Just behind the football pitch in Andelsbuch, there is a Kneipp stepping pool full of icy water fed from the spring of the Brühl grotto. Here in this peaceful environment, a farmer’s wife cools her feet, an office worker relaxes on lunch break, and a local resident braves the icy water and cold pebbles as part of his daily routine. This odd, and for some people a bit painful, practice is still just as effective as it was when the priest Sebastian Kneipp recognised the healing powers of water, exercise, medicinal herbs, lifestyle and diet. Kneipp is regarded as the founder of modern natural healing methods and, according to the New York Times, is one of the three most famous Germans of his time after Bismarck and the German Kaiser.
“Saufe wöllet se alle, aber sterben will keiner” (Everybody wants to drink, but nobody wants to die)
When Sebastian Kneipp was born in 1821 in the Allgäu region of Germany, people had very little idea about health. Children drank coffee and schnapps, women forced their bodies into corsets, and a kilo of meat was considered to be as nourishing as a kilo of flour. Listlessness, aching joints and hair loss were just a few of the more harmless side effects. More serious still: Faeces ended up in the drinking water, murderous epidemics swept through the country, and the average life expectancy was half of what it is today. It was around this time that the loud and passionate priest Sebastian Kneipp appeared on the scene in his brown cassock. He was famous for giving fervent speeches and confronting people with pithy statements that are still valid to this day.