Tiny Sylt, part of Germany’s North Frisian islands, is best known for its thatched-roof cottages, where vacationers unwind in the warmer months. Now, in the village of List, comes the newest outpost of Lanserhof, the high-tech European spa brand. Created at a cost of $120 million, it’s showy but handsome, with saltwater pools, yoga studios, and white-clad medics striding down corridors with stethoscopes. The Lanserhof group, which also has the iconic old Lans in Austria and Tegernsee in Germany—embraces cutting-edge medicine and natural healing. Guests may be in remission from cancer, seeking to de-stress, or simply trying to lose weight.
My stay, similar to those of most patients here, revolves around the Mayr cure, a simple process of purging your guts of toxins, acidity, and bad bacteria through fasting, invented by the Austrian physician Franz X. Mayr in the 1920s. Guests follow the alkalizing Lanserhof Energy Cuisine diet, taking Epsom salts to clear out the digestive system and alkaline powder to neutralize acids. Beyond that, all aspects of the program—how radical the diet, what treatments to follow—are decided by the doctor.
Mine is Jan Stritzke, a hyperactive font of intriguing health information. He bangs on my midriff as if it were a bongo, informing me that my gut is inflamed. He’s putting me on diet level 0: vegetable broth only. “Carry a rice cake around in your pocket,” he advises. “Between feeling dizzy and passing out, you don’t have much time.” He grins. “This is gonna be great.”
I find that I cannot stop sleeping. When I’m awake, the cure purges me of more than bad gut bacteria. I cry constantly, bemoaning the sorrows of my life. Then, after three days of sleep and misery, I blink awake. I am up with the moon. The nausea has vanished. I wallow in steam rooms and pluck books from the Heymann & Taschen Verlag library. I started taking bike rides to swim in sun-kissed seas. I pass an elderly man in a Strandkörbe (around 11,000 of these boxy German beach seats dot the coast), his wheelchair beside him. I follow his gaze to cliffs glazed with caramel by the descending sun. It is impossible to feel sick, sad, or hungry here. There is nothing to do but sink into the sand, allow the warmth to envelop my detoxifying skin, and revel in being alive with an improving microbiome.
Healing Holidays offers seven nights at Lanserhof Sylt from $3,970 per person.
This article appeared in the January/February issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here,