Thursday, 18 July 2013

Publications: Healing Springs - The ultimate guide to taking the waters [?]

Soaking literature is far and few between. 

There are indeed many a hot spring guide book, in the US quite a few and in New Zealand as far as I know. Supposedly there will also be quite a few connoisseurs guides in Japanese.

But with instant internet, there's little or no need to publish these guides any more. We can all delve the info required with a swish and pointer or two. All up to date as well as the latest visitor who wishes to diss the place. The photo's are always there, explaining every nook or cranny. And even pre-buying an entrance fee to the fancier resorts becomes apparent. All the pre-visit pleasures.

This does mean that the enthusiast / upcoming soaking expert is depraved of an avenue to exhibit his or her expertise. In print. And who's not being printed does not exist. So goes the old adagium.

But beyond the world of lists and links there is surprisingly little info on what hot springs are and why so. Altman's now slowly dated Healing Springs wishes to link the two worlds and probably back in 2000 that might have worked. But nowadays a book a third filled with alist of potential soaking spots and a small collection of soaking picca's instantly seems out of place. And soakers in Southeast Asia need to note: we are not included! So much for our beloved soaking culture.

Best efforts to no avail? Krabi, Thailand's Klong Thom hot springs by Cholthicha Pornpan

But in the other two thirds, Altman has gone out of his way to seek to prove beyond doubt that soaking is indeed a healing process. 
Altman's expertise is in alternative healing (he's an hand analyst) and he seeks to combine natural waters with immediate health benefits. Mineral content is linked to disease remedies while diseases are linked to types of hot springs. It transpires that soaking isn't the only healing aspect, one needs to include drinking and inhaling mineral spring content. Emphasis is awarded to the Euro concept of taking the waters where states have enabled soaking industries to expand and medicalise the hot spring experience itself.
And that is where to me the healing aspect is lost.

Healing and hot springs is as much about inspiring and relaxing rather than solely something to heal. Altman does try though. There is a chapter on the ambiance of soaking. But describing this book as the ultimate? Even in 2000 that wouldn't have covered the content.

Though he admires the Euro soaking states, he's right in emphasizing that soaking nowadays is something we might be interested in; but gone are the days in which states could afford soakers to indulge for weeks on end. Better are the Japanese concept with ample bathing facilities which can afford daily experiences. Already this fits much more in with northern Europe's hang towards sauna. Or the old daily English bath.

The author raves on about his Bad Wildbad experience, Germany. Unfortunately his own photo's are not available any more. The caption to this photo:
'A swimming fairy tale come true ... The classicist façade of the Graf-Eberhard-Bad (Count Eberhard Pool) looks rather unsophisticated in relation to what it contains. Behind the Florentine sandstone walls you will find oriental bathing splendour that is certainly unique in Europe.
This building, once threatened by decay, was restored with the help of significant financial backing, good planning and artistic effort to its original luxury as a bathing landscape, a dream from 1001 Nights. Today it is a modern temple of health with the refined feeling of the orient.
A grand architectonic effort thus succeeded in creating symbiosis between necessary modern form and an atmosphere of nostalgia. The Moorish Hall, the Princes' Baths and the Great Lords' Bath, where the statue of Venus by the Danish sculptor Bert Thorwaldsen can be seen, and above all the exclusive sauna landscape are part of the wonderful framework for a healthy visit. No resort visitor should miss this attraction: no one leaves without being impressed'.
Other aspects included are a nice historic overview where he notes that hot springs and human interest can be traced back for 600,000 years, but what with the lack of writing skills, use of mineral waters can be traced to Greek and Roman scripts as well as ample evidence in the form of archeological remains.

Altman does add a chapter on the preventive aspects of heated baths (leading to higher states of immunity) which assist in cleansing the body of toxins. We also learn that water pressure leads to increased flows of oxygen-rich blood. There is much more added to the list to the preventive powers of soaks, aspects of negative ions, micro-nutrients. You'll need to read for yourself.

So to sum up is Healing Springs a no buy? Well, I think the book cost me 0.14 cents which is about just above scrap value. The question is the book worth the transport costs? Hmm ...

Healing Springs has 4.8 stars at Amazon (4 reviews), while only 3 stars at good read (2 ratings).

Altman, N. (2000) Healing Springs - The ultimate guide to taking the waters. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, United States of America.

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