By Angie Georgeff

When our library staff comes in through the back door each morning, we never quite know who or what the day will bring us.

Since most of our books and other library materials arrive via courier services, the mail delivery generally is not the highlight of our day. Bills and sales catalogs just aren’t that exciting.

One morning last week, however, the mail did bring us a surprise, and a good one: a postcard from Germany. It began: “Dear good people of the Erwin Library! It took a while – but I have not forgotten the kindness and support you gave me when I passed through your cute town during my AT-hike in June 2017.”

When I read the message through to the first-name-only signature, I surprisingly remembered the young lady who had sent it. A lot of hikers pass through the library, especially during the spring months, but not that many hail from Germany. I had enjoyed talking to her, especially since her English was much better than my very rusty German. The back of the postcard bore photos of the scenery and recreational facilities in her idyllic hometown of Bad Endbach.

The town’s name translates to “bath at the end of the brook.” It is one of many small spas in the vicinity of Frankfurt, where I once lived, and not far from where my German niece currently lives. 

The motto following the name of the town is ruhig mehr leben. Google Translate suggests “live quietly more,” but I prefer “live more peacefully.” The photos certainly reinforce that image.  Perhaps that was why the young lady felt so at home in Unicoi County.

Speaking of spas…

When we Americans say “spa,” we tend to think of salon services. When Europeans say “spa,” most of the time they are thinking of mineral springs and “taking the waters” either by drinking them or bathing in them.

The word comes from the city of Spa in Belgium, which has boasted its therapeutic mineral springs at least since the 1500s and its casinos since the 1700s. Only people with time and money to spare could travel to take the waters, so many spas and casinos have enjoyed a cozy marriage of convenience.

Of course, at the turn of the last century the citizens of Unicoi County didn’t have very far to travel, since the chalybeate (pronounced kuh-LIB-ee-it) waters of Unaka Springs were considered some of the finest in the South.

Here hiking, swimming, fishing and other rustic pleasures replaced the fevered occupation of gambling. Since the water was impregnated with iron salts, I strongly suspect it was something of an acquired taste. But then there was the food, and I’m sure that was delicious!