East and West meet in Germany's tranquil Moselle River Valley, offering rest, relaxation and an unexpected taste of India at the Parkschlößchen Ayurvedic Spa
The piles of paperwork on your desk aren't getting any smaller. The telephone rings off the hook. Children need attending to, as do social and charitable obligations. Put simply, modern life is very, very stressful. At our frenetic pace, rarely do any of us take care of ourselves properly – let alone unplug and take a little "me-time". For some, the only way to do this is to leave their city, their state and even their country.
My little getaway took me to a remote spot nestled among the vineyards surrounding the Moselle River in western Germany – the Parkschlößchen Bad Wildstein, a former bathhouse turned Ayurveda hotel and spa in Traben-Trarbach, Rhineland-Palatinate. Unplugging, decompressing and revitalizing your health are not "optional" here. Relaxation starts even before you arrive, as the train glides along the banks of the tranquil river, one of the most beautiful landscapes Germany has to offer, carrying you to your peaceful destination. Tucked far away from big industry and social demands, you will relax; you will detox; you will feel better whether you want to or not! Oooommm… you are not in your normal world anymore.
A touch of India
German-owned and operated, the Parkschlößchen combines U.S. concepts of service and pampering with the German tradition of an annual health cure under the ancient Indian principles of Ayurveda – a branch of Indian medicine that treats the whole being by bringing mind, body and soul into harmony through detoxification, massage, diet and exercise programs such as yoga. The prime focus at the Parkschlößchen is the physical well-being of guests. Staff help you restore your sense of vigor and vitality using Ayurveda, while also providing you with the knowledge and tools needed to maintain the healthier, more relaxed you when you're back outside the spa walls.
Once inside the Art Nouveau building, you are given an appointment with the Vaidya Kumaran Rajsekhar – an Ayurveda expert from India, trained in diagnosis and healing. One technique he uses to examine the guests is Nadi Pariksa, or pulse diagnosis, placing three fingers from his right hand below the patient’s wrist on the radial artery. This is one of the Ayurvedic tools that helps determine a patient’s "Dosha" (physiology), as well as mental constitution by idenitifying Dosha imbalances, movements of toxins within the body, and degradation of tissue. Once the physical and mental diagnosis is complete, a prescription is issued – for massage, fantastic food and rest.
The power of massage
No massage treatment will be administered without the prior "prescription" of the Vaidya. My first therapy, the Abhyanga, was a synchronized total-body massage using sesame oil, intended to ground and relax the recipient while beginning the process of detoxification. Once completed, a minimum of 15 minutes' rest is required in the serene rest rooms of the Parkschlößchen, designed and decorated, as is the entire facility, using natural products and fabrics and soothing colors – all following Ayurvedic principles.
My second massage treatment, Shiro-Abhyan, was a partial head massage using coconut oil to cool or pacify one of the Doshas, Pitta. This was followed by Shirodhara – in which sesame oil is drizzled on the forehead and scalp for at least 20 minutes. It felt as if I was being gently caressed. When the oil was poured over my "third eye", the chakra (or energy pattern) associated with the space between the eyes, I could feel the pressure of the headache that had been building slowly release its hold. The third day of treatment began with the Padabhyanga, a foot massage using ghee (clarified butter), intended to relax and revitalize the system, balancing mental and physical strength. After that, I definitely needed a nap.
Further treatments include gourmet vegetarian meals prepared in a way suitable for all Dosha types. Should the Vaidya recommend a specific food regime to help a particular imbalance, the kitchen and head chef are alerted and special dishes are prepared, ensuring the cure is complete. Ayurvedic meals begin with something sweet and end with something savory so there is no need to leave room for a dessert. When ponying up to the bar and picking a poison, be forewarned; all the night's cocktails will be toxin-free, meaning no caffeine and no alcohol. However, all food, rest and no exercise makes for chubby but satisfied blobs. Within the half-timbered walls of the Parkschlößchen are ways to battle the bulge with Yoga and Pilates, a sauna and a crystal-blue pool with a larger-than-life Buddha surveying the progress of guests.
After a few days' rest visitors can’t help but start to feel healthy again – and, well, even relaxed. In fact, I was so relaxed after my time away from it all, I found it almost impossible to write this guide. What a way to get away!
The cost of rejuvenation
Packages at the Parkschlößchen range from a one-day sampler to a two-week intensive detox program called Panchkarma. The one-day stay costs €240 and includes accommodation, a consultation with the Vaidya, all meals, use of the facilities and a massage. Three-, five-, seven- and ten-day packages are also available, tailored to specific aims such as beauty or wellness. Prices range from €380-€2,105, excluding accommodation (see room rates below).
For the not-so-faint-of-body-and-wallet, the Parkschlößchen offers a 14-day detoxification program including massages, steam baths, carefully-tailored purification meals, consultations, exercise and rest for €2,340, excluding accomodation.
Room rates range from €135 a night for a single room to €370 a night for a double occupancy suite, plus an extra €45 per night for full board. Prices include a consultation, lectures and access to the grounds and equipment, but massage therapies cost extra. Early booking discounts of 5% on a stay of up to six nights, and 10% on a stay of seven nights or more are available on reservations made at least three months in advance.
Reaching Nirvana can be an arduous chore. Thankfully, reaching the Parkschlößchen Bad Wildstein is slightly easier. Coming from outside of Germany, the closest airport is Frankfurt/Hahn, about 20 minutes by taxi from the spa. Ryan Air serves this airport but should your preferred carrier not, Frankfurt/Main (the Frankfurt you know) is about 90 minutes away and offers convenient train connections directly from the airport terminal to Traben-Trarbach. Other airport options are Düsseldorf, 90 minutes away; Cologne/Bonn, also about 90 minutes away and Luxemburg, which is about 70 minutes from the Parkschlößchen.
Coming from within Germany or some of its neighboring countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France, the best and most scenic option is the Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) www.bahn.de. Coming from Southern Germany, passengers are treated to some of the loveliest and most romantic scenery Germany offers, particularly between the cities of Mainz and Koblenz. Train travelers should book with caution though. Since Traben-Trarbach is far removed from many of main service areas, getting there requires multiple train transfers. This means more opportunities to miss your connection if the transfer time is short and/or trains are late, which they very often are.
Not to worry, though. Should any difficulties arise, the next closest town is Bullay. Pick-up can be arranged from there.