A Wealth of White Gold

Bad Salzuflen's long history with salt
August 9, 2008 Updated: June 23, 2019
Epoch Times Photo
Carved and gilded facades cover homes of the “Weser Renaissance” style, typical of German town Bad Salzuflen. (The City of Bad Salzuflen)

Blessed with a rare gift of nature—nine saline springs—a small town in northwestern Germany has long enjoyed wealth and success. Salt gave its name to this town near the Salze River where even today visitors can inhale a salty breeze.

Known as Uflon in 1048 A.D., after 1322 A.D. it came to be known as Salzuflen. It was a major center of salt production in Europe. The German word for “spa” was added in 1914 and is now officially called Bad Salzuflen.

Known as white gold because it can preserve food, salt went through a precise process. A saline liquid was boiled in huge pots until all the moisture evaporated.

The salt springs, which were left by prehistoric seas, were used in the 19th century as healing baths. The first salt bath opened in 1818. In the first summer, 1,025 baths were taken at the spa.

Another practice at that time said to foster a healthy body was drinking the salty mineral water. Its commercial value as a health spa soon surpassed the saltworks, which closed after World War II.

Three of the city’s nine springs are now also used for drinking and spa treatments. Bad Salzuflen’s buildings have their own story to tell. The spas were established by the Lippe family at the turn of the 20th century. Situated near the city park, the historic pump room is the largest of its kind in Europe. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy a variety of cultural events at the nearby concert hall.

Near the man-made lake in the park, the Leopold Spring was discovered in 1906. A small pavilion reminiscent of a Grecian temple was built above it, and it has become a landmark of the spa gardens. From the park in the heart of the city, wanderers and walkers can walk through a zoo with game animals directly to the Teutoburg Forest.

The centerpiece of the town is the spa. Bad Salzuflen has one of the greatest and oldest of its kind. Freiherr von Beust, the director of the salt refinery, built it on a T-formed footprint in 1776. An almost 32-foot-high wall of brushwood was constructed as a huge wooden framework filled with blackthorn brambles. As a way to save firewood, salt water was spilled over the brushwood before it was boiled, enriching the salinity and reducing undesirable substances.

Today, the spacious Gradierwerk Spa is uniquely located for guests to relax and re-energize on hot summer days. More than 158,000 gallons of water spill over its walls every day, freeing myriads of microscopic drops to energize the immune system when breathed in.

Besides the spa buildings, Bad Salzuflen’s old town architecture tells the story of the enormous wealth that patrician families accumulated through trading their “white gold.” The houses have been kept in their original state in an architectural style known as Weser Renaissance, or Renaissance of the Weser region. The timbered houses are ornamented with rich carvings, often painted and gilded. Inscriptions, figures, flowers, and mussels can be found on the timbers.

A success story of nature and culture, the spas of Bad Salzuflen are a popular destination to relax away from the hectic modern world. Prosperity and success do not often happen in a region situated in the midst of the Teutoburg Forest but producing salt made it happen for more than a thousand years.