Gorge of Pfäfers in the Vale of the Tamina, Switzerland.

The healing spring in the Tamina Gorge was discovered in the Middle Ages. According to one legend, it was found in 1038 by Karl von Hohenbalken, according to another in 1242 by two monastery servants. The first bathing facilities were established in 1242 under Abbot Hugo II of Villingen. In the mid-14th century, bathhouses were built, which were placed astride the Tamina. The first documented mention was in 1382. In the 16th century, the bath became famous through the presence of Ulrich von Hutten and through Paracelsus’ writing about the bath in 1535. In 1543, Abbot Johann Jakob Russinger had a 250-foot-long wooden staircase built on the rock face into the Tamina Gorge. In the 17th century, the Pfäfers spring was considered the “queen of all healing springs”.

hot spring, thermal, Gorge, Pfäfers, Switzerland, Tamina,
Gorge of Pfäfers, Switzerland.


THE Gorge of Pfäfers, says Murray, “is one of the most extraordinary places in Switzerland,” and certainly few have seen this wonderful place who would not endorse the affirmation. Hid in the Vale of the Tamina, exists in savage and romantic solitude one of Nature’s chefs-d’oevre in wild and weird-like design.

The source of the hot springs is at the extremity of the gorge. Immediately behind the baths, the ravine suddenly contracts in a remarkable way, and the gorge here looks like a deep jagged gash in the rocks, so narrow, that at a little distance it scarcely seems to admit of an entrance. A shelf of planks, guarded by a hand-rail, traverses the whole length of the gorge immediately over the foaming torrent.

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The sides are vertical or overhanging, and after proceeding some distance along this tunnel of Nature, its darkness becomes oppressive, as the only light is that obtained from the narrow strip of sky above, like that from the shaft of a coal mine on the Tyne. The deafening noise of the rushing torrent below, the size and grandeur of the overhanging rocks above, the concentrated savageness-so to speak-of the whole scene, is one of a very impressive and novel character.

For nearly a quarter of a mile you pursue your way, wondering and impressed, until a wooden bridge across the gulf is reached, which leads to what proves to be but a huge, excavated chamber, made by the then Abbot (1630) of the neighboring convent of Pfeffers for a proposed chapel. A little farther and the gorge culminates, and at the bottom of the cavern in the rocks rise the hot springs. The guide takes you by the hand, leads you in, and hands you a glass of water that comes welling up from Nature’s own cauldron, at a temperature of 100 degrees, but mutters no incantation, appropriate as it would seem. The temperature of the cavern is so high, that you hastily swallow the water and rush out into the unnaturally damp and chilling gorge, only to feel you have exchanged Scylla for Charybdis.

When the weather is sunny, a curious phantasmagoria, peculiar to the place, is visible at noon, when the sun reaches its highest altitude, and the vertical rays penetrate into the gorge during the short time it is crossing the narrow aperture.

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We waited more than a week for a bright day, to catch this effect: the gulf is then illuminated and all its terrific proportions brought into view in the most striking manner. It is a matter of regret, that comparatively few of all the visitors to the gorge ever see it under that aspect. Even when the day is favorable, it lasts but a short time, and unless they chance to arrive just at that period half of its wonderful effect is lost.

Descriptive Article by Stephen Thompson. Photographed by Braun.

Source: Treasure spots of the world: a selection of the chief beauties and wonders of nature and art by Walter Bentley Woodbury (1834-1885); Francis Clement Naish. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, Paternoster Row, 1875.


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