Friday, June 18, 2010

Vienna's Salzgrotte

Austrians don't seem to be afraid to try unconventional therapies in order to stay or get well. Not far from Wien Mitte, the primary downtown transportation center, the Salzgrotte (Salt Grotto) is a haven for persons with respiratory problems.

A friend had contracted a bad cough on her travels to Vienna and was desperate for some relief. We thought it would be interesting to see if the Salzgrotte had any beneficial effect on her cough. A 45-minute session costs just under 8 EUR. In the waiting room stood a pitcher with a green substance, looking not dissimilar to green pond algae. I inquired about it and was told it was chlorophyll. I drank a glass and, after convincing my friend that it tasted like water, she drank one too.

You are instructed to take off your shoes and put on clean socks. As you enter the grotto, you are walking on a couple of inches of soft, coarsely-ground salt, not dissimilar in size or texture to the sea salts available in grocery stores. The only other requirement is to sit in one of the lounge chairs and breathe. Children don't even have to sit. Toys are available to them if they wish to play in the salt. The lights are dimmed and a color therapy light show begins. The sounds of birds singing is followed by sounds of ocean waves. Overhead, lasers measure the salt content of the air.

Just outside the doorway, my friend smiled broadly and said, "I hate to say anything to jinx this, but I'm feeling better." She still had to cough occasionally but kept commenting on what an enjoyable experience the salt grotto was.

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