A glance at a map of Germany will reveal that there are hundreds of place names that start with the word “Bad”, and you have probably guessed that this does not mean all these places are bad in the sense of awful or terrible.
The German word Bad means “bath”, so these places are all spas. They all have some sort of naturally occurring mineral springs which are alleged to have medicinal or curative properties of some sort, so these are places where people come to “take the waters”.
In earlier times, any self-respecting German above the age of, say, 32 would try to develop some vague illness which would allow him or her to go off on a three- or four-week Kur at the expense of their health insurance. That’s why lots of German towns attempted to get the word Bad in their names, so they could get a chunk of this lucrative business.
Bad Orb for instance was only called “Orb” until 1909, when they finally got state permission to use the word Bad in their name. And Bad Hersfeld was only called “Hersfeld” until 1949.
I once asked my doctor in Frankfurt if he would prescribe a Kur for me, but he only laughed and said I was too healthy. I was somewhat miffed about this at the time, but have since decided that it wouldn’t have been my scene in any case. And being healthy is something really fine, even the Germans are starting to get healthier now that their health insurance has stopped paying for everything.
If for some reason you would like to read about life on the Kur, there is a short book by Hermann Hesse called Kurgast, published in 1923.
The German expression Wie geht’s? means “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” and is a common thing to say when you run into somebody you know, but in Germany you should use it selectively because some people take it as an excuse to inform you that they are feeling terrible, and give you their whole medical history.
My photo in this post is from 2004 in Bad Orb. I revised the text in 2018.