lay, water & salt solution ) in the air, and a Tibetan metal bowl, sound massage. Fountain heads gurgle in a softly lit sole pool at the cave center.

Time to let go of the outside world.
Sounds gently fading, the cavern turns still for the night.
Where the cave leads, minds follow.
A tangible tension spreads.
For some, an inner journey begins.

Sleeping Quarters
Sleeping Quarters

Reports of lucid dreams, images, emotions bubbling up in the mind's eye are not uncommon. Some experience a sense of heightened perception, suspended in timelessness. For others, it feels like the cave knows exactly what one needs. If that happens to be deep sleep, so be it. One may wonder if the grotto is a symbol, mirror, or amplifier for our own inner knowledge and intuition.

Around 7:30 A.M., more toning reminds the group that it’s time to rise. Rise from the cot, rise from Middle Earth. “Go in peace, integrate the cave experience on the outside,” seems to be the message.

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 recharge"’ grins a silver haired gentleman, “relaxed, revitalized, healthier. Not a trace of tiredness, although I stayed awake most of the night.”

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.

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, thereby receiving 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 sounds.

Alas, most cave visitors seem quite content just feeling better. No need to know exactly what caused it.

How did wellness seekers get access to this secluded place? 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 made it available to the public.

To compliment cave healing programs, artists and practitioners occasionally stage special events including concerts, Chi Gong, guided meditations, relaxation for pregnant women, fairy tale hour 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 water from artesian wells.

Incidentally, the quality of water is not taken lightly in these parts. For example, artesian water like that from St. Leonhardsquelle, Saint Leonard Spring, supposedly has a track record of assisting in healings since the early 18th century. Scientists, including popular Japanese researcher, Masaru Emoto, and one of Europe’s oldest, most respected hospital departments for natural healing, have been studying its unusual properties.

Besides drinking healthy water, cavern-fasters will be able to hike around Koenigssee, Kings Lake, a beautifully situated mountain lake near Berchtesgaden boasting some of the cleanest water on the planet.

Innovative fasting programs should appeal especially to those wishing to stay in top shape, lose extra pounds, or purify and rejuvenate while enjoying the process. As one visitor observed tongue in cheek, “It’s also the perfect way to recover from Oktoberfest.”

While the English section of the healing cave homepage may still be under construction as you read this, the office is able to handle calls, emails, inquiries and reservations in English.

Salt Healing Cavern Berchtesgaden info@heilstollen.com

Getting There and About
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 are available. Munich, 100 miles from the cave, has an excellent Autobahn, air (via Salzburg) and train connections with Berchtesgaden county.

Tip: To complement your healing cave experience with wellness-biking, ask the Tourism office (see below) 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.

Accommodations

The “4 You” wellness hotel Hochkalter in Ramsau

Hotel – Guesthouse Mauthaeusl in Schneizlreuth

Berghotel Rehlegg

Free information and maps for Berchtesgaden County:
Berchtesgadener Land Tourismus info@berchtesgadener-land.de

Traveler Article


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