Lying in a radioactive cave must be one of the strangest.
Sweating in my swimsuit, I am among a dozen tourists in an abandoned gold mine.
The Gastein Healing Gallery, a cavern a mile deep inside an Austrian mountain, is hot, humid . . . and laced with radon, a natural radiation that seeps in through the rocks.
It is said to cure all sorts of chronic pain and inflammation.
And if comic books have taught me anything, it should give me superpowers.
Claustrophobics should steer clear.
A tiny train drops you off in the cramped sauna and doesn’t come back for 40 minutes.
The jury is still out on the benefits of radon therapy — and whether blasting yourself with radiation is a good idea.
And perhaps it was just the alpine air outside, but my various aches seemed to be fading fast.
Back in the daylight, my eyes adjusted to take in the fantastic vista of the Gastein Valley.
It was all the more impressive after being stuck in a sweaty cave for an hour.
The picturesque landscapes feature impossibly green grass, crystal-blue skies and snow-capped peaks, giving the feeling of standing in a Lindt chocolate advert.
I was spending the weekend in the village of Bad Hofgastein, at the 4★ Hotel Norica Therme.
Like most hotels in the area, it boasts its own incredible spa.
Returning to the town, I went in search of a drink.
And I found it by following the sound of an oompah band to a bar where the entire village had apparently gathered.
Playing traditional Austrian songs, the cheering crowd ensured the hills came alive as they partied the night away.
At Berghof, a house that has been renovated into a homely restaurant and a delicious dining experience, I tucked into traditional Austrian dishes.
Owned by the Granitzer family, the waiters dress in traditional lederhosen and dirndl as they serve up hot bowls of hearty broth.
I opted for the Bladl Kropfn, a veggie-friendly pancake-donut hybrid you cover in sauerkraut, sour cream and cabbage.
The next morning I visited Bad Gastein waterfall before following the river upstream through villages and into the countryside on a hike lasting several hours.
Stopping for fresh, handmade ice-cream along the way, I passed the Kraftwerk Cafe in a renovated power plant that has stood in the heart of Bad Gastein since 1914.
Situated next to those running waters, it is the perfect spot to take a break from the walking.
As rain swept in, I finally reached our goal of breakfast at the quaint Amoseralm alpine hut, where I ate like a king.
More contemporary fare was on offer that evening at Ginger N’ Gin, an Asian- fusion spot with a staggering 130 types of gin to work your way through.
I enjoyed a gin and tonic cocktail called the Tanqueray Tea Tonic, infused with a herbal tea bag.
I was offered roasted grasshopper — a dish I can now tick off the list of things I never thought I’d try — as well as more traditional dishes such as mushroom risotto.
Heading home, the alpine air, hearty food and radioactive cave had more than worked their magic.
Boarding the plane I felt refreshed, with a warm glow . . . I only hope it wasn’t a bright-green one.
http://ryanair.comSTAYING THERE: Two nights’ room-only at the 4H Hotel Norica Therme in Bad Hofgastein is from £148.40pp (thermenhotels-gastein.com/en).
OUT & ABOUT: A thermal treatment at the Healing Gallery Caves is from £22.74pp with a Gastein Card, which is free to guests staying at local hotels.
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