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Innovative and Traditional Austria

By: Jonathan Selzer, PhD
Posted: August 23, 2010, from the September 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
The sauna at Quellenhotel & Spa in Bad Waltersdorf.

The sauna is an integral part of the spa experience throughout Austria, as evidenced here at Quellenhotel & Spa in Bad Waltersdorf.

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Saunas. The sauna is an integral part of the spa experience throughout Austria. It is not uncommon to find 10 or more different kinds of saunas in one spa. These can include traditional hot Finnish saunas, rock saunas, steamy iodine baths, alpine herbal saunas, Roman saunas, brine steam saunas and, of course, Kneipp water treatments are available everywhere. Be prepared, however, that all sauna-goers, like their Neanderthal precursors, do not don clothing. After an initial five seconds of awkwardness, you will soon realize that nakedness increases the sauna’s experience and health rewards.

Relaxation rooms. The relaxation room—in German the ruheraum—of an Austrian spa has taken on its own special importance and become an integral part of the therapy. Austrians have an ancient history in herbal remedies, and there are many botanical products based on these unique Alpine herbs. The ruheraum of many Austrian spas offers a smorgasbord of herbal teas to be taken hot or cold that are often based on local, wildcrafted plants made into therapeutic teas to help with the relaxation, detoxification, purification and revitalization processes. Ayurvedic teas have also become very popular in many facilities. Regular fare in relaxation rooms includes organic snacks of veggie slices and delicious dips that showcase local produce.

Also unique to the relaxation room are the many various opportunities to unwind, including waterbeds, massage chairs, crystal lighting, light therapy, classical music and sound therapy.

Herbal tradition. Some spas take herbal remedies even further. The Quellenhotel & Spa, for example, has developed its own medicinal treatments based on locally grown products. Thus was born traditional Styrian medicine (TSM), which “combines ancient naturopathy and natural medicine with the latest modern knowledge and methods. This range of treatments has a holistic effect. Body, mind and soul profit from the therapies and cosmetic applications formulated from regional Styrian products,” according to the property’s Web site. Other treatments use products derived from the Alpine vegetation, such as the mountain pine, which has a unique composition of essential oils. This theme of holistic health, well-being, the traditional and the innovative is common throughout the land.

Medical influences. Another result of the strong botanical tradition in Austria and elsewhere in Central Europe is the acceptance and endorsement of the medical industry. Medical spas in Austria employ real physicians who embrace and utilize the spa treatments to diagnose, treat, cure and prevent disease, and make their guests healthier. In fact, the therapeutic treatments provided by Austrian spas are supported by medical insurance companies, based on the concept that a gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure. Physicians actually prescribe stays at therapeutic spas, which are covered by patients’ insurance.