Bad Orb is in the Orb Valley on the Orb River, a left-tributary of the Kinzig (meaning it comes in from your left-hand side as you are facing downstream).
For most of its history, the town was only called “Orb” — until 1909, when it finally got state permission to use the word Bad in its name.
The first mention of Orb (then “Orbaha”) in any known document was from the year 1050, but it must have been quite a small settlement at that time.
Nearly two centuries later, in the year 1244, Orb was granted the status of a city, a privilege which among other things allowed it to mint a coin, the Orber Hälbling (half penny). In this period, around the middle of the thirteenth century, the city fortifications were built, consisting of walls, gates and towers, some of which still exist.
This wooden framework is 155 meters long and was first built in 1806 for the purpose of extracting salt from the salty spring water of Bad Orb. Inside the framework, under the roof, there are two huge walls of tightly packed Black Thorn branches. Space is left for people to walk along the sides and down the middle. Salty spring water is pumped up to the top and allowed to trickle down through the thorn branches. Impurities solidify on the thorns, some of the water evaporates, and a concentrated salty liquid collects at the bottom.
Nowadays there are more efficient ways of producing salt, but the Gradierwerk (one of ten that once existed in Bad Orb) has been preserved so the Kur guests can walk through and inhale the cool salty air, as though they were on the coast of the North Sea. If you’ve never seen one of these, you really should go in and have a walk through (and inhale deeply, it’ll do you good), even if you have to pay a small fee to get into the Kurpark.
The performances of the Bad Orb Opera Academy are held here each summer (except when there is a pandemic going on) in the Concert Hall in Bad Orb’s Kurpark. The rest of the year concerts and plays are given here for the entertainment of the people who are here on the Kur, to “take the waters”.
My photos in this post are from 2004, 2010 and 2011. I revised the text in 2021.
See more posts on Bad Orb, Germany.
6 thoughts on “The town of Bad Orb”
Fascinating, Don! Thank you!
My pleasure. Thanks for your visit and comment.
Salt was a big commodity – probably because without refrigeration it was one of the ways to preserve food. All over the world there are different ways of harvesting salt (although I never heard of this one). Salt deposits are minded in Louisiana and there are salt mines in Europe. In St. Martin, the Grand Turk and the BVI, there were ways of harvesting salt from the sea.
Yes, in earlier times the salt trade was the mainstay of the economy in Bad Orb, which is why they had ten of these large frameworks in operation throughout the 19th century.
This is a compelling story. I would’nt mind visiting such a historic town. Thank you Don for sharing it.
Thanks, Vijay. Yes, it’s a nice town to visit.