Dirty and Rejuvenated in Bad Orb

| August 10, 2013

Ever since reading about barefoot parks and trails, I’ve wanted to check out the one in our state of Hessen. At 4.5 km, the Barfuβpfad in Bad Orb happens to be the longest barefoot trail in Germany. These parks have various materials and natural landscapes that you walk through throughout the paths. Sometimes you’re walking over mulch, sometimes wading through a creek, sometimes trudging through mud. Bad Orb’s got some mud. But I’ll get to that.

When we arrived in Bad Orb, we parked next to the main town park, Kurpark. Kur means ‘cure’ in German, and this is certainly intended to be a healing park (unless you don’t like your feet, other people’s feet, stepping into water that might be momentarily dirty in your personal opinion, or, in the case of the Barfuβpfad, the occasional naked child; otherwise, you’re good to go).

We immediately noticed this huge wooden structure with water dripping down the sides and people walking through it. Of course we headed over. Towns with Bad in the name are Bad-ass spa towns (Bad = spa/bath). This spa town sits on salt springs, which they take advantage of for healing purposes. This beautiful structure, the Gradierwerk, brings salt water up from the ground and allows it to trickle down over blackthorn twigs, creating a saltwater mist that cools and soothes you as you walk through, breathing in what feels like open sea air. Not bad for the middle of Germany, and such a relief on a hot day.

Walking on, walking on broken gla-a-ass

Walking on, walking on broken gla-a-ass

IMG_2101We walked through the length of the Kurpark to arrive at the Barfuβpfad, took off our shoes, and immediately found ourselves laughing in the face of years of safety training.  Kids, don’t try this at home (NB: a sign Germany does not feel the need to put up).

Soon we followed the path through sand and mulch and pebbles (Sequoia: not a fan of the stones), on to balancing on wooden obstacles.

And then the real fun began: water.

And mud.


And more mud.

This was some serious freaking mud. This is not a place for your kid to be in her Sunday best. There was soft mud and squishy mud and watery mud and hard mud. Some of it felt like pudding, some like chocolate syrup, and some like cookie batter. Also, some like dog shit.

IMG_2120You’d emerge from the mud, enter a creek, get cleaned off, and find yourself in: mud again. There was a pool of mud above my knees; there was a skinny trench of mud you had to squeeze through one leg at a time so they made sure the mud was thoroughly caked on and required you, your husband and child to all scrub at your thighs to try to get it off. Many people skipped the mud or dropped out after one or two mud obstacles. There was a bench at the end of one of the mud trails where people sat and enjoyed the sight of people climbing out of the mud. That should be illegal. One couple immensely enjoyed watching me come out of one mud pit, relieved, only to find that I’d be plunging right back into another one.

At maybe halfway through, there was a sign to clean off in the creek and not in a something-we-didn’t-understand. Then we emerged from the woods to find people lounging in a clearing, having a picnic, drinking a beer, and walking in counter-clockwise circles in a round wading pool as if they knew what they were doing. There was an unclothed toddler running around, about to get into the pool. Every time I see an unclothed kid near a pool, I think of my friend writing to her housing association when she saw someone changing a diaper near the neighborhood pool. My friend would shit her Stepford bikini if she visited a German pool.

IMG_2134The second half of the trail left the clearing and climbed uphill over a regular hiking trail. It was not pleasant. When we came to the forest path, it was softer ground covered in pine needles.

Sequoia: “We’re in the middle of the forest!”

Paul: “I don’t know if I’d call this the middle of the forest. Five minutes ago we were surrounded by people eating and walking around a pool in circles.”

There were not nearly as many different materials or activities to experience during the trek back. It was more of a hiking path through the beautiful countryside, with gorgeous views of Bad Orb.


IMG_2146IMG_2151Once we were finished the trail and back in the park heading toward town, we headed back over to the salt water Gradierwerk for another pass.  We noticed people walking in circles in troughs of salt water; it looked like they were marching through two log flume rides. So off come the shoes, hike up the pants, in we go, follow the leader. Again, what a refreshing dip for the feet and calves. Then over to the hand rinsing trough. When I went to camp one year as a kid, we brushed our teeth in troughs. That was pretty gross. This was pretty awesome. Maybe if they’d called it Camp Badass Spa, my perspective would’ve been different. But I was like 8, so maybe not.

We grabbed a bite to eat at a local Greek restaurant, Akropolis, where I enjoyed one of my best-tasting meals in Germany to date, pork medallions in mushroom sauce; as any good German in our own town would do, we followed it up with a mountain of ice cream (at Café Sprudel). Yum.

IMG_2152This was definitely a tourist town, but a German/ European/ international spa town. In fact, while our ice cream waitress spoke English, I did not hear English spoken amongst anyone around us—only German. It was not overrun with Americans, and that’s not surprising. After all, there were naked kids and feet, for God’s sake.

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Category: Activities, FAMILY, Family Travel, Germany, Hiking in other regions, In Germany A Broad blog, Parks, Zoos & Aquariums, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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