The featured photo is of a pool I encountered in Miami, Florida some years ago. I took that photo from the balcony of our hotel room.
Since I didn’t manage to escape the house this weekend, thanks to COVID-19, I have decided to write another post about German culture. It stands to reason that I would write about nudity, because I’ve written about it a bunch of times in this blog… and I have noticed that my posts about nudity are among my most popular. There are obviously many people out there who are titillated by such content. 😉
I aim to please, so here’s a post about some recent news that my German friend made me aware of a few days ago. I already knew that many spas in Germany have nude areas, if they aren’t already entirely nude, like the Schwabenquellen in Stuttgart is. Well, as it turns out, progressive lawmakers in many German towns have now made it acceptable for women to be topless. According to the link, which is in German, but Chrome is your friend for a translation, Jacob Kammann, from the Volt Party in the North-Rhine Westphalian town of Siegen, proposed to the Siegen city council that women should be allowed to be bare chested at public pools.
Kammann came to this conclusion after an incident that occurred last year at a pool in a town called Göttingen. A non-binary person with female sex parts wanted to swim topless. However, when the person tried to do as males are allowed to do, they were not allowed. A male lifeguard kicked the person out of the pool, because their breasts were like a female’s breasts, and the lifeguard considered the person female. Females are forbidden from swimming topless at many German public pools.
The non-binary person complained, and Kammann, who leads the Volt Party in his area, considered their argument and decided it was time to challenge the long standing rules regarding female nudity. Kammann states that he wants to contribute to equality by making this step, allowing people with female breasts to be topless if they wish to be. The rule remains that the primary sexual characteristics must remain covered, but female breasts are not considered as such.
Allowing women to be topless at the pool also helps desexualize breasts, which are really supposed to be for feeding babies. I have seen many German mothers happily bare their breasts in public for the purpose of feeding their babies. That makes sense to me, because who wants to eat in a public restroom, or with a blanket over their head? Breasts should not be taboo. They are essential to life itself.
It may take some time for the females and non-binary people of Göttingen to feel comfortable enough to swim topless, but at least it’s allowed now. I don’t wear bikinis myself, so this wouldn’t apply to me. But I have no issues whatsoever, going to a nude spa and enjoying being in my birthday suit. I find it very liberating. Hopefully, the topless enthusiasts will enjoy their new freedom… and they won’t forget to wear plenty of sunscreen on that newly bared part of their anatomies. Wouldn’t want them to get skin cancer or a sunburn!
Today’s post comes courtesy of a message I got on TripAdvisor last night. A young woman, visiting friends in Germany, was very anxious because her friend’s parents had purchased a luxury pass for her to join her friend and her friend’s parents at the Friedrichsbad Roman-Irish Bath in Baden-Baden. Apparently, she had found my TripAdvisor review of the famous nude baths and was hoping I could offer her some advice about the experience.
This young woman named Diana wrote that she’s just 19 years old, and she is very nervous about being naked in front of other people. Diana’s problem is a common one. A lot of people are nervous about getting nude in front of strangers. In Germany, it’s a normal thing to be nude in saunas, spas, and public baths. Many of the baths Bill and I have visited are “textile-free”, which is very different if you’re an American or a Brit… or, as I found out in July, from Sweden. I’m not sure how the French feel about nudity in the saunas and spas, but I do know they are very strict about men wearing “maillots” (Speedos) rather than “board shorts”. In fact, one of my most popular posts on my travel blog is about that subject, which you can read about here.
My husband, Bill, was very nervous about being naked in front of people. He finally “popped the cherry” a couple of years ago, when we visited Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad. Bad Wildbad has an “old school” therme that allows swimsuits. It also has a the nude spa, which is Palais Thermal. Bill was initially reluctant to try it. Palais Thermal was a good place to get his feet wet, though, because swimsuits are allowed on the first level. After a few minutes of seeing people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds walking around in the buff, it didn’t seem so embarrassing or strange.
Now, being nude in front of Germans has become “old hat” to us. We’ve done the nude spa thing many times and lived to tell the tale. It’s weird for a few minutes, but then you stop noticing. At most spas, you can bring towels or a robe and only have to be completely naked in the water, although at the Friedrichsbad, you will be nude almost the entire time. But really, you get used to it very quickly if you just relax and enjoy, realizing that being naked really is completely natural.
Still, I have a lot of empathy for Diana, because it IS embarrassing and strange to those who have never done it. I am a bit of a natural exhibitionist and have always kind of liked being nude. I find it very liberating. But if you have body image concerns or have been taught that being naked is wrong or “dirty” somehow (even though we were all born naked), it can be extremely embarrassing and scary to bare everything.
I ended up telling Diana that it’s her choice whether or not to try the Roman baths. She is concerned that her friend’s parents will be insulted if she doesn’t use their gift, but ultimately, a trip to the baths is supposed to be fun and relaxing. If she’s filled with anxiety and terror over baring her naked self to everyone, it won’t be a good experience for her. I did also advise her to visit the baths on a day when the sexes are segregated, although it appears that the baths are currently undergoing some renovations, so right now it might be “co-ed” every day. Bill and I went on a “co-ed” day, because we wanted to experience the baths together. But they normally also have days in which the men stay on one side and the women stay on the other. For the shy among us, that might be the best thing to do. There’s only one area where men and women mingle naked on the segregated days and one could easily skip that part. It’s the big pool in the middle of the spa, and it’s cold, anyway. I had to try it because it was so pretty.
Having written all of this… I do understand that public nudity isn’t for everyone. It’s best to take the plunge if you’re genuinely curious and want to try the baths. Personally, I really enjoyed them and would have no problem visiting them again. I don’t think any visit to Baden-Baden is complete without a trip to the Friedrichsbad. But I know that’s just my opinion. I have empathy for Diana’s situation, because I can tell she really doesn’t want to offend her gracious hosts. Frankly, I find her empathy for them very refreshing. It’s nice to see someone so concerned about being a polite and gracious guest. I hope she will try the baths, but if she can’t bring herself to do it, I also hope her friend’s family will understand. Part of being a good host, after all, is making sure your guest is comfortable.
Here in Wiesbaden, we have the Kaiser-Friedrich Therme, which is like a much scaled down version of the Friedrichsbad. I think I like it even more than the Friedrichsbad, because it’s a lot smaller and less popular. In fact, I think we’re due for another visit soon.
Back in November 2018, Bill and I celebrated our 16th anniversary in Baden-Baden. While we were there, we tried the all nude Friedrichsbad Irish Roman Baths. When we told people we were moving to Wiesbaden, they nodded knowingly, since Wiesbaden is known as a “spa” town. In fact, the best known spa in these parts is the Kaiser-Friedrich Therme, which is an Irish Roman bath hall, sort of like Friedrichsbad, only smaller, less crowded, and significantly cheaper.
I had reviewed Friedrichsbad on TripAdvisor and someone who read my review and travels to Germany often on business, asked me if I’d had the chance to go to the spa in Wiesbaden. I’m sad to report that although Bill and I are quite assimilated to being naked in front of German strangers, today was our first time visiting. In fact, the TripAdvisor guy went to the Kaiser-Friedrich Therme before I did, and he lives in the United States.
Nevertheless, today was our day to go. Bill was, as usual, a little bit reluctant. Once we were there, he loved it as much as I did. One thing I like about this particular Therme is that not only is it historic, it’s also kind of low key. The facilities are on the old side and it’s not the biggest, fanciest, spa, but it has many historic elements. It’s also inexpensive and, at least today, not that crowded. I’m sure it fills up when the weather isn’t so beautiful.
This was the best I could do for photos. It’s a nude spa, so I wasn’t going to bring my camera in there.
The first thing to know about this spa is that it’s entirely textile free. Do not bring a bathing suit, because they are not allowed– EVER. In fact, there’s even a sign on the reception desk in English and illustrated with pictures of bathing suits with red lines through them. Do bring towels, a robe, and shower shoes. I usually bring two big towels and a robe, just in case one of the towels gets too wet to dry off with. If you don’t have a towel or a robe, you can rent them.
The next thing to know is that you can book packages or simply pay by the hour, settling up your bill on your way out of the spa. It was our first time, so we just went in, wearing the customary wristwatch one gets at German spas, and found a locker. You can choose whatever locker you want, change in the privacy of a stall in the unisex locker room, and use your watch to lock the locker. Take a quick shower in the men’s or women’s shower (which seems kind of silly, since everyone’s naked anyway), and make your way into the spa area.
The first thing you’ll see is the pool pictured below…
This iconic pool is pictured on everything advertising this Therme.
The Therme has a very small parking lot, so we parked at a garage a couple of blocks down.
You should know that the big pool is COLD. There’s a much smaller hot pool, which reminds me of a baptismal font, just behind the big pool. Save them for the end of your time. I noticed that this spa has a lot of the same elements Friedrichsbad has, only there are no “minders” telling you where to go or keeping the crowd going. Unlike Friedrichsbad, there’s also no obvious set schedule of activities, although they do post a suggested sequence in the cafe area. The list is in German.
Bill and I started with a quick dip in the freezing big pool, followed by a couple of sauna sessions. The first sauna was kind of mild and comforting, while the next was a much hotter Finnish sauna. We spritzed off in the “Eisregen” (ice rain) shower, then hit the two big “jacuzzi” like pools. One was heated at 37 degrees Celsius and had lots of bubbles. The other was 39 degrees Celsius and had very powerful jets that hit my lower back at just the right spot. I really enjoyed sitting in that tub, pounding the stress and pain out of my back and right outer hip.
Throughout the Therme, there are really nice loungers where you can have a rest. Be sure to put a towel down before you lie on the loungers or use the sauna. Next, we used the foot baths, then went into the “Lumenraum”, which is a very dark, quiet, room with loungers and twinkling colored lights in the ceiling. It was so nice to just lie in there and chill for a few minutes. I may have to find one of those loungers for home. After another session in the hot sitting pool, we tried one of the steam rooms, which didn’t seem to be operating properly. It was just very warm in the room; there was no steam. I left my shower shoes outside and regretted it, because the tiles were hot in there.
Then, we hit the big cold pool and the hot pool, then spent some time in the Tepidarium, which reminded me a lot of the one at Friedrichsbad, minus the crowds. We skipped a couple of the other rooms since they either appeared to be closed or beyond our comfort zone. I probably could have taken a freezing cold plunge after the Tepidarium, but I was so warm and cozy I decided I’d rather just hose off and get dressed. While we were sitting in the warm, damp room, I quipped to Bill that I felt like we were really “going native” with these nude spa jaunts. I don’t know what I’m going to do when we’re back in the States someday and I have to suit up.
One thing I noticed today was that it was not at all crowded in the Therme and there was plenty of room to try everything. We were finished within about two hours, feeling very relaxed and happy. The price for our two hour stay? Just twenty euros. The Therme does have a snack bar that serves juices, water, beer, and light snacks, but we decided we wanted to have lunch at La Cantinetta, a great Italian place we discovered a couple of months ago. I think the Kaiser-Friedrich Therme may be my favorite spa yet. No, it’s not super fancy or new, and it doesn’t have any deep pools you can do laps in, but it gets the job done at a reasonable price. Plus, the historic features are really beautiful and the place is very clean. I saw no children in the spa, which was a great thing. The atmosphere today was very calm and inviting, rather than akin to a souped up Schwimmbad.
Bill and I are very used to the naked spa experience now, but I understand that some Americans may be reluctant to try it. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have found that every time I’ve gone to a textile free spa, I stopped noticing nudity within seconds. Everyone is naked and, trust me, no one cares what your junk looks like.
When we were finished at the Therme, we made our way to La Cantinetta, where a saxophonist was playing for Euros. The waiters invited us to sit down. We got there about five minutes too soon. If we’d waited just a few more minutes, we could have had a table in the shade. Oh well… Here are some photos from our pricey, but outstanding, lunch.
La Cantinetta has an extensive menu, with pasta, pizza, and lots of beautifully presented Italian dishes.
I settled on scallops with tomato, bacon, chilis, and avocado… this was a pricey appetizer at 18,50 euros, but I was very curious about it. I’m glad I ordered it, because the scallops were done to perfection.
Bill went with the cream of asparagus soup. Seems that every restaurant in Germany has its own version, this time of year. It was very creamy, comforting, and a little sweet. We also had fresh pizza bread with a choice of garlic or butter. We went with garlic, but only ate a little of it because we knew lunch would be substantial.
Last time we ate here, there were fresh cut tulips on the table. This time, it was roses.
We had a slight lull in business. Maybe we should have moved up a table and gotten out of the sun…
For the main course, Bill ordered branzino (wolfbarsch– or European sea bass). They brought out a special shelf on which to debone the fish for him.
The set up…
Expertly done… and the fish was excellent, as expected.
And nicely presented, too…
I went with sesame seed encrusted yellow fin tuna, served with sugar snap peas, mangos, avocados, and risotto. I could almost finish this, although tuna tends to be a bit too dry and heavy for me to eat a lot of. The sesame seeds added to the bulk of this dish. I loved the way it was presented, though. It, too, was rather expensive at 32,50 euros.
While we were eating, a German couple sat at the table next to us. The male half, who wore a striped polo shirt with a popped collar, asked in German what we were eating. I am proud to report that I was able to understand and respond. It turned out he spoke English, as did his female companion. They were nice, and had a good sense of humor as they observed the large Italian family sitting across from us. At least one of the guys in that group, too, had a popped collar.
Popped collars were popular in America back in the mid 80s, but they apparently never went out of style in Europe. I counted at least three or four guys with them today. I had to break Bill of the habit of popping his collar when we were dating. I guess old habits die hard. No offense to anyone reading this who likes to pop their collars. I once thought that looked cool, too. Kidding… really.
Anyway, we decided to finish up with the dessert special of the day, which featured the fruit of the season– strawberries. Feast your eyes!
Three little strawberry cheesecake cubes with fresh cut strawberries, dried, pressed strawberry “leather”, and a scoop of strawberry sorbet! We split it, and it was the perfect size. Bill especially enjoyed the crust, which was much like our beloved graham cracker style, though they tasted more like biscuits to me.
We enjoyed San Pellegrino– one large bottle and one small– and a couple of glasses of white wine with lunch. The first round was a pleasant Lugano that got a bit warm in the intense May sunshine. The second was a Sauvignon Blanc. The waiter opened a fresh bottle for us and then suggested it to the Italians sitting across from us. I noticed two other tables bought whole bottles of the same wine, which the waiter initially seemed surprised I’d asked for. The waiter, by the way, was really cute and reminded me of Ray Reyes of Menudo fame back in the 80s.
Our total bill came to about 130 euros before the tip. I’m glad the Therme was so cheap today. La Cantinetta can be expensive, although they have plenty of more pedestrian dishes that aren’t expensive. A person won’t go broke having pasta or pizza, for instance. I do enjoy their more gourmet offerings, though, and their waiters are very charming and professional… and good at upselling.
I can definitely see us making a habit of visiting the Therme on Sundays. That was a real hit for both of us! I don’t know that it’s always as “chill” as it was today, but we really enjoyed ourselves.
Tomorrow, we venture to Cologne for yet another concert, so my travel blog will get some extra love this week. Stay tuned!
Sunday was the day we’d been waiting for. It was the day we planned to brave the Friedrichsbad, well known around the world for being an old fashioned Roman-Irish bath. I remember when I first heard of the Friedrichsbad bath. It was back in 2015, when I wrote about how, in France, men have to wear Speedos at public swimming pools. In that post, I mentioned that my husband, Bill, would not want to wear Speedos for anything, but I was working on getting him to consent to a visit at the Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden. At that time, I was also a bit leery of being naked in front of strangers.
Well… as of June of 2017, Bill and I both took the naked plunge for the first time when we visited Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad, which is a mostly nude spa. Since that bold day in early June, we’ve done the naked thing a few more times at the Schwabenquellen in Stuttgart, and at Böblingen’s own Mineraltherme. The Schwabenquellen is all nude except on certain days and/or at certain times. The Mineraltherme is nude in the saunagarten on the bottom floor, which has a pool area. Frankly, having now seen the Mineraltherme’s whole complex, I think not going to the saunagarten is a waste. There’s a whole lot more to do in the nude area.
The Friedrichsbad is different, though. It’s not really like the other nude spas we’ve been to. For one thing, it’s a very old bathhouse and looks it. It was opened in 1877 and does not have any of the new fangled finery of the other spas. Hell, it doesn’t even have 1980s era finery. This is an old school spa. However, of all of the spas we’ve done, I like it the most.
We decided to do the Friedrichsbad before we tried neighboring Caracalla because I knew Caracalla was going to be like the other places we’ve been. Also, I had a feeling that the Friedrichsbad was an experience best had first thing in the morning… and also, we happened to be out for breakfast without our towels or bathing suits and we didn’t feel like going back to the room to fetch them. There is no need to bring a bathing suit or a towel to the Friedrichsbad. They provide everything, even shower gel.
We had walked into the downtown area in search of an economical breakfast and found one at the assembly line like bakery called Peters am Leo. This place was doing quite a brisk business when we arrived at about 9:00am.
Very cheerful and busy!
We noticed they had a breakfast deal for two people priced at 19,95 euros, so we went for that. It was a lot of food… more than we needed.
We got fresh fruit, some kind of “vanilla mousse” with raspberry, butter, and jam…
Scrambled eggs with bacon mixed in, cold cuts, cheese, and a big basket of bread, hot drinks (I had hot chocolate and Bill had coffee), and a choice of either Sekt or orange juice. We had orange juice. We couldn’t finish everything.
I was treated to a nice view of the action.
I started to enjoy breakfast until I suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of someone gearing up to spit. I glanced over at the table catty cornered to ours just in time to see the guy who was sitting there spit into his plate. It really grossed me out, which seems strange, since I have neither a filter nor an appreciation for the concept of TMI. Fortunately, the guy got up and left, but not without leaving part of his breakfast on the table.
I was eager to forget about the “loogie hocking” guy, so we made our way to the old bathhouse. When we entered at about 10:00am, things were pretty quiet. A pleasant and very laid back looking black lady was sitting at the admissions booth. She would later help us when we decided to visit the Caracalla spa next door. I think she recognized us, too.
The famous baths on a sunny Sunday morning. I think that may be a great time to go to the baths. It wasn’t very busy when we arrived, but business was picking up as we left.
Anyway, when we met her the first time, she greeted us kindly in English and was patient as we ordered the luxury plus package. Priced at 59 euros per person, this is the most “luxurious” of the packages. It includes soap and brush massage, a cream massage, a meal, and a drink at the spa restaurant in the Caracalla. If I’d had more time to read up, I would have gone for the luxury ticket, which eschewed the meal. It turns out the meal and drink offered at the spa restaurant are limited to salads and pasta. Also, I would have rather eaten somewhere else. Leave it to me to go for the most expensive deal.
The luxury and luxury plus tickets allow up to four hours in the baths. We didn’t need that long to go through the whole experience, but it’s nice to know we could have stayed longer if we’d wanted to. Those who don’t want the whole experience can opt for a basic ticket, which doesn’t include soap or cream massages or the wellness ticket, which leaves out the cream massage. Each progressive step in inclusiveness adds another ten euros to the cost. We paid 118 euros. Credit cards are accepted.
Once we paid our admission, the lady gave us waterproof wristwatches… the same kind we’ve gotten at every German spa we’ve ever attended. Sunday happened to be a “mixed” day, which meant men and women were coming from both sides of the spa. Some days, the sexes are split. Women go to the right and men go to the left. I wanted to experience the baths with Bill at my side, so we chose the mixed day.
After we found lockers, we grabbed the sheets that were left inside, got completely naked in changing rooms (which now seems ridiculous under the circumstances), and were beckoned into the baths by a bunch of very brawny looking men in white uniforms. I soon realized that the other side of the spa was staffed with similarly attired women.
The men, a couple of whom spoke English, directed us to get shower shoes and then take showers under the old style open bay showers. They had big levers that controlled the water temperature in a rather crude way. It kind of reminded me of a prison shower, not that I have any experience with prisons, mind you. It’s just that it was very crude and not private at all. And though we had entered the baths covered with a sheet, that lasted maybe a minute before they were taken away.
The shower shoes, at least on the men’s side, were huge and way too big for my feet. But I only wore them for a short while, as we sat in a warm room for ten minutes, then a hotter room for five. The shoes were necessary because the floor is very hot and will burn your feet if you walk in there unshod.
After we sat in the hot rooms, we took another shower, then were summoned for the soap and scrubbing, and a massage. Bill’s therapist was a big German guy who spoke English. I got a burly Russian man whose German seemed rather elementary– or, I’m going to assume he was Russian. He could have been Bulgarian, Polish, or Ukrainian, for all I know. I don’t think he was German, though.
He invited me to lie face up on the table as he scrubbed my body with soap and a scrub brush, rinsed, then had me roll over so he could do the other side. Then, he gave me a vigorous massage that made a couple of joints crack audibly. It was a rather surreal experience… almost clinical, yet kind of primal, too.
There I was, naked as the day I was born, lying totally exposed on a table with bright lighting shining down on my bare body, as if I were in a hospital. And yet, despite decades of feeling ashamed of my body, I didn’t really care that much. I mean, the staff sees all kinds of people day in and day out. They were totally professional, and it’s not even like I was the biggest and ugliest person there. Besides, after a few minutes, the nudity thing doesn’t really matter at all. Everybody’s naked, and I think most people just stop noticing.
After our enthusiastic massages were finished, we went into the first of two steam rooms. The first room was kind of warm and smelled heavily of sulfur. We were in there for ten minutes, sitting on “butt pads”. Then we went to a warmer steam room for five minutes. I looked to my right and noticed the very old equipment that was making the steam from Baden-Baden’s ancient thermal springs. After another shower, we went to station 9, which was the first pool. It was nice and warm and very tranquil as we soaked for ten minutes. That was really what I had been waiting for the whole time. It was heavenly and extremely relaxing.
Next came a short time in a shallow pool that bubbled. We sat there until it was time to hit station 11, which is the beautiful round pool that is featured in all of Friedrichsbad’s literature. What I didn’t know was that the water in that beautiful pool is very cold! We did our five minutes there, then went to the other side of the pool. This was where things went a little awry.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were supposed to stay on the side we came in on. When we went to the pool on the other side of the round pool, we ended up on the wrong side of the baths. This is only a big deal because we needed to be on the side where we entered in order to access our lockers. When we got to the end of the line, which included more showers and a dip in an ice cold pool, a female staffer turned us around. I now realize that if we’d done the last part on the female side, we would have had to somehow get to the other side while naked. Either way, we had to backtrack or else flash everyone in the public part of the building.
So, we turned around and walked back through the stations until we got to the men’s side. We were greeted by the same big dudes with big hands, who wrapped us in warm towels and invited us to wait for the cream massage. The same Russian guy who did my soap scrubbing took me to a private room, while Bill got a different German guy. The Russian guy expertly rubbed herbal smelling cream all over my naked body. Once again, I was strangely uninhibited. He was very much an expert. I left his care with skin like a newborn baby’s as he directed us to drink tea in the “reading room”.
Actually, we were supposed to go “sleep” for thirty minutes in the sleeping room, but to be honest, I was alright with skipping that part. I doubt I would have slept, anyway. Besides, it was just nice to relax on the lounger in the “reading room” with unsweetened hot tea and Bill at my side. It was a very restful experience for me, although I will admit that it’s not for everyone. I know many people would prefer not to bare their bodies to the world. But, I have to say… now that I’ve gotten into nudity, it doesn’t really faze me at all anymore. In fact, I find it quite liberating. Maybe I’m more German than 23andMe says I am.
When we were finished relaxing at the Friedrichsbad, we went back to the locker room, got dressed, and went back to the hotel. After a short break there, we packed up day bags with swimsuits, towels, and robes. I wasn’t going to leave Baden-Baden without trying both of its best known spas. Also, because we got the Luxury Plus ticket, we were owed a meal at the Caracalla spa.
The guy at the spa restaurant who waited on us was quite the smooth talker. I noticed he was easily mingling in French, German, English, and even a little bit of Russian. I was a little cranky because most of their beer was non-alcoholic. In the restaurant, they do have wine and one “real” beer. I ended up with a non-alcoholic hefeweizen, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great. I also got a Coke because it came with our coupons.
I somehow ended up with a side of duck, which wasn’t covered by the coupon. At least it tasted good.
Bill had a chef’s salad.
I had a “fruity” salad, which was made with shrimps, mangoes, cherry tomatoes, onions, and greens. The bread was excellent. It was soft and not too crusty.
After lunch, we tried the Caracalla Spa… and, I gotta say, I was much less impressed with it than any of the other spas I’ve been to. First off, it was very crowded yesterday. It’s also been around awhile, as evidenced by how everything looked. The tiles were all faded and somewhat discolored. The water looked a little bit cloudy. I guess I’m used to the Mineraltherme, which was just extensively refurbished last year.
They were repairing the “blue grotto”, which probably would have been packed with people, anyway. The only thing I really liked about the Caracalla Spa was this really cool current alley in one of the outdoor pools. It was almost like shooting the rapids as it propelled spa-goers down a pass. But we had to be careful not to be shot into someone standing on the side of the pool. I think some people were oblivious to the danger of careening bodies in the strong currents.
As crowded as the Mineraltherme gets sometimes, at least their snack bars have wine and beer and really good food. The one thing the Caracalla had that the Mineraltherme didn’t was fresh squeezed juices, which were admittedly delicious. Bill and I tried their orange juice, which was nice after a couple of sauna sessions. Other than that, I was not all that impressed with Caracalla. I would much rather visit the Friedrichsbad again. The Caracalla also has a saunagarten that costs extra, but it doesn’t have a nude pool. Instead, there are a bunch of saunas and one whirlpool that was packed the whole time. It wasn’t very relaxing at all. We paid for three hours and left about halfway through.
When we were finished at the Caracalla Spa, we walked back to the hotel and I took a shower. We enjoyed a rest after our big day of relaxing baths. Actually, I was surprised by how tired I was after hitting two spas in one day. As the sun went down, I told Bill that I wanted to have dinner somewhere, so we wouldn’t end up sitting around drinking wine. We decided to try Rizzi & Co., which is a wine bar very close to the hotel. I was glad to try it, because I had been eyeing the menu the whole time we were in town. We were also lucky because they happened to have one two top open for us. The next couple who showed up without a reservation was out of luck.
The menu looked good.
Obligatory menu shot of Bill… We weren’t very hungry, so we went with something fairly light.
I had salmon filet with broccoli and a maple glaze. I enjoyed the salmon, but especially liked the broccoli, which was really more like broccolini. It was surprisingly tasty.
Bill had rare tuna, served with chopsticks, soy sauce, and wasabi. It was just the right size. Naturally, we also enjoyed a very nice red wine.
The bar area was pretty cool, although they were playing dance music that made us feel ancient. I think a lot of Russians frequent Rizzi & Co. It looks like it caters to the young and hip.
For dessert, I had Le Colonel, which is lemon sorbet with a shot of vodka poured over it.
And Bill had vanilla mousse, which was covered with mangoes… I thought it looked like cream of corn soup!
It’s a very hip place.
Since we were told we had 90 minutes, we were quick about eating dinner. I was ready to go to bed, anyway. I think we were both out cold before 9:30pm. In fact, I remember waking from a sound sleep at just past eleven for a potty break. It’s exhausting trying to relax. When we got back to the hotel, one of the receptionists said, “Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Crossen.” That really blew Bill’s mind. It’s something when the staff at a big hotel remembers your name. It happened a few times during our visit. I think it’s the hallmark of superb service.
This morning, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel. We went back to the breakfast room and loaded up at the buffet and enjoyed the excellent coffee. I was thinking maybe we wouldn’t have eggs again, but a very charming German gent, whose name was Friedrich and had probably worked there for awhile, charmed us into having scrambled eggs. He indulged Bill’s German and also greeted him by name, without any prompting. Maybe we were easy to remember since I don’t think there were too many Americans there during our visit. We also had a shot of espresso for the road.
When it came time to check out, we were warmly welcomed by the same chap who had checked us in. He was delighted when we gushed about our weekend and invited me to sign up for their email service/newsletter, which is free of charge and entitles us to perks like free breakfast (which is well worth it). Since we’re moving to Wiesbaden and Wiesbaden isn’t all that far from Baden-Baden, I could see us coming back to Brenners Park, even if it is super expensive. We really enjoyed ourselves and the service is absolutely top notch. Of course, I’m not sure how we’re going to downgrade from a junior suite. They’re probably counting on that!
I wondered what this was. Bill showed me that it’s a coat rack.
Perfect scrambled eggs. Better than the eggs at the bakery yesterday… and no one hocked a loogie.
This is Brenner Park’s resident cat, Kleopatra. I never saw her, but we did see evidence of her presence. Evidently, she eats on the second floor of the hotel, which is where we were staying. Her food bowl and water were neatly laid out in the hall.
I think all told, we spent about 3.000 euros. That included a couple of nights in the bar, a couple of breakfasts for two, two spa treatments, and parking for four days. And yet, even though that’s a lot of money for us, we were both smiling as we got into the car to go home. The hotel staff had kindly provided us with a small bag that included waters and snacks for our drive. It was the kind of service Bill and I have experienced on luxury cruise lines, notably Hebridean Island Cruises, which costs a mint but offers stellar service. If you’re interested in my Hebridean experiences, you can easily read about them in this blog. We have sailed with them four times– in 2012 (back to back cruises, and written about on my main blog), 2016 (whisky cruise), and 2017 (Scotland and Northern Ireland).
A shot of the countryside on the way home. This isn’t far from Seewald, which is not far from where we are living until next Tuesday. Then, it’s off to Wiesbaden.
Anyway… so ends our very ritzy trip to nearby Baden-Baden. We had a great time! If we manage to make it back there, we will have to make a point of seeing and doing more in the area, which surely offers more than spas and shopping! But then, Wiesbaden is a lot like a more cosmopolitan Baden-Baden. So we’ll see…
I gave serious thought to going to the Sindelfingen Street Fest this afternoon. Then I looked up at the cloudy sky and decided I’d rather spend the afternoon naked with a bunch of Germans. I told Bill we should go to a spa, since it’s been ages since our last visit. Poor Bill is such a good sport. Although he knows I love a good spa day, the thought of going to one strikes dread in his heart, especially when we go to ones that have textile free areas or are entirely textile free. But he loves to make me happy and he can’t deny that after a few hours at the spa, he always comes home relaxed.
Bill takes a deep breath before enduring the horror of bathing suits.
At first, I was kind of wanting to visit the Schwabenquellen, mainly because when we went the last time, it was a lot less crowded than the Mineraltherme in Böblingen usually gets. However, the Schwabenquellen’s restaurant is not as good as the Mineraltherme’s is and it’s not as close to where we live. It’s also entirely textile free, which I know Bill is leery about. Sure enough, when I made the suggestion, he said he preferred Böblingen, so that’s where we went.
We arrived at the Mineraltherme at a little after one o’clock and enjoyed a very nice lunch. Of the spas I’ve been to in this area, I would say the Mineraltherme has the best restaurant. It offers somewhat healthy, upscale dishes instead of the usual pizzas, burgers, and brats offered elsewhere. Today’s lunch was no exception. We each enjoyed wine– I had a Riesling and he had a Gray Burgundy, along with our usual sparkling water.
They brought out a very nice lentil salad amuse. It was well seasoned with cumin and filled out with eggplant. I don’t usually love eggplant, but I did enjoy this.
Our waitress was pleasant and spoke English. Bill ordered one of the specials, spaghetti with tuna mixed in a tomato sauce, pictured below.
It was a pretty big dish! He said it was tasty.
A moment of seriousness before it was time for me to try my dish…
I had a “Kartoffel trifft Fische”, a baked potato covered in sour cream and served with smoked salmon and a simple green salad. I enjoyed this dish, although I wish I had asked them to go very easy on the sour cream. I don’t like sour cream that much and even if I did, I wouldn’t use as much as is pictured here. But the salad and smoked salmon were really enough to satisfy me anyway.
Lunch came to just over 40 euros. Because we hadn’t yet entered the spa, we paid for it in cash. I always enjoy eating at the Mineraltherme. I wish other spas had restaurants as nice as theirs.
Then we got in line to pay basic admission and get our wristwatches, which allow you to purchase things without using cash in the spa and keep track of your time. At this writing, it’s 12 euros per adult to visit the upstairs and part of the downstairs portions of the Mineraltherme. If you want to go into the Saunagarten, which is textile free, you have to pay another 6 euros. This is done by scanning your wristwatch at a turnstile. On your way out of the spa, you pay a machine for any refreshments or other extras you get while you’re in the spa.
After we paid our admission, we went into the unisex locker room, which is full of small dressing rooms so you can “suit up” in private. The Mineraltherme underwent a large renovation last year and they made some improvements to the locker room and some of the other facilities. We spent the first hour or so enjoying the pools upstairs, which require the use of a bathing suit. It was somewhat busy when we first got there, but not too bad. But then, as time went on, the spa began to fill up. I started noticing some rather inconsiderate behavior, which I’ll be bitching about in the following paragraphs.
One thing I don’t really like about the Mineraltherme experience on weekends is that it gets very crowded. People bring their kids and act as if the spa is a Freibad. I don’t really have so much of a problem with the kids up in the clothed area. I accept that parents like the spa and they’re going to bring their children. Most of the children at the Mineraltherme have been well-behaved, although I did see a couple of them hogging the pool noodles and not being very careful about where they were swinging them. I didn’t need a pool noodle myself; I pretty much float on my own. However, I did almost get beaned by one when one of the inattentive kids was horsing around. I don’t find having to duck pool noodles a very relaxing experience, but I’m willing to accept that kids are welcome there. So be it.
I have more of a problem with people who bring their young children into the textile free area. Technically, youngsters under 18 are allowed down there if they are with an adult. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea to bring children into that area. It’s not because I’m uptight about nudity. On the contrary, I’m all for it among consenting adults. Consider this, though. In the textile free area, the adults are walking around naked or wearing a towel or a robe. You’ll see all kinds of things that might need explaining or cause uncomfortable staring, even if you do your best to avert your eyes. For example, I saw one guy today with a very large metal ring hanging off of the end of his junk, Prince Albert style. I don’t have kids myself, but I can just imagine explaining that one to a nine year old.
Also consider that people drink alcohol down there, just as they also do in the upstairs area. It seems to me that adults drinking booze while naked is not necessarily compatible with hanging around with school aged children. And… this is a big thing for me… the adults have paid an entrance fee so they can relax and unwind. That is what spas are for.
Where’s Alice to set people straight when we need her?
I don’t find it very relaxing when a kid is hogging the jets in the pool, screaming and yelling, running amok, or staring. I have less of a problem with kids watching couples practically fucking in the pool, which frequently happens at the Mineraltherme, than I do with them watching egregious violence on TV. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s something that they necessarily need to be seeing. In fact, I’m not sure it’s something I need to be seeing, either. But whatever… when in Rome (or Germany), right?
I counted at least five grade school aged kids in the textile free area today. I also saw a few American youngsters who appeared to be high school aged. They were loudly making jokes about bringing dates to the spa. One of them was squirting water with his hands, like an oyster, and basically acting like he was at a naked pool party.
I know nudity is much more acceptable here in Germany than it is in the United States, but it’s still kind of a shock to my American sensibilities when I see young kids hanging out in the nude area of a spa, where grown people are trying to relax. I think it’s inconsiderate for people to bring their kids in there. It’s kind of akin to people who bring young kids on luxury cruises that aren’t equipped for kids. It’s not really fair to the children or the other adults who have paid the price of admission. Naturally, a day at the spa costs a lot less than a week on SeaDream I, but the concept is still the same.
Anyway… I don’t plan to write a letter of complaint or anything. It was just something I was thinking about today at the spa. I did leave there feeling more relaxed than I did when I came in and I’m sure I’ll go back another time. I probably ought to show up in the mornings on weekdays, when kids are more likely to be in school, or maybe find a place that is strictly for adults. I just think the local Freibad is probably a better place for kids to be, rather than the spa. But that’s just little ol’ childfree me, sharing my opinion. Incidentally, I also hate the term “littles” for children, but it is what it is.
I know… I know… this naked spa stuff is starting to become a habit. I wasn’t actually planning to visit the Schwabenquellen this weekend. We decided to go kind of by default. I’m glad we went because we had a great time and I’m feeling a whole lot better. That’s right. We hit the spa today for medicinal purposes.
I woke up early this morning needing to pee. As I got up, somehow I twisted my neck and gave myself a whopper of a crick. When I was fully awake later this morning, I realized that I couldn’t turn my head to the left without a lot of pain. Seriously, folks. I was really hurting. I still have some pain after our naked afternoon, but it’s not as bad as it was earlier today. I have my generous, good sport of a husband and the spa to thank for that.
I suggested the Schwabenquellen, knowing that Bill probably wouldn’t be too excited about it. Although he always ends up enjoying the spas whenever we go, he’s very self-conscious about being seen in a bathing suit. Well, the bathing suit wasn’t a problem today, since the Schwabenquellen is almost always textile free. By that, I mean you usually have to be without a bathing suit in the saunas, the steam baths, and the pools. You are, however, highly encouraged to wear a robe and/or a big towel. I bought Bill a new robe last week for just that purpose and we brought two towels each, one to sit on and one to dry off with. We ended up only using one each. I also brought “shower shoes”, but didn’t end up using them much.
The Schwabenquellen is located in the SI Centrum complex, very close to Kelley Barracks. There’s a huge parking garage there and, if you use the spa, you can get your parking ticket validated so parking is cheaper. Today, we spent 2,50 euros.
Naturally, I didn’t manage to get many pictures. This is one I got in the garage as we were about to climb the stairwell to the spa.
We decided to get the all day pass, since it was priced only a little bit more than the two hour pass. We weren’t sure how long we were going to be there today, since I knew there were a lot of rooms, themed saunas, and steambaths available, as well as two large pools. In retrospect, we were smart to get the all day pass the first time, even though we don’t usually stay longer than a couple of hours. The reason we were smart was because there is a bit of a learning curve to figuring out how things work at the Schwabenquellen. For example, it took both Bill and me several minutes to figure out how to get the lockers to work. We also had a mishap when we had lunch. There will be more on that in the coming paragraphs, because I intend to give my readers the lowdown on what to do at the Schwabenquellen.
After we paid the entrance fee, the lady behind the counter gave us the little plastic watches I’ve come to expect at Germany’s best spas. The “watch” doesn’t tell time; it provides you with a way to make purchases without using cash and it also gets you use of a locker. There are some small lockers available in the lobby that run on coins, but if you have more than a wallet and a phone, you’re probably going to want a bigger one. Unlike the Mineraltherme, the Schwabenquellen separates its locker rooms by sex. There are also no individual changing rooms at the Schwabenquellen like there are at the Mineraltherme.
How to use the lockers
In the interest of helping out my fellow man, I’m going to explain how to use the lockers at the Schwabenquellen. They, too, are different than what Bill and I have encountered at the Mineraltherme and the Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad.
Step 1: Wave your watch in front of one of the monitors in the locker room.
Step 2: Wait for the monitor to tell you which locker is yours.
Step 3: Find your locker.
Step 4: There’s a little green light that should flash on. When it does, put your stuff in the locker, close the door, and turn the knob counter clockwise. That should lock it. You’ll know it’s locked if the dial stays to the left instead of coming back in a horizontal line.
It took us awhile to figure out this process and we did not see any signs in English explaining it, although there are English instructions on the monitors. If I had known to pay attention to the monitors, I’m sure I would have figured it out much faster. I don’t think I even noticed them until several frustrating moments had passed with me trying to lock up my stuff.
Now, you have your locker and you put everything away. Be sure to remember which number you have, although when you come back into the locker room, you’ll need to swipe your watch again. The monitor will remind you which one is yours as it unlocks the locker for you. Also, be sure to stow your cell phone. Phones and/or cameras are not allowed in the spa for obvious reasons.
Once you’ve stowed your clothes in your locker, make sure you’re naked, unless you happen to be visiting at a time when swimsuits are allowed. The first Saturday of every month is when patrons can wear suits. Also, every Tuesday after 6:00pm, patrons have a choice of whether or not to go naked. There are also designated ladies days on the first Wednesdays of March, June, September, and December. That means ladies only, but I don’t think it means you can wear your bathing suit. For more information, click here.
You can now simply walk out of the locker room naked if you wish, or you can cover up in a towel or a robe. Put any other stuff like extra towels and robes in one of the many cubbies scattered throughout the facility. It may be strange being naked in a spa. Some people may find it embarrassing. For some reason, I’ve taken to nudity like a native. Next thing you know, I’ll be sporting Jack Wolfskin activewear. Then I’ll really pass for a local, at least until I open my mouth.
Careful with the first stop…
The first thing you will come across is a very large pool with two waterfalls. It’s a very deep, inviting, beautiful pool. You can see it pictured on the Schwabenquellen’s Web site. Allow me to warn you that that particular pool is cold. If you’re a guy and you go striding in, thinking it’s going to be warm, it’s likely you will experience major shrinkage. However, the water is refreshing and you should get used to it quickly.
There’s another pool that is warm and full of salt water. If you want to, you can access that pool inside and walk outside in the warm water. Or you can access it outside. The salt pool is really nice, though both have jets on them.
Bill and I aren’t much into saunas, but we did try the Canadian sauna next to the salt pool. It’s 90 degrees Celsius and nice, dry heat. I liked that sauna because it’s very large and there’s plenty of room. As a matter of fact, the spa wasn’t busy today and there was plenty of room throughout the complex. I found it a very nice change from the Mineraltherme.
We also tried the amethyst steam room, which was very hot and intense. I couldn’t take more than a couple of minutes in there.
How to order food and drinks.
This was another area where Bill and I had a slight problem. The spa has a bar out by the “beach”, which is a sandy area with loungers where you can catch some rays. The bar sells drinks only. There’s also the Mandala Bar, which overlooks the cold pool with the waterfalls. The Mandala Bar offers a buffet as well as a small menu with burgers, salads, pizzas, paninis, rumpsteak, salmon, turkey, and baked potatoes, as well as some snacks. You can also purchase cocktails there. If you order food that has to be prepared (as opposed to taken from the buffet), you will get a chit and a beeper that will go off when your food is ready. Don’t forget, as Bill did, to give the chit to the cook. If you don’t, you will be waiting a long time for food that never gets made.
As for food… I think this is one area where the Schwabenquellen could improve. The Mineraltherme in Boeblingen has a nice restaurant with really interesting choices that are pretty healthy. The Schwabenquellen’s offerings are a lot more pedestrian, although we enjoyed what we had. Bill had a ham and cheese panini and I had a Hawaiian pizza, which was way too big for me to finish. Food and drink prices are pretty standard. It’s not like the tourist traps of the United States where they take advantage of a captive audience. I noticed none of the food was priced over 15 euros.
And yes, you ARE expected to wear a robe or a big towel when you’re dining at the Mandala Bar. In fact, you need to sit on a towel or wear a robe whenever you are not in the water. There are also rest areas where you are expected to wear dry swimwear or otherwise be clothed.
As Bill and I were enjoying our late lunch, I commented that the spa reminded me of an adult oriented Rainforest Cafe. I don’t know how long the spa has existed, but to me, it has sort of a late 80s vibe. The Mineraltherme appears to be a lot more modern, although it’s also a lot more inclusive. One thing I did notice today was that there were no children around and that was a good thing, especially since everyone was naked.
I noticed that a lot of the signage, though not all, was translated into English. That was very helpful, although we could have used English instructions for the lockers. I also noticed that they were playing horrid pan flute music in the bar area. Think Zamfir… It certainly added to the late 80s early 90s vibe.
They were playing “The Rose” today… not sure if it was Zamfir, but it sounded like this.
Staff was very friendly and I thought the facility was pretty clean, if not a little dated looking. I didn’t get to try everything available, but I enjoyed today enough that I’d happily go back for another visit, especially since I now know how to use the lockers. We spent a little over three hours at the spa and might have stayed longer, except we knew our dogs were at home waiting to be fed. I also noticed that though my neck isn’t totally back to normal, it does feel a lot better after some time in the water and the sauna.
If I keep going to textile free spas, pretty soon, people will be calling me Bubbles…
As we exited the spa, we handed our watches to the attendant and Bill paid for the food and drinks. Then she gave us tickets, which we used to get through the turnstile and back into the land of the clothed. Of the three spas I’ve tried so far, I think I might like Schwabenquellen the best. Yes, it’s a little cheesy and slightly more expensive than Mineraltherme is. And yes, I like the food at the Mineraltherme better and the Mineraltherme offers a choice as to whether or not you have to disrobe. But today, at least, it was less crowded than it has been at the Mineraltherme the last few times I’ve been. There also seems to be more to do at the Schwabenquellen. I like all the different saunas, steam rooms, and treatments you can get at the Schwabenquellen. And the absence of kids, much as I like them, is definitely a plus if you really want to relax.
We really could have spent the whole day doing stuff at the Schwabenquellen. Next time we get a day pass, we’ll have to spend more time enjoying all of the facilities. I would definitely recommend the Schwabenquellen for a fun and interesting date night. Just keep an open mind and avert your eyes. Above all, relax, enjoy yourself, and remember that no one is looking at your junk.
I took a shot of Bill as we exited, just to prove he was there… All told, we spent roughly 100 euros today, including the two day passes, lunch for two, four beers, and parking. You can also rent towels and robes and purchase shower shoes if you find yourself unprepared.
Children under age 6 are not allowed in the Schwabenquellen. As for kids over age 6, here is the policy according to their official Web site.
Personally, I don’t think this spa is a good place to bring children, whether or not they are allowed.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I recently asked members of the local food and wine Facebook group for suggestions of places to go out to eat. One of the suggestions was 3 Mohren, a Turkish restaurant in Sindelfingen. I was delighted to try this place today, since we walked past it last week on our way to Corners Burger Restaurant and I noticed how well attended it was and how good it smelled. We made reservations for 1:00pm via the restaurant’s Web site. When we arrived a few minutes early, the place was jumping with business. It turns out 3 Mohren has a popular Sunday brunch buffet and lots of people were taking advantage of it.
The sleek, modern sign outside the restaurant… On nice days, there’s a large terrace available, as well as a good sized indoor dining room.
Bill and I weren’t there for the buffet. We wanted to try some Turkish food and a bottle of Turkish wine. We were very successful in that endeavor today.
Our server seated us at a four top table near the buffet table and had a good look at the menu, which offers all kinds of Turkish specialties with lamb, chicken, beef, and fish. There are also vegetarian selections. Do not go there looking for pork; naturally, you won’t find it on the menu.
We decided to start with an order of hummus, a bottle of mineral water with gas, and a bottle of Turkish wine. Both the waitress and the owner of the restaurant spoke excellent English once they realized we aren’t German.
Bill checks out the menu… lots of great Turkish choices, as well as grilled salmon, shrimp, and dorade. The menu is also vegetarian and kid friendly.
This was a very nice dry red wine from Eastern Anatolia. Several bottles were available, as were wines by the glass and a range of cocktails. 3 Mohren has a full bar.
A shot of the buffet during a couple of minutes when it wasn’t being visited by patrons. This table stretched another ninety degrees into the next dining room. I didn’t get a close look at what was on the table, but people seemed to be enjoying the food
The hummus was absolutely delicious. The bread was dressed with a zesty oil that gave the chickpea dip a kick. This was a nice start to lunch.
Bill and I both went with kebabs. He had a lamb kebab and I had chicken. Both dishes came with salads, rice, and vegetables, as well as a basket of bread.
This salad was not too big, which I appreciated. It consisted of lettuce, corn, carrots, radishes, and a zingy dressing that tasted of mild mustard with just a dash of mint. I really liked the dressing.
My chicken kebab. The chicken was white meat and just a little dry for my taste, but well seasoned. The vegetables were cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and a green pepper. There was also a small scoop of delicious rice that had a buttery essence. I might have liked this better if it had come with a sauce or something on the side.
I don’t usually go for lamb, but I have to admit Bill’s lamb was excellent. Next time, I might have to have a mixed grill or even order the lamb myself. It was very tender, juicy, and not gamey at all.
We were offered a basket of bread, which we accepted. It arrived hot and fresh. I noticed a couple with twin babies who were just adorable. They had big, bright blue eyes and one of them kept staring at me. I think I heard their mom talking to the owner about booking the restaurant for a party of 30 people.
As we were sitting there eating, I was paying attention to the music. They were playing a lot of jazz– mostly modern stuff. I think I heard some Diana Krall. Then I heard a cover version of Stevie Wonder’s classic song, “If It’s Magic”, which is originally from his wonderful 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life. Although the cover version wasn’t necessarily moving to me, I was explaining the song to Bill. It’s always been kind of special to me, because the lyrics are so wise and seem especially poignant, particularly given the mood a lot of us have been in over the past few months.
For those who haven’t heard the song, here’s a video…
This song always moves me.
So anyway, there I was sitting in the Turkish restaurant, explaining to Bill the meaning of this song. It poses the question why, if love is so special and magical, are we so careless with it? Why don’t we pay as much attention to preserving the love in our relationships as we do to how we dress, smiling for the camera, and protecting our children from danger? For some reason, as I was explaining the song, I got very verklempt and started tearing up. I was sitting at the table wiping tears and talking about the song in a quavery voice. It was kind of embarrassing.
Bill is used to this reaction from me, especially over music. We’re both hopeless saps when it comes to some things. I usually see him get weepy when he enters a beautiful cathedral or looks at amazing artwork. He sees me tear up when I hear gorgeous music with powerful lyrics. I have a Stevie Wonder DVD that I’ve only watched once or twice because it makes me cry to watch Stevie Wonder perform. He is so incredibly talented. I am myself a singer and have sung “If It’s Magic”. I have to admit, it’s usually a struggle to get through it without getting really emotional. It probably doesn’t help that I’m also hormonal as hell right now.
I don’t know about my readers, but Bill and I have had a pretty tumultuous few months. Although it probably started with the political upheaval that’s been going on since Trump got elected, it really started coming to a head in April when Bill’s former company lost its contract and we spent a couple of scary months wondering if we were going to have to move… and if so, where? Then, both of Bill’s parents had some rather major health issues. They’re both mostly fine and we ended up not having to move, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t worried. And now Bill’s working for a new company and feels the pressure to perform and prove himself to his new employers. Although 2017 was not nearly as stressful as 2014 was– when we moved here from Texas after Bill retired– it has been a bit crazy. Add Trump to the mix and the fact that our dog had a cancer scare (that turned out not to be cancer, thank God) and you have a couple of really wound up people.
Anyway, once I finished explaining the song and wiped away the tears, we were finished with lunch. Bill called for the check, which was about 58 euros. I think he paid in cash, but I believe they do accept cards there.
Given how tense we both were, we decided to visit the Mineraltherme in Böblingen. It just reopened after having been closed for renovations for several months. I had to talk Bill into going, but he admits that every time I talk him into hitting the spa, he feels a lot better afterwards. I wanted to see the changes they made over the summer. Looks like brand new lockers, more parking spots (most of which were filled today), and new equipment in the saunagartens. I read they invested over 13.5 million euros in fixing the place up.
Today, we did something we had never done before… at least not at the Mineraltherme. Today, for the first time ever, we ventured downstairs to the textile free area and actually stripped down to our birthday suits. Regular readers may have read about our trip to the Palais Thermal spa in Bad Wildbad a couple of months ago. That was our first time getting naked in front of strangers. Well, today was the first time we did it locally and ran the risk of running into people we know.
Honestly, it was kind of awesome. After a quick dip upstairs in the clothed area, we went down to the classic sauna area, got in the raw, and hit a sauna. We paid an extra 5,50 euros each to go into the saunagarten, where everyone is buck naked (but with big towels and robes for when they sit down). We took a longer dip in the warm, relaxing mineral pool, wandered around the gardens, checking out the sandy lounge areas, relaxed in another sauna, had a beer, and then tried out the heated lounge chairs (wrapped in towels, of course). It was amazingly relaxed and pleasant. In all seriousness, the nudity thing doesn’t bother me in the slightest anymore. I have taken to it like the proverbial duck to water. Yeah, no one wants to see me naked, but I no longer give a shit about that. It’s a wonderful feeling.
After a couple of hours enjoying some rays, warm water, German suds, and peace and quiet, we headed home. Bill looked a lot less stressed. I told him we need to make a priority out of visiting the spa more often… and he needs to get back to the gym and blow off some steam before he has a stroke. It was a really lovely afternoon.
Needless to say, I recommend 3 Mohren, but make reservations if you’re coming on the weekend. Both the restaurant and the spa were noticeably less packed later in the afternoon. We will have to remember that for next time. Turkish food plus being naked with Germans equals awesomeness… A good cry over music doesn’t hurt, either.
This morning, Bill asked me what I wanted to do today. A German who runs one of our local Facebook groups recommended the Paracelsus-Therme in the lovely town of Bad Liebenzell. It had been ages since my last trip to the Mineraltherme in Böblingen. Right now, that spa is under massive construction and will be closed until mid July. I told Bill I wanted to check out the spa recommended by our German friend.
Bill doesn’t enjoy visiting spas. He’s bashful about being seen in a bathing suit. On the other hand, once I cajole him into going, he usually enjoys his spa time almost as much as I do. Of course, here in Germany, many spas are textile free, which means that patrons are naked. I sold Bill on the spa in Bad Liebenzell by reminding him that unlike the Mineraltherme, the Paracelsus-Therme does not have a textile free area. Everyone would be wearing bathing suits.
Although he still wasn’t too hot on the idea of hitting the spa, my dear husband finally relented and we loaded up the car and went. The drive was kind of quiet and awkward, yet absolutely stunning. If you haven’t been to the towns in the Calw area, I highly recommend just taking a Saturday or Sunday to drive through there. It’s an incredibly picturesque area.
So… we got to Bad Liebenzell, turned a corner, and ran smack dab into the middle of another unexpected fest. We didn’t stop and take a look around, but it looked like there were a bunch of classic cars on display. No matter. We were headed to the spa.
We got to the spa and the parking lot was completely full. I’m pretty sure many of the people who had parked there were headed to the fest. Despite circling around the parking lot several times, we were unable to find a spot. Bill was getting more and more irritated; I was getting hungry; and my car was running out of gas. We decided to abandon the idea of going to Paracelsus-Therme. While Bill was gassing up my car, I had a sudden brainstorm.
Back in 2015, Bill and I drove to the spa town of Bad Wildbad and took a walk at Baumwipfelpfad, otherwise known as “the treewalk”. This very cool attraction has become popular with Americans in the area and it was definitely fun to try it. On the way out of there, I noticed signs for mineral baths. Remembering that Bad Wildbad was a really nice town and has spas, I did a quick check on my iPhone to see what was available.
Bad Wildbad has two main spas. There’s Vital Therme, which is evidently a conventional spa where people wear bathing suits and there are exercise classes and such. And then there’s Palais Thermal, which allows suits in some areas and not in others. I read a few reviews on Trip Advisor and a few people complained that Palais Thermal is a spa for “nudists”. Since I’ve been wanting to go nekked for awhile now, I told Bill we should go there. And yes, I did warn him that it was “textile free”… eventually, anyway. He wasn’t thrilled. I won him over with giggling.
Bill did visit the first floor of the Mineraltherme with me once, so he had been in a textile free spa before. However, before today, neither of us had ever had the pleasure of actually being naked in front of a bunch of strangers. This was going to be FUN!
My husband was decidedly grumpy as he pulled into the parking garage. I reminded him that he had given me a gift certificate to Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden and if he planned to join me there, he’d have to get over his aversion to nudity in front of strangers. With a sigh of resignation, Bill followed me to the Palais Thermal.
In we walked… A pleasant lady was seated behind a reception desk. Bill asked in German if she spoke English. She hesitated, then pointed to her colleague, a friendly looking lady who laughed when I giggled and said we were “shy Americans”. She handed us a piece of paper with instructions on how things work at Palais Thermal and two bracelets which we would use for purchasing spa treatments and food and beverages. Cash is not used in the spa. We were used to this system. It’s pretty much the same one used at the Mineraltherme.
If you decide to pay Palais Thermal a visit, I highly recommend getting the instructions in English so you’ll know what to do. Some Trip Advisor reviewers mentioned being taken aback by the nudity and not knowing when nudity was required of them. Nudity is enforced in the rooftop pool area and you’ll see it all over the spa. Although the staff we encountered today was friendly and helpful, I did read in at least one review that staff can be rather insistent about the nudity rule. Since you’re going there to relax, you don’t want to be yelled at by a staffer for breaking the law!
The outside of the spa area.
Bill takes a deep breath…
And in we go!
For obvious reasons, I don’t have pictures of the inside of the spa. That’s too bad, since the bottom floor of the Palais Thermal is absolutely lovely. It was built in 1844 and retains a lot of old style charm. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. First, we had to get ready. We went into the changing room, which is unisex. There are stalls where you can change in privacy, but I guarantee after a couple of hours at the Palais Thermal, you won’t care who sees you in your birthday suit.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t wanting to go ugly early. I donned my newest swimsuit, which I bought last year and never had the opportunity to wear. I removed my shoes, since street shoes are not allowed in the spa. I recommend bringing a robe, shower shoes or flip flops, and at least one towel.
We went into the “quiet room”, which is right next to the “cafeteria”. This is one area where I think the Palais Thermal could improve. They had beer, wine, soft drinks, and water. They also had a limited selection of food. It wasn’t quite as nice as the restaurant at the Mineraltherme, but it was good enough to satisfy my hunger. Bill had a smoked salmon sandwich and I had a couple of wieners with a hot baguette and mustard. Actually, given all of the uncircumcised junk I saw today, that little snack was especially inspired!
The quiet room is really beautiful. The ceiling is stained glass, so the sunshine affects the lighting in the room. There are wicker chairs and loungers everywhere. People sit in there in their robes and towels and eat and drink. Most people were completely covered up.
After we ate, we took a deep breath and found our way to our first pool. The Palais Thermal has these cool little baths that are ideal for couples. You can get in one of them and soak for a bit, maybe even in privacy if you’re lucky. There’s also a larger, deeper pool on the first floor where bathing suits are allowed. It’s really pretty. There’s a statue in the middle of it and the roof is stained glass. There are a couple of shallow pools with massaging jets on the first floor. Again, they are rather small and private, which is nice. There are also a few small jacuzzi like tubs for couples. All of the baths on the first floor are marble and majestic. I ditched my swimsuit before we left the first floor and it was totally not a big deal at all.
On the second floor, you’ll see a lot more nudity. That’s where the saunas, steam rooms, and massages are. Bill and I usually don’t go for saunas, but we decided to sit in one for fifteen minutes today. The saunas at Palais Thermal are, like all saunas in Germany, textile free. This was where Bill lost his trunks! After a couple of minutes, I could tell he was getting into the groove, since everyone else was as naked as we were… and most everyone had towels and robes. If you use the sauna, you will need to sit on a towel. It’s forbidden to sweat on the wood in the sauna.
After we sat in the sauna, we cooled off in a marble plunge pool full of cold water. Then we went into a super hot aromatic steam room which neither of us could tolerate for more than a few minutes. I would think that room would be great if you needed your sinuses cleared. The air was extremely hot and full of a mentholated substance that I initially found hard to breathe. After a couple of minutes I got more used to it, but it was just way too hot for me.
On the second floor, there’s also an indoor pool and a shower area that connects to the spa hotel. This is obviously where people staying at the hotel can access the spa directly. The second floor pool allows bathing suits, although everyone we saw in there was naked.
On the third floor, there are few more saunas, including the Oriental sauna and a salt room. We’d had enough sauna time, so we skipped that and went to the fourth floor, which has a panorama sauna and a pool. In this area, which is outdoors, everyone is naked. There’s also a bar in this area, but it didn’t appear to be attended today. The outdoor pool is very nice, with warm water, massage jets, and waterfalls that massage the head and shoulders. This is also where you’ll find a smoking area, although I’m not sure where people carry their smokes!
As I enjoyed the warm water and sunshine, I couldn’t help but marvel at how unexpectedly freeing it was to be naked in front of a bunch of strangers. Seriously… I think I was born to be European. It was interesting to see who was at the spa. I saw all kinds of bodies and no one stared or acted embarrassed. I saw old people, thin people, fat people, young people… one thing I did not see was young children, which was a real blessing. The youngest people there were a couple of teenagers. They appeared to be brother and sister and were with a guardian– not egregiously sucking face like I often see at the Mineraltherme. In fact, everyone was behaving themselves. Maybe it has to do with being naked.
After a little while, Bill told me he was getting wrinkly. We got out of the water and headed back to the locker room, where we got cleaned up and dressed. On the way out, we paid 58 euros for a couple of hours in the spa and lunch, including beer. If your stay is less than three hours, you can get your parking ticket validated and it’s free. We paid with a USAA credit card, too. How convenient!
Bill’s face kind of looked like this as we exited. I have a feeling he won’t be as reluctant to go naked again.
Bad Wildbad is a beautiful town. Here’s a picture of a creek that passes through there.
I think the Mineraltherme in Böblingen is bigger and newer and has better food. But it lacks the incredible beauty of stained glass and marble tubs that the Palais Therme has… and it does get very crowded there. And one bonus to Bad Wildbad is that the drive to and from there, particularly from where we live, is very beautiful and not nearly as congested. I would say it’s probably not much further or time consuming to get there from Unterjettingen. I think we’d like to go back for a weekend and just chill, even though the drive there is less than 45 minutes from our house.
I guess going naked with a bunch of Germans is one way to celebrate our decision to stay here for at least one more year. We left the spa feeling relaxed, yet invigorated. I would not hesitate to go back to the Palais Thermal and now I know I can handle whatever weirdness Baden-Baden throws at me! Highly recommended!
After yesterday’s hike to the Bad Urach waterfall, I woke up with slightly sore thighs this morning and was way overdue for a trip to Mineraltherme Böblingen. I talked Bill into going and mentioned that I might even check out the textile free area. I had a feeling Bill wouldn’t be into getting naked, but with a little cajoling, he usually can be talked into venturing beyond his comfort zone. We had to get some cash on the way in, but the parking lot at the bank where Bill usually gets cash was full. We went to the next lot, then made our way through Jettingen’s annoying road project.
As we approached the spa, it became pretty clear that a lot of people had the same idea I did. Bill quickly grabbed a free parking spot on the way into the Mineraltherme. Lucky thing he did, too. They were pretty packed. When we went inside, there was a line to pay the cashier.
But first, we needed lunch, so we stopped at the Mineraltherme’s restaurant. It was fairly empty.
I said something obnoxious to get him to make this face.
Here’s a more normal photo.
After perusing the menu for a few minutes, I decided to have the trout special pictured below and a glass of locally made Riesling that was surprisingly good. Bill had a beer and a salad plate with avocado wrapped in smoked ham.
We started off with these shot glasses of bean soup. I really enjoyed this. In fact, the bean soup inspired me to make some soup sometime before we head off to Austria on Friday. I love soup, especially when it’s getting cooler outside.
This was my lunch. The trout was very nice. It was lying atop the French culinary trifecta of celery, shallots, and carrots and served with parsleyed potatoes. How healthy.
Bill’s salad. It was very large and quite tasty.
As we were finishing lunch, I was watching people go downstairs into the textile free area. I noticed a lot of them were wearing bathing suits or robes. That made me feel somewhat less tentative. But then, just as I was starting to relax, an old woman walked past our window almost completely naked. She had a very small towel covering her front, while her backside was totally nude. I was really not expecting to see someone’s naked ass as I finished my lunch while sitting in the non-nudity area, but I figured I could go with the flow. Bill said the look of shock on my face was priceless.
After lunch, we got our tickets, went into the locker room, changed into bathing suits, and promptly got in a stau as two very large women blocked the way out because they couldn’t get their locker to lock. After a quick shower, we went to the main pool and waded around for awhile. Then we went outside and dodged the many bodies cavorting in the water. I think today was the most crowded I’ve ever seen the Mineraltherme, though it was pretty busy on Easter Sunday, too.
We ventured into the warmer pool near the solarium and talked for awhile. I watched a few people suck face. Bill complained about the chlorine, which he said was stronger than usual. Then we went back inside. We totally skipped two pools because they were really full of people. I decided to be brave and go into the textile free area to see if it was something I wanted to try. To my surprise, it was totally not a big deal.
Yes, there were quite a few naked people walking around. A lot of them were people one might expect to be embarrassed about being naked, though perhaps refreshingly, they weren’t at all perturbed about it. I find that attitude very liberating. I mean, most of us have things about us we’d like to change. We’re all naked under our clothes. And you can always avert your eyes.
There were also people wearing swimsuits. I expected to feel uncomfortable, but I didn’t really. I went back upstairs and got Bill. He came down and had a look after some gentle persuasion from yours truly. After he checked it out, he conceded that it wasn’t that bad, even though I sensed that to him there’s a difference between looking at naked people and being one himself.
Why am I reminded of this?
I said we needed to come back on a weekday morning and try it. Today, it was just way too crowded, even if I had felt totally at ease in my birthday suit. It was so busy there weren’t any places to sit. I will definitely try it out, though, even if Bill sticks to the clothed area. I want to be prepared for when we finally visit Baden Baden and hit Friedrichsbad. I really think I could assimilate to this nudity thing going on in Germany. Bill probably never will.
After checking out the textile free area, we each had a glass of Grüner Veltliner and watched a water gymnastics class… which really looked more like water aerobics. The teacher cracked me up. She was tall, slim, and had a very high pitched voice. I liked how she had everyone wave their hands in the air as she said “Tschuss!”.
I chatted with Bill about the importance of being brave… as I realize that it’s been about seven months since the dentist told me I need a tooth extraction. I am one to talk about not being chickenshit. But I am less afraid of being naked in front of people than having a dentist take out my tooth. I do have an appointment to have that done, though. As of the 22nd, my dental implant process will begin. Anyway, in my defense, Bill almost always thanks me when I push him into doing something outside his comfort zone. He’s just bashful about his body, which is something I can understand.
We needed to drop by Patch Barracks to pick up a few things, gas up my car, and top up our phones. On the way there, we were in front of what appeared to be a soccer mom in a Toyota. Bill said, “There’s an American with a lead foot behind us.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because she’s driving a van.” he said. “And it’s a Toyota.”
“Are you starting to become annoyed by Americans?” I asked him.
He laughed and said, “Yes.”
I’m sure he’s not the only one. On the other hand, given that we are Americans and most definitely annoy Germans, I thought it was a pretty funny observation. If we were comedians, we could probably make a SNL worthy sketch from being Americans in Europe annoyed by Americans.
Last year, as Bill and I were transitioning back into life in Germany, one of the women in the local Facebook group brought up the issue of swimming at public pools in France. She and her husband had encountered what seemed like a strange rule at the swimming pool they visited in France. Like many American men, this lady’s husband prefers to wear board shorts or trunks when he goes swimming. However, if you go to a pool in France and you are a guy, chances are good that you will be required to wear what they call a maillot. Maillot is the French term for swimsuit. Great, you say– trunks are swimsuits, right? Wrong.
Many public pools in France do not allow men to wear board shorts or trunks because they could be worn out on the street. If you wear your shorts as streetwear and then jump in the pool, you risk contaminating the water with dirt, sweat, oil, sunblock or what have you. So the close fitting maillot, which is typically available for rent if you don’t have one of your own, is required for hygiene purposes. Now, that’s all well and good, except for the fact that wearing a used maillot still damp from the previous customer doesn’t seem all that hygienic either. Besides, while you’re really not supposed to pee in the pool, lots of people do it anyway. So much for hygiene.
Public pools in France also typically require swimmers to wear swim caps in order to prevent long hair from getting in the water. Even bald men are required to comply with this rule, though curiously enough, it’s okay for people with beards to swim. And lest you think women have an easier time with public swimming pool rules, I have it on good authority that women are also required to wear a bikini or an athletic style bathing suit. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you need to be wearing Speedos due to your physique. It’s all about hygiene. If you try to enter the water with your more modest swimming trunks, you are liable to be yelled at by a lifeguard and forced to change. You will also need to take a shower with soap before you take your dip in a French pool.
Most men can’t rock a Speedo like the Hoff could back in the day…
Here in Germany, trunks and board shorts in public pools appear to be okay, unless you are headed to the sauna or textile free area. At that point, you are required to be naked. Nudity is not a big deal in Germany; in fact, there are a number of places where it’s perfectly acceptable to be naked in public. Personally, I find the idea of public nudity kind of titillating, even though I don’t necessarily want people to see me naked.
Bill, on the other hand, is way too bashful to even consider the idea of being nude in front of strangers. It was a struggle to get him to go skinny dipping with me when we had a pool in our backyard. Once he did it, he enjoyed it. But it took a lot of doing to get him to try it. I am pretty certain he will never don a Speedo, no matter how inviting the pool looks or how much I plead with him.
We have been toying with the idea of visiting Baden-Baden, which is close to where we live. There are beautiful spas in that town. However, if you visit the historic Roman Baths at Friedrichsbad, you have to be naked. Aside from that, the baths are also co-ed except on certain days. It’s something I would love to try because I love spas. At the same time, I’m still an American and being nude in front of people other than Bill makes me uncomfortable. I suspect my discomfort with the idea of my being nude in front of others has more to do with my not wanting other people to judge my body. Of course, if everybody’s naked, everybody runs the risk of being judged… and from what I’ve heard from locals, most folks just plain don’t care what your naked body looks like.
If I ever do manage to get Bill to do a nude bath at Friedrichsbad, my guess is that getting him into a Speedo might be a lot easier. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of wearing a bathing cap, so we may have to stick to beaches if we go swimming in France.
Here’s Rick Steves’ take on Baden-Baden, which includes a trip to the famous nude baths…