On the western verge of the Upper Rhine Valley, only a few kilometres away from the French border, spa water from the Petronella-Quelle spring seethes 450 metres below Bad Bergzabern, feeding the Südpfalz Therme thermal bath with therapeutic sodium chloride water.


From the visitors’ parking lot to the Südpfalz Therme spa entrance you walk past the “Haus des Gastes” (house of the guest), which is the event centre of the spa premises. A walk along the bungalow architecture is like traveling through time—back to the 1980s. However, there are no Opel Mantas or Volkswagen Santanas at the car park, but modern cars—a remarkable number of them with French or far-off German number plates. People from far beyond the region come to Bad Bergzabern to enjoy the health effects of the water and the various treatments offered at the spa facilities.

Sandra Reichenbacher, the managing director of the Südpfalz Therme.

Sandra Reichenbacher hustles and bustles through the spa entrance area—in a cheerful mood and very energetic. The managing director is running around again at a mile a minute. The beginning of the year is one of busiest times for the thermal bath. “After the Christmas holidays, people feel the need to do something good for themselves and their bodies and to start the new year with renewed energy. The last week of the winter holidays is particularly busy. Apart from that, tomorrow will be the first long sauna night of the year; a few hundred visitors are expected to make use of this offer.”

A lot has changed since the Staatsbad (national bath) opened in the 1970s. People used to stay for a few weeks back then. “A stay at a health resort for a month was commonplace. Doctors used to prescribe such stays like hot cakes and insurance companies paid for it. At weekends the entire family would come to visit,” says Sandra. The graduated business manager however only remembers this slow, golden health resort age from her childhood and from the stories that older guests, who have been loyal to the spa for a long time, tell her. Today, the industry has become a fast-moving business.

“Leisure has gained a lot of importance nowadays. Our life has become very hectic. Our guests schedule their breaks specifically and carefully. They come here to unwind and to enhance physical well being. We witness a shift from classic therapy towards a wellness-oriented lifestyle and health-conscious living.” However, the five pillars of health according toprogenitor Sebastian Kneipp remain highly topical, even if Magic Flower Yoga starts to steal a march on the traditional fango pack. Therapeutic treatment with water, exercise, healthy nutrition, natural remedy and a good balance between work and relaxation are just as important in 2019 as they were in 1953—the year Bad Bergzabern was awarded the status of Kneipp health resort.

Since the first drilling in 1928, lots of water has been pumped up from the Petronella-Quelle springs. Today, the spa requires about 30,000 litres per day. The spa water from the two sodium chloride springs is drawn to the surface at a temperature of 21.1 and 23.4 degrees Celsius respectively. Before it is fed into the pools of the Südpfalz Therme spa, the water runs a long way through pipes, filters and heating systems within the underground catacombs below the baths.

“Leisure has gained a lot of importance nowadays – our life has become very hectic.”

Sandra’s work routine takes place above ground in the offices and sometimes in the guest areas. An expert team runs the technical operation and the water treatment processes. But Sandra has always been interested in the technical field. It was the enquiry by a local daily paper, however, which caused her to take a close look at the spa’s extensive technical structure.

“An editor phoned me, enquiring on possible guided tours into the underground chambers of the spa. I accepted the idea spontaneously, without considering the fact that the technical director in charge may be on holiday. So it was down to me to guide the tour.”

Sandra acquired all relevant information about the functioning of pumps, water treatment and the spa’s own block-type thermal power station by undergoing an intensive course given by the spa’s technician and finally guided the group of visitor herself through the catacombs. She generally enjoys trips into the technician’s department and personally examines technical innovations, arising malfunctions or detected energy saving potentials.

Above the ground, the spa guests have no clue about the massive technical equipment below their feet, while they enjoy the beneficial effects of the spa in the toasty water. Since February 2018 they can also swim out to the new outdoor pool. Thick clouds of steam rise into the sky in winter, because even in frosty weather the spa water is at least 32 degrees hot. The next attraction is coming soon, being under construction since January 2019: an extension of the sauna roof terrace, a new sauna with panorama, a rest room house and a bistro for the sauna with a view of the spa gardens.

The wellness landscape grows every year, extended by new items that add to the already diverse wellness spectrum of rose sauna, Riesling sauna, ice fountain, reflexology trail, salt grotto and much more. This way, a good 170,000 guests per year prepare for the future, just like the thermal bath itself. As a souvenir from the Palatinate, guests can take some wellness home from the spa boutique: shower gel and body lotion by the spa’s own brand “Riesling-Kosmetik.” The cosmetic products are made of Petronella spa water, Riesling from the Palatinate and honey from local beekeepers. You’ll only find that in Bad Bergzabern—where else?



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