Q: I recently visited a German “kurort,” or spa town, where I saw a mysterious wall. It looked a bit like scaffolding with lots of leafless branches stuffed inside of it. The wall also had what resembled porches and walkways. What’s up with that?

A: Several of those so-called “Bad” towns (Bad Reichenhall, Bad Kreuznach, Bad Nauheim) feature such walls, known as gradierwerks. The original purpose of these structures was to produce salt; today, they provide fresh and therapeutic air to those taking some form of “the cure.” (No relation to the ’80s band.) Wooden frames several meters in height are stacked with branches, particularly those of the blackthorn. Mineral water is pumped to the top of the structure and allowed to trickle down through the thick tangle of branches. As a breeze blows through the air, a healthy, saline-rich inhalation therapy is created, which may be enjoyed by sitting near the frame or simply strolling in its environs.

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