The “Kur”, or “Health Therapy”, with a historical background of more than 200 years, has developed into a very appealing and sophisticated wellness and spa therapy over the past 60 years. The key element of today’s “Kur” is prevention in a modern, warm setting with a therapy selection from all over the world. By Michael Koethner
The origins of wellness and spa in Germany are to be found in the German word “Kur”, also known as “Health Cure” or “Resort Therapy”.
The “Kur” has a history of over 200 years. According to research the oldest “Health Cure” resorts are “Bad Doberan” and “Heiligendamm”, whose long history dates back to the 10th century. Bad Doberan and Heiligendamm were first opened and visited by Baron Friedrich Franz I. von Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1793. Located in the Northeastern part of Germany on the Baltic Sea beach, the most famous buildings are today a five-star resort called “Grand Hotel Heiligendamm”.
A Kur was offered or given to patients in what were previously known as “sanatoriums” (Health Resort or Kur Hospital). These were institutions for the treatment of chronic diseases such as tuberculosis, which was spread widely in the 17th and 18th centuries, and for medically supervised recuperation. In the 17th century various sanatoriums operated in different countries who applied different techniques of how to heal the patient, but mainly offered a strict regimen of rest and prescribed nutrition to strengthen the immune system, for this was before antibiotics and modern medicine existed. The patients usually were exposed to lots of fresh mountain and high-altitude air, various external and internal water treatments such as hydrotherapy and in-hale treatments, temperature treatments such as sauna, steam or ice-rooms, and many others.
The term sanatorium comes from the Latin word “Sana” or “Sanus” meaning “to heal” or “to be healthy” and is also found in the word “spa” – “Sanus Per Aqua”, or healing with water.
In Germany these sanatoriums are usually found in cities and towns with the word “Bad” attached to the front of the name – e.g. “Bad Wörishofen”, “Bad Saarow”, “Bad Doberan”, to name only a few. These places are all government-certified and accredited “Health Cure Cities”. The cure centers are usually specialized when it comes to treatments, and are always fully staffed by professionals ranging from therapists to doctors of all disciplines.
A Kur encompasses a wide spectrum of natural remedies and therapies under medical supervision to assist in the recovery process from illness, rehabilitation, illness prevention, the maintenance of health and the prevention of illness. If received on a regular basis, the therapies can restore and improve the patient’s state of health and well-being.
The most famous person who revolutionized the “Nature Healing Cures” of Kur and brought it to public awareness was Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897). A pastor with a passion for natural healing, he healed himself from tuberculosis through the extensive application of water therapy. Once healed he then passionately invented specific treatments using the healing powers of water and plants.
In our times today, the official terminology of “Kur” is no longer being used, as it has connotations of illness and sickness, due to the history of tuberculosis and other public diseases of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the past 60 years however the “Kur” has been revitalized and its image has improved, thanks to the help of an extensive effort on public and business education. The current trend focuses strongly on preventative health instead of rehabilitation and illness. The “spa” industry actually has grown out from the “Kur” and “sanatoriums” and has helped to increase the public’s awareness of prevention and healing. The industry is still in the process of renewing itself in all aspects of hardware, public and professional education as well as day-to-day operational and organizational issues, however to go to a spa today is very much “IN”. In the meantime Germany has also become a leader in training, accreditation and regulation processes and has raised the level of knowledge and applications of therapies used in the “Kur” and in spa’s. If you are a therapist or natural doctor by profession then you have a very acceptable image in the public’s opinion and a very exciting career in front of you. This in turn increases self-confidence for the individual and creates job opportunities in many sectors of the industry.
In order to keep its industry standards up to date, the “Deutsche Heilbaederverband” developed the “Guetesiegel”, which is equivalent to an official Government-accredited recognition in the health resort industry.
Furthermore there have been huge efforts in the marketing and public relations sectors to help the spa industry regain a better image within Germany, Europe and around the world.
Most health and insurance companies in Germany have also shifted towards financially supporting visits to health resorts. The amount of financial support one can receive depends on the severity and importance of the health condition of the client and is also subject to the location of the health clinic. This support encourages the public to visit health resorts instead of waiting for their illness to appear, before going to hospital when it could be too late.
With all these advancements in the health sector industry, the increased level of education and the better living standards, the mentality, mindset and lifestyle of most Germans has shifted strongly towards healing, awareness of self, well-being and prevention. People are more likely to go for resort or retreat holidays instead of visiting a “sanatorium”. This in turn has led to a change and adaptation within the industry. Standards have increased, there is much more focus on quality, hygiene and qualified professional personnel, and the variety of treatments has increased.
It is now very common to go to a TCM treatment center or stay for a week at a Ayurveda resort. There are many qualified practitioners and doctors from all over the world who find themselves creating a very sustainable living, and offer native treatments and recuperation programs from their place of origin with joy and passion.
Trending now in Germany are treatments which can help to overcome any stress syndrome, burnout, fatigue, women’s health concerns, post-traumatic stress disorder, tiredness, excess weight, and prevention.
People love to experience the extraordinary and the indulgent but also workable and effective treatments, besides the usual body massage. However the pure pampering sessions are long gone and will never again be sufficient, neither for the business nor for the guest.
While staying at a health resort, people also want to accumulate knowledge and education about prevention, healing and techniques of treatments. Therefore it is very much a trend now that a resort and its management will develop programs which encompass a large variety of individual treatments, healing sessions, spiritual sessions, workshops, and other seminars, paired with delicious nutritional cuisine, freshly prepared and presented.
There are more than 350 health resorts and spas in Germany and on the following websites you will find enough research to cater for all budgets and interest groups. Preference for certain locations is also possible, such as a mountain retreat or a seaside retreat. The most important is that the service and the professional treatments are a given standard, which makes a stay at either of the chosen places even more enjoyable.
To sum up – it is about prevention, professionalism, comfort, enjoyment, lifestyle, calmness, stillness and peace, coming to terms with your inner self and seeing the world around you as your creation.
Last but not least I would like to thank the following contacts for their assistance and for providing me with valuable Information:
1) Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, Bad Doberan, Germany
2) Kneipp, Würzburg, Germany
3) Die Neue Kur (The New German Kur)
4) Deutscher Heilbäderverband
5) German National Tourist Board
6) Wellness Hotels Germany