Tucked away amongst the glossy shops and artisanal Cafe’s of Berlin’s Mitte district you’ll find a hidden wellness haven. From the outside this place looks like a perfectly normal beauty salon. And even as I walk down the steep, narrow stairs into the dimly lit, fragrant reception area nothing seems particularly surprising. But, hidden away at the back of the studio is a mystical wellness chamber that is totally unique to Berlin.
Gwen opened Beauty, Body & Salt with her business partner almost five years ago. She greets us warmly with a strong, Berliner accent. “Take your shoes off and put these on,” she says, passing us some white flannel slippers. She takes us to the back of the studio and opens up a white door. “This is our salt cave,” she says with a hint of pride as she leads us inside.
The room is about 20 square metres. It’s dimly lit by lamps and candles and four sun-beds covered in blankets and pillows fill up one half of the room. But what’s truly special is that the walls, the floor – even the pink slats that create a pathway from one end of the room to the other – are all made entirely of salt.
“We’re the only salt cave for far and wide,” Gwen says. “There’s a couple in the surrounding countryside but this is the only one right in the centre of Berlin.”
Over the last five years salt caves have become an increasingly popular wellness therapy. The concept is simple – you sit in a cave made entirely of salt and breathe in salt air which is pumped out through a machine called a halo-generator. This machine sends out a mist of pure-grade sodium chloride particles. The theory is that breathing in these anti-bacterial ‘microns’ can alleviate the symptoms of allergies, asthma, cystic fibrosis, sinusitis and the spreading of other illnesses and diseases. The treatment is so magical, in fact, that it’s even been reported to alleviate the effects of jet lag. Who knew salt could work such wonders?
Today we’re here to experience the benefits of salt therapy and to try everyone’s (secret) favourite Urban Sports Club activity. We might say we love CrossFit or can’t live without yoga but let’s face it: the massages are the best part of our offering.
Gwen and her colleague Elli have set up a massage parlour in the salt cave, creating a double whammy of blissful relaxation. Fritzi is first to receive the massage treatment from Elli. I chill on a sun-bed and breathe in the salt air which I can feel on my skin and taste in my mouth. It’s quite a pleasant experience; kind of like I’m inhaling salty popcorn.
Then “Alice.” It’s Fritzi’s muffled voice. She’s face down in the massage chair and has a line of hot pebbles on her back. “Alice. This is amazing.”
Gwen decided to open Beauty, Body & Salt after working as a medical assistant for 28 years. Gwen tells us “I’d stopped enjoying it and wanted to do something different. So I quit my job and did an apprenticeship to become a cosmetician.” After Gwen finished her training she knew she wanted to open her own shop. “I thought that a cosmetic salt-grotto-massage combination would be a good idea.”
I can’t help but agree with Gwen – this definitely feels like a good idea. The cosy grotto is a world away from the bustling streets of Berlin and now that it’s my turn to get a massage I can experience the full force of Gwen’s vision.
I lie face down on the massage table and Elli places hot stones on the parts of my back which are most likely to ache. “Fritzi.” I say, voice muffled by the massage table. “This is amazing.”
As Elli massages the hot stones into my back I can feel the tension melt away. This specific massage treatment is designed to give your body energy and reduce stress. Elli expertly pinpoints the parts of my back which hold the most tension, and each time she massages out a painful knot I feel surprised at how much stiffness I’ve been carrying around with me.
After about 20 minutes Elli places more hot stones on my back – a feeling so blissful I feel I could melt away. Elli leaves the stones for a few minutes and then replaces them with a salt particle solution for a skin peel – the grand finale of this beautiful salty experience. Elli rubs and scrubs the salt into my back and wipes it away with a tea-tree scented oil. “Fertig.” She says. It takes me a while to gather my muscles together to get off the massage chair but eventually I get up and collapse on one of the sun-beds.
“We have lots of hen parties and ladies days here.” Gwen explains. “So you can hire the entire salt cave and we bring you Prosecco.” Elli and Gwen are at your disposal to give relaxing facials, hand massages and full body massages. “After three hours people are so relaxed it feels like they’ve been on vacation here.”
And these parties aren’t just limited to ladies. “In our first year we had a bachelor party,” Gwen laughs. “About 12 or 13 men came and had massages. We set out beer crates for everyone to sit on.”
Gwen continues “They were wearing red Bay Watch swimming trunks and the groom had to wear a blonde wig. We’d only just opened so I was a bit nervous when they all started smoking outside in their red swimming trunks – I thought our neighbours would be confused about what had just opened next door! But it was so funny. We had to work super hard that day but we had a great time.”
So you see, Beauty Body & Salt is full of surprises – in more ways than one!
If you’d like to pay a visit to this beautiful salt cave, take a look at the Beauty, Body & Salt website for more details.
And Urban Sports Club has tons of wellness partners across Europe. Take a look at our site to see what’s on in your area.