Ayurveda Parkschlösschen review
Authentic but luxurious Ayurveda in rural Germany
The Quick Read: The Ayurveda Parkschlösschen is a luxurious Ayurveda retreat set on the edge of Traben-Trarbach, a quiet Art Nouveau town on the Moselle river in rural Germany. Ayurveda is popular in this part of middle Europe, but this Ayurvedic hotel stands out from the crowd for its total commitment to the ancient Indian system of healing. You don’t get to choose your food or treatments here – everything is decided by your physician. It may sound a little harsh, particularly for a luxurious hotel, but actually it’s very relaxing not to have to make decisions. There’s no sense of denial either – you’ve given a total mind, body and soul MOT that indulges all the senses. If you’ve always fancied Ayurveda but been worried about the sensory overload of India and want a luxurious experience, Parkschlösschen gives you the best of both worlds – absolute authenticity served with German precision. For European readers, it’s a whole lot closer than India too. Find out all about Ayurveda.
Who it’s best for: Visit Parkschlösschen if you’re feeling off kilter, need to tackle a chronic condition or want to plunge into the stringent traditional detox known as Panchakarma, purging the body of deeply buried metabolic and toxic waste. Three of the Queen of Retreats team have been here, and on each of our visits the main clientele were international, stressed out professionals, both men and women.
What you do: Set meal times and your daily schedule waiting for you on the breakfast table each morning means that, in effect, you do what you’re told. But there’s something deeply liberating about abandoning decision-making and surrendering yourself to a team of expert carers. Come for a 2 or 3 night detoxing or rejuvenating stay or for weeks at a time.
Any visit starts with a consultation with one of the hotel’s doctors. They ask questions, feel your pulse, gaze into your eyes and study your tongue. The aim is to discover not just your prakruti (your intrinsic mind-body type) but also which doshas (bio-energies) are out of balance and causing ill-ease. That done, you’re off on a gentle meander through days of oily massage, nourishing food and lots of rest.
If you love treatments, you’ll adore it here. Two or three treatments, between 20 and 60 minutes each, are scheduled into each day – all following medical protocol as written in the ancient Vedic texts, and all complete with luxurious, well-thought out touches.
If you’re in the mood you can join a gentle yoga or stretch class in a wooden-floored room with large windows, sit in group meditation or wander quietly around the lovely grounds or down into town (avoiding the siren call of the cafés, of course). Taking a bike along the pretty river is relaxing too. Optional evening lectures are packed with tips on how to master and maintain energy management for a happier, healthier more harmonious life.
When we visited our yoga class was held in German, but all the teachers speak English. Several teachers work on a rota and teach simple hatha; all have had different training (Yoga Vidya; the Bihar school of Yoga; Vinyasa flow) but all have been taught to give classes to help different dosha types work through their detoxing process.
Where you stay: The Ayurveda Parkschlösschen is a refurbished 19th century hotel. It’s always been a health resort, built around a thermal spring within a park planted with global species of rare trees. It doesn’t pretend to be Indian: pared back decor, white bone china and linen tablecloths root it firmly in the European tradition, although there is the odd painting of Buddha. However its sense of place is blended with Ayurvedic principles of construction and aesthetics, known as Vastu Shastra – the Indian equivalent of feng shui, which holds that the buildings in which we stay can have an important influence on our health.
Materials are all natural – from wool carpets, wooden windows and silk wallpapers, right down to mineral based paint. Swathes of red in the dining room purposefully stimulate agni – digestive fire. Bedrooms are large and uncluttered, purposefully unstimulating. Everything is plain, rather than patterned and it can feel a little bland – but that’s the point. The marble bathrooms are more exotic with a generous line-up of ila organic products, so you can leave your toiletries at home.
There’s a good-sized sauna (infused with lemon-grass, spruce or sandalwood for different constitutions), and piles of soft wool blankets on loungers by a (fairly small) swimming pool. The therapy area is firmly culture-less and treatment rooms are functional rather than luxurious. But there’s little more luxurious than your own private relaxation room where you can gently come round in your time after your oily trance under a white fluffy duvet.
In your free time you are encouraged to wander around the small yet gracious gardens; or go walking through the vineyards above the property. Retail therapy is well served by a shop with classy yoga clothes and accessories such as relaxing audio CDs, teas, incense and Ayurvedic gurnas.
How was it for us: I arrived frazzled, plagued by peri-menopausal night sweats and grumbling digestion. My treatment programme was designed around my personal imbalance – to bring my airy Vata back down to earth. So they started by working on my feet! A 30-minute foot massage with ghee is more sensational than it sounds.
Interestingly the treatment that had the most profound effect on me was the one that seemed to offer the least, the Nabi Basti (treatment for easing the intestines). During it, my therapist placed a ringed donut of chickpea paste around my belly button and poured warm sesame oil inside which simply sat on my abdomen until it cooled. She swabbed it out and refilled the ring, perhaps ten times. I slept for most of the rest of the day. Easing my digestive tract (our ‘second brain’) blissfully calmed my active brain as well.
Eating and being treated took most of my time – though I did also fit in a gentle yoga class at the start and a lifestyle lecture at the end of each. Not forgetting cat naps in-between.
My stay reinforced what I know to be true but tend to lose sight of: the importance of knowing my own body: what works for me, what doesn’t. Salads – the universal health food – make me bloat. Being of a Vata constitution, characterised by air and ether which is light, active, dry and cold, I don’t need more of the same – floaty, airy lettuce leaves – to puff me up. I’m gladly ditching raw rocket for apple compote – foods to warm me up and stoke my digestive fire.
Three days later I left serene, focussed and with a pot of herbal pills. And hey presto, that nagging constipation and night sweats swiftly became a blight of the past.
What we took home: Tongue scraping on waking to clear toxins gathered there during the night, warm water drinking to stimulate digestion, rubbing oil on the soles of my feet before bed. And I now head for bed with a drink of hot almond milk (because it contains a sleep hormone).
Would we go back: Yes. When time and budget allow, I’ll return to do a full Panchakarma to properly expunge the noise, smog, emotions, pesticides and general stress of my city life.
People watch: All the therapists are gracious and accomplished. If you want to delve a little deeper into the theory of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, ask to see Dr Aruna Bandara from Sri Lanka, whose heartfelt advice is not to strive too hard and expect too much from life. ‘Some trees are always going to be small, and others will reach for the sky,’ is his beautiful analogy. We need to relax, whatever our ‘size’.
Food watch: There are four brilliant chefs here overseen by talented head chef Eckhart Fischer, for a one-size-fits-all food philosophy simply doesn’t feature in Ayurveda. The food is fabulous – based around fruit, vegetables, grains and spices – only a little spring onion and garlic, and dairy and strictly no alcohol, coffee, black and green tea, eggs or meat (they’re all considered rajasic – too stimulating for detox). Every meal includes the balancing six tastes of Ayurveda: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent.
The main meal is at noon when digestive fire is strongest. It’s blissfully back-to-front, starting with pudding (which is considered too heavy to end a meal), followed by soup – and ending with your main course, for example braised radish with turmeric and coconut cream and sushi which sounds odd but tastes great. Your menu is prescribed according to your dosha type and you’re encouraged not to drink while you eat. The chefs cook intuitively according to Ayurvedic principles and lay on a Sunday buffet feast.
In between you drink doshic teas to balance digestion, thrice-boiled water (which apparently helps eliminate more toxins) and almond milk with cardamom for a blissful night’s sleep.
What’s lowly: The gym and pool area are somewhat perfunctory so if you’re a dedicated gym bunny or swimmer you might feel deprived. But most will just relax into the love-filled schedule. Some of the classes and evening lectures are in German – private sessions can be arranged, but do ask ahead if there’s something that’s important to you that you need to be in English.
Insider tip: Do visit the Buddha Museum (a walk away). It showcases the hotel owner’s personal collection from around the globe and exudes a powerful sense of peace and awe. If you’re lucky your stay will coincide with a group meditation among the statuary too.
Price per person with a companion: A two-night retreat including a doctor consultation and three treatments starts at €470 (£335) per person plus Ayurvedic full board from €405 (£285) per night, based on two sharing a double room.
Price per person going solo: A two-night retreat including a doctor consultation and three treatments starts at €470 (£335) plus Ayurvedic full board from €205 (£150) per person per night in a single room. A 14-day full Panchakarma treatment starts at €2,335 (£1,680) plus Ayurvedic full board at €215 (£150) per night.
Value for money: Yes it’s pricey, but the cost mirrors the exemplary standards, staff-guest ratio (most treatments are with two therapists) and pure products (for example a Pizzichilli treatment uses eight litres of ‘ripened’ sesame oil).
Reviewed by Sophie Benge.
Thinking of doing a full Panchakarma at at Ayurveda Parkschlösschen in Germany? Read a word from the queen on her 14 day stay.
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