If you are a regular reader of my travel blog, you might know that Bill and I are big fans of Germany’s wonderful spa culture. We’ve gotten so into the spas here that we’ve even done a very unAmerican thing and indulged in the nude! Yes, that’s right… despite being decidedly middle aged and not having the best body images, Bill and I have both embraced being naked in front of other people. I don’t know how Bill feels about it, but personally, I think the nude spas are liberating and healthy, even though it took us years to finally take the plunge, so to speak.
So far, we have visited these spas:
Mineraltherme Böblingen (probably my favorite, because it has clothed and nude areas, was recently renovated, has a great restaurant, and has a lot to do)
SchwabenQuellen in Stuttgart (all nude most of the time)
Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden (famously all nude, all the time)
Caracalla in Baden-Baden (clothed everywhere but in the sauna/steam room area)
Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad (nude in most areas)
Kaiser-Friedrich Therme in Wiesbaden (nude all the time)
Rhein-Main Therme in Hofheim (clothed everywhere but in the sauna and steam room area)
And finally, as of Sunday of last week, we visited the Vulkaneifel Therme in Bad Bertrich (clothed everywhere but the sauna and steam room). If you’re interested in my thoughts on and experiences at the other spas, you can easily find my posts about them in this blog. Just do a search or click the spa tags.
Because I love Germany’s decadent Thermes, I would have wanted to visit the Vulkaneifel Therme regardless of whether or not it was “special” in any way. But as I was researching the Eifel area, I came across ads for the Vulkaneifel Therme describing it as Germany’s only “Glauber’s salt” spa. What does that mean? Well, in English, Glauber’s salt is sodium sulfate, somewhat akin to what we call Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate). I used to use Epsom salt a lot when I had a horse. Applied topically in hot water, it’s great for reducing inflammation, soreness, and stiffness in muscles in horses and humans. Both salts are also used as laxatives, although Epsom salt is supposedly a better drying agent than sodium sulfate is. In any case, both salts are useful for soothing muscle pain, and apparently, the Vulkaneifel Therme naturally has sodium sulfate in its water, making it different from the other spas we’ve visited.
Bill and I decided to set off early for Bad Bertrich, since we weren’t wanting to be there when it was especially busy. Bad Bertrich is also not that close to Meerfeld; it’s maybe 35 kilometers away. I had actually considered staying in Bad Bertrich when I was looking for accommodations and, as we found out when we visited on Sunday, there are a number of appealing hotels in the area. However, now that we’ve been to the spa, I can say that I’m kind of glad we stayed in Meerfeld, again because it’s quiet and unique. Bad Bertrich is very much a spa town and it’s a bit touristy, although it’s also pretty.
We arrived at the Therme at about 10:00am and parked in the large garage right across the street from it. Additional parking is located to the side of the spa. The spa’s front door is contactless; it opens as you approach. The first thing to do is fill out the contract tracing information. There’s a station on the first floor, near the elevator, as well as hand sanitizer. Once you fill out the forms, either take the stairs or the elevator to the top floor, where you pay your admission fee. You can purchase entry to just the Therme or the Therme and sauna. Bill and I aren’t big on saunas, so we opted for three hours in the Therme. In retrospect, that was more time than we really needed, since this Therme isn’t very large. If we had eaten at the restaurant and spent at least five euros, we would have been entitled to an extra hour, anyway. The cashier station is also where you can rent towels, robes, and shower shoes if you need them.
The cashier gave us the familiar “wristwatches” that one gets at almost every Therme in Germany. Strap it to your wrist. It’s your ticket for everything in the Therme, from entering and exiting the turnstiles, to locking and unlocking a locker, to paying for food and beverages or anything else that would ordinarily require money.
Next, go into the co-ed locker room. Not to worry… they have individual cubicles where you can get into your bathing suit in private. Once you’ve changed clothes, find an open locker and put your stuff in it. Close the locker door and use your watch to lock it. There are instructions in English on the inside of the locker doors at this spa. Take a quick shower, then you’re ready to go!
We enjoyed the Vulkaneifel Therme, probably because it wasn’t very crowded at all during our visit. It’s not a very big Therme, although it does offer a large soaking hot tub, an exercise pool with jets, and a large central pool with indoor and outdoor access and jets. I noticed that they didn’t turn on the external “waterfall” jets that are usually periodically turned on at Thermes for people wanting to stand under them. I guess that’s to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. The water in the exercise pool and main pools is kind of lukewarm; both were about the same temperature. Bill and I liked the exercise pool because we had it to ourselves for almost an hour and there are several powerful waterjets in the pool that are great for massaging sore backs, feet, and legs.
There were signs everywhere to remind people to wear masks and be socially distant from one another. Most people were respecting the social distance rules, but it’s hard to wear a mask in a pool environment. I was glad to see people were being sensible about that, too. I noticed people cleaning surfaces while we were there, which was reassuring to see.
After about three hours in the pools, we were pretty wrinkly, but relaxed. We didn’t try the wellness area, so I’m not sure if massages are being offered right now. I doubt they are. Anyway, we have yet to try a massage at a Therme, although we’ve had them at other places. Maybe someday, when the coronavirus is hopefully no longer such a threat, we’ll get an opportunity. We took another shower, used the watches to get our clothes, and since we didn’t buy anything in the Therme, had no need to pay the machine (much like the ones you find in a parking garage) before we put the watches in the turnstile and exited.
We walked around Bad Bertrich looking for a place to have lunch. The town does have several restaurants, but none were especially appealing to me. I wanted to have Italian food and the Italian places didn’t appear to be open at lunchtime. Several places also appeared to be closed, although I did notice that some shops were open, even though it was Sunday. I guess it’s because Bad Bertich is a touristy area. I did take some pictures of the town, which is really attractive and worth consideration for anyone who is looking for a base in the Eifel area.
Since we were unsuccessful in finding a place that appealed for lunch, we decided to leave Bad Bertrich. That turned out to be a good decision, even though it was after 1:00pm, and I was nervously eyeing the time. Remember, in Germany, a lot of places take an afternoon pause. If you don’t get to a restaurant before 2:00pm, you may be out of luck for lunch.
The GPS in our Volvo directed us to Christophorus, a pizzeria in a little town called Büchel, which was not too far from Bad Bertrich. We got there at about 1:30 or so, and two of the three outdoor tables were occupied. Christophorus is a roadside restaurant and, at first blush, doesn’t appear to be especially interesting. But we had a great lunch there, mainly because besides the good food offered, there was also exceptionally friendly service.
Bill decided to have a Bolognese Pizza, which came in three sizes– mini, mittel, and grande. He ordered the “mittel”, which was more than he could eat. I went with tortellini al forno. It wasn’t exactly low cal, but I was really in the mood for pasta. We each had a hefeweizen. As we were crying “uncle” at the end of the meal, a very pleasant and super friendly masked lady with extremely short hair came over to talk to us. I got the sense that she might have been the proprietor. We started out speaking German, but it turned out she spoke pretty good English, came to Büchel from Giessen (which used to host the U.S. military), and she was genuinely interested in how we were enjoying Germany and our trip. When she realized we are Americans, she shook her head sympathetically and said, “America is not so good right now.” Unfortunately, we agree… and we feel very lucky to get to be in Germany during this time.
Although it wasn’t the fanciest place we’ve ever eaten, I was really glad we stopped there instead of eating at a touristy place in Bad Bertrich or Cochem, which is where we went after lunch. Also, the inside of the restaurant is very nice. I loved the bar area, as well as the booths. It doesn’t look like a particularly special place if you’re just checking it out from the outside, but it really was a good stop. Other than Christophorus and another Italian roadside restaurant, there isn’t a lot to Büchel. But it is on the way to Cochem, which is a nice city with a beautiful castle. That’s where we headed after lunch.
It was mid afternoon by the time we were finished with lunch. I told Bill about Cochem, which I thought would be a good lunch stop if Christophorus Pizzeria didn’t pan out. Since we had nothing else to do, we headed down that way, about 10 kilometers from Büchel. Just as you approach Cochem, there is a place to pull off the road and take pictures in a very scenic spot. You can get a great view of Cochem Castle, as it’s situated by the Mosel River. We missed it on the way into town on Sunday. That was a pity, since the weather was beautiful and sunny, and a lot of people were taking advantage of it. We drove through Cochem, noticing how many people were out and about… it was a bit of a madhouse. However, if you want to take a boat cruise on the Mosel, this is a place to do it. There are also plenty of places to stay and eat, as well as visit the gorgeous castle on the hill.
Because it was so crowded and busy, Bill and I decided not to stop. However, we did make a note of it and perhaps might visit after the high season. It’s not that far from where we live, and it looks like a very nice base for exploring the Mosel area. Here are a few photos from our drive through Cochem.
The next post will be my last in this series. Sunday night was our final night in Meerfeld, and we were due to drive home to Wiesbaden on Monday morning. Stay tuned!