Bad Kissingen is a Unesco World Heritage Site

In the summer of 2021, the decision will be made to include Bad Kissingen and other spas on the Unesco World Heritage List. The Great Spas of Europe alliance consists of eleven world-famous spa towns in seven European countries. All of them, whether Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, Bath in Great Britain or Vichy in France are Great Spas because they established the spa town type of city in the 18th and 19th centuries. The characteristics with which these spa towns entered the race for the Unesco designation years ago have their origins in a past that is still ubiquitously visible today. There are seven mineral-rich healing springs on which Bas Kissingen’s reputation as a world spa is based. More than 500 years ago, physicians recognized their healing, soothing or preventive effects, or to use the acronym SPA: Sanus per Aquam.

Die größte Wandelhalle Europas wurde 1912 vom Architekten Max Littmann erbaut. Zwischen den Säulen können Kurgäste noch heute entspannt schlendern. Die wunderschönen Fliesen an den Säulen sind von Villeroy & Boch / © Foto: Georg Berg
The largest Wandelhalle in Europe was built in 1912 by the architect Max Littmann. Even today, spa guests can take a relaxed stroll between the columns. The beautiful tiles on the columns are by Villeroy & Boch / © Photo: Georg Berg

Wandelhalle and fountain women of Bad Kissingen

In Bad Kissingen, the buildings of the spa garden ensemble are extremely well preserved. Above all, the Wandelhalle and Regentenbau by architect Max Littmann, as well as the spa garden laid out in 1738. If you take an early morning stroll along the Saale toward the Wandelhalle to sip one of the four healing waters before breakfast, it is easy to imagine the ladies and gentlemen of the Belle Époque who once attended their spa treatments here in hats and long fur-trimmed coats. This journey through time also succeeds so well because at the early hour between 7 and 9 a.m., not a soul of today’s Bad Kissingen is on the move. Spa guests and rehabilitation patients stay in their clinics. The ritual of the healing water cure has unfortunately not yet made it back into the daily routine of the spa guests of the 21st century.

Lustwandelwege an der Saale / © Foto: Georg Berg
Pleasure walks along the Saale / © Photo: Georg Berg

Time travel – walking in the morning hours

Walking in the morning hours through Europe’s largest and very splendid Wandelhalle is like offering a free journey through time. The fact that it is little used is surprising to the point of incomprehensible, because the services of the fountain women are covered for every spa guest with their spa tax. Against deposit of the spa card, the guest receives the typical Bad Kissingen drinking glass. With it he then goes to the fountain woman, who advises him on questions of application and then pours from one of the four Kissinger healing waters Pandur, Rakoczy, Max or Luitpold.

Blinkendes Messing. Eine Brunnenfrau inmitten der aufwändigen Zapfanlage. Der Kurgast kann aus den vier Heilwässern Pandur, Rakoczy, Max und Luitpold und dem Kissinger Bitterwasser wählen. Auf Wunsch nehmen die Brunnenfrauen die Kohlensäure aus dem Wasser / © Foto: Georg Berg
Flashing brass. A fountain woman in the middle of the elaborate tapping system. The spa guest can choose from the four healing waters Pandur, Rakoczy, Max and Luitpold and the Kissingen bitter water. On request, the fountain women take the carbonic acid out of the water / © Photo: Georg Berg

The term Wandelhalle comes from exactly what you are supposed to do in it. With a glass of healing water in hand, the spa guest strolls through the hall to the music of the salon orchestra. The relaxation and peace that flows through the guest promotes the absorption of the valuable minerals and trace elements. In the morning you have the beautiful Wandelhalle almost to yourself. The salon orchestra plays only at 10.30 o’clock. Then again, there is no medicinal water dispensing, because the medicinal water should be drunk before meals. In the afternoon, however, the comfortable spa guest has the chance to combine three of the attractions of the spa town of Bad Kissingen, namely the healing water application, the salon orchestra and the Wandelhallenwandeln.

Das Salon-Orchester von Bad Kissingen besteht aus 13 Profimusikern. Die Musiker haben sich 2016 in das Guinessbuch der Rekorde gespielt mit insgesamt 727 Konzerten in nur einem Jahr / © Foto: Georg Berg
The salon orchestra of Bad Kissingen consists of 13 professional musicians. The musicians played their way into the Guinness Book of Records in 2016 with a total of 727 concerts in just one year / © Photo: Georg Berg

Sonorous names – Max, Pandur, Rakoczy and Luitpold

Fountain women have been around since 1911. The fact that they still exist today is an intangible value that Bad Kissingen can put on the scale for its Unesco application to become a Great Spa of Europe. The trained well women advise which healing water brings relief for which ailments.

Heilwasser muss rein sein, natürlich und reich an Mineralien und Spurenelementen. In Deutschland benötigt ein Heilwasser auch die Zulassung als Arzneimittel / © Foto: Georg Berg
Healing water must be pure, natural and rich in minerals and trace elements. In Germany, a medicinal water also requires approval as a medicinal product / © Photo: Georg Berg

For example, water from the spring of the Max Fountain, drunk warm, helps with colds, aids expectoration and flushes the kidneys and bladder. Water from the Rakoszy Spring, discovered in 1737 during a relocation of the Saale River, owes its name to the wild and effervescent nature of Prince Rakoszy, a popular Hungarian freedom fighter at the time. It has qua its nature a good assertiveness to get sluggish intestines going again. Pandur is quite similar to Rakoszy and helps, among other things, chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa or gallstones. Luitpold, on the other hand, relieves heartburn and provides relief from iron deficiency. A drinking cure is laid out on three to four weeks. Ideally, it should be taken twice a day before meals.

Der Maxtempel im Kurgarten ist jederzeit frei zugänglich. Er ist der älteste der sieben Heilbrunnen und wurde bereits im Jahre 1520 das erste Mal erwähnt. 1815 ließ König Max I Joseph von Bayern ihn neu einfassen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Max temple in the spa garden is freely accessible at all times. It is the oldest of the seven healing fountains and was first mentioned in 1520. In 1815 King Max I Joseph of Bavaria had it newly enclosed / © Photo: Georg Berg

If you don’t have time for a daily trip back in time to the Belle Époche during your cure or rehabilitation stay, you can also fill up with water to take home. However, only to get from one day to the next. The water does not last very long due to its high mineral content. For the many followers of drinking cures in the late 19th century, the water was sent home in clay bottles. But by the third day after bottling at the latest, the water turned brown and became undrinkable. Even Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once had the wild Rakoszy water sent to him in Berlin.

Schönes Ritual: Zum Nachmittags-Konzert lassen sich die Kurgäste Heilwasser einschänken. Das Orchester spielt, die Halle ist schön wie immer und das Wasser schmeckt nicht wirklich gut, aber in kleinen Schlucken und mit der nötigen Muße lässt es sich trinken und dem eigenen Körper was Gutes tun / © Foto: Georg Berg
A nice ritual: For the afternoon concert, the spa guests have healing water poured for them. The orchestra plays, the hall is beautiful as always and the water doesn’t really taste good, but in small sips and with the necessary leisure you can drink it and do something good for your body / © Photo: Georg Berg

Whether drinking cure, brine bath or inhalation. It is the water that is the focus of a cure in Bad Kissingen. You don’t have to be a water sommelier to taste the differences between Bad Kissingen’s four drinking waters. A glass of Pandur or Rakoszy cannot really be classified as a pleasure at first sip. The metallic notes come to the fore too strongly. As early as 500 years ago, the therapeutic effects of the healing springs were recognized. At the end of the 19th century, the most popular period of the spa industry in Europe began. Today, these healing waters even have official approval as medicines in Germany and are strictly controlled.

Im früheren Luitpoldbad ist heute das Spielcasino untergebracht. Für die Zerstreuung der Kurgäste, die oft viele Wochen blieben, haben Weltkurbäder wie Bad KIssingen auch luxuriöse Spielbanken errichtet / © Foto: Georg Berg
The former Luitpoldbad is now home to the casino. For the diversion of spa guests, who often stayed for many weeks, world spas like Bad KIssingen also built luxurious casinos / © Photo: Georg Berg

Transformed? Spas through the ages

The great spas of Europe had their heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The nobility and later the wealthy bourgeoisie undertook drinking cures and bath treatments lasting several weeks in Bad Kissingen. Once upon a time, the Russian tsar’s family also met Empress Sisi here. They liked to travel incognito. Sisi booked herself in under the name Countess of Hohenembs. Even today there is the Sisi Suite in the Hotel Kaiserhof Viktoria.

Ein Vergnügen aus vergangen Zeiten wird in Bad Kissingen bewahrt. Liebevoll wird das Linienschiff Dampferl genannt und pendelt zwischen Rosengarten und Oberer Saline / © Foto: Georg Berg
A pleasure from times gone by is preserved in Bad Kissingen. Affectionately called Dampferl, the liner shuttles between the Rose Garden and the Upper Saline / © Photo: Georg Berg

Later, Otto von Bismarck followed as a prominent spa guest. The Chancellor of the Reich visited Bad Kissingen for many years. As the story goes, he took spa treatments very seriously. Bismarck underwent both a drinking cure including a diet plan, took brine baths and drove daily to the graduation house at the upper saline for inhalation. During the years of his spa visits, Bismarck was an extremely popular politician whose sensitivities were discussed by the entire nation. The intrepid Chancellor of the Reich, who was not deterred from further visits even by an assassination attempt during his first visit in 1874, is the subject of a separate Bismarck reportage, in keeping with the cult of personality of the time.

Früher stiegen Männer an Leitern in die Tiefe, um das Wasser aus den Brunnen zu schöpfen. Heute sind die Quellen prunkvoll verziert und die Entnahme läuft über ein Leitungssystem / © Foto: Georg Berg
In the past, men used to climb down ladders to draw water from the wells. Today, the springs are splendidly decorated and the water is drawn from them via a pipe system / © Photo: Georg Berg

Discover time in Bad Kissingen

Discover time is the slogan Bad Kissingen uses to describe what it has to offer its guests. The chances are not bad that a younger clientele will once again feel like traveling back in time to a historic spa. One thing is for sure, if in 2020 Bas Kissingen succeeds in being included in the World Heritage List and becomes the Great Spa of Europe, the number of day guests from all over the world will increase significantly. What is also desirable, however, are guests who actually take more time in the sense of a cure. After all, the word mindfulness has made it from the insider vocabulary for yogis to a trendy term. Since 2019, mindfulness has even been taught as a subject in British schools. If that’s not a ray of hope for the future of the Great Spas of Europe!

More about Bad Kissingen

Prominent spa guests – Prince Otto von Bismarck in Bad Kissingen
Culinary Bad Kissingen

Wall calendar with photos by Georg Berg available in bookstores (also online) in different sizes: World Heritage Bad Kissingen / also as family planner (*)

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The research trip was partly supported on site by Bad Kissingen Tourism

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Our mode of operation is characterized by self-experienced, well-researched text work and professional, vivid photography. For all stories, travel impressions and photos are created in the same place. Thus, the photos complement and support what is read and carry it further.

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