Banana Hammocks, droopy old lady boobs and BARING.IT.ALL
Yup, that’s a European bath and spa for you.
But a German spa really isn’t as scary, intimidating or even embarrassing as you might think it would be.
I am proud to say that it wasn’t until almost 6 months after having Lil B that I kinda had my first major meltdown. C’mon Mamas (or Dads!), you know the one. The one where for no apparent reason at all, the whole weight of the world feels like it is on your shoulders. The mental breakdown where the endless nights of waking up every 2 hours to feed the baby finally hits you like a ton of bricks. The final straw when you realize that no matter what you do, you are ALWAYS on duty with the baby.
And the guilt of all those feelings finally crashes into you creating this wave of utterly exhausted emotions that has you lying on the floor next to your perfectly content baby playing with a nasal aspirator as a toy as you start crying uncontrollably out of nowhere.
Yeah. THAT BREAKDOWN!
So, when my husband stepped through the door, eyes widening with a “What the hell am I walking into” look, I just sobbed and said, “I need a break. Like, a REAL break.”
Don’t get me wrong, Andy should probably win some sort of Amazing Father of the year award for how involved in Lil B’s life he is, but I just needed a day where it was just me. Where I could just focus on my inner well being for more than an hour here or there, regroup, refocus and rejuvenate….
So I knew the perfect place that would help me recharge my batteries: A German spa.
A German “bath” often is another name for a spa. You have to remember that long ago, societies didn’t have baths at home, so the bath houses were a place of socialization as well as an opportunity to cleanse themselves. While we no longer use them as a means to suds up and get the stank off, it is very evident from all the people chatting away that it is still very much a social experience for many locals. So no, you won’t be grabbing any rubber duckies at the baths, but instead will get an experience unlike any bath you’ve taken before.
I’d already been to several German spas, like Baden-Baden, so I knew the drill and what to expect, but for those of you either
- Have never been to a German spa or bath
- Are a bit squeamish and unsure of what to expect
Going to a European spa can be a bit daunting. Let me ease your mind and reassure you that you won’t regret giving it a try. I PROMISE!
The Nude Factor
I’ve talked about nudity in Europe before and it’s actually become a pretty hot topic for me, but just to recap a few points that are SO important for those of you who are scared, nervous or just flat out like “HELL NO” to the idea of going to an all nude, co-ed facility:
1) Many European countries, especially Germany sees nudity in a completely different light than in the US. Keep this in mind because it is a game changer.
2) Nudity does NOT equal sexuality. In Europe, you can go to the gas station and find porn magazines out in the open. You can go to a beach and see topless woman sunbathing. However, you don’t have the creeps and pervs oogling and eyeing you. I personally think this has a lot to do with the fact that nudity is “normalized” therefore there really isn’t a stigma, power or “longing” for something you can’t have.
It is just simply a body. A body that has parts that every other body has. Period.
3) At the baths, everyone’s in the same boat (well, pool in this case). Everyone is there for the same reason(s). For most, they are just looking for a way to relax and some are there for actual therapeutic reasons. Either way, once you realize that everyone is just minding their own business, enjoying their own time and not paying any attention to you or your body, it’s way easier to take a breath and enjoy your spa day!
4) Nobody cares about your saggy boobs, your muffin top or your (un)shaved body. No, really. The first time I went into a nude spa, I was so self conscious. What if a body part of mine looked different than everyone elses? What if a particular grooming trend that is popular in the US isn’t in Germany? The questions went on….and the answer is that NOBODY CARES. Nobody cares because nobody is looking or paying attention. SERIOUSLY.
The Pools vs The Spas
It’s not all foot loose and fancy free everywhere. There are the pools in most German baths that are just what it sounds like. A big pool. There are often different areas with different temperatures, some are inside while others may be out. Some may have jets and bubbles while others are just what you’d expect at any old public pool.
These areas most often are swim suit required. Therefore, if the thought of baring it all is just too much to handle, rest assured that you can still have a fun and even relaxing time in the pools.
These are where you’ll often find the ban on swimsuits. These areas are typically numerous different kinds of saunas, all with different health and relaxation benefits. Some may be wet, others dry. One might be scented with a scent, like lavender that make you want to grab a pillow and take a snooze or possibly the smell of pine wafting through the room that transports you to a peaceful forest in your mind. As you make your way to another sauna, it could have trippy lighting effects that make you wonder what was in that water you just sipped or it could have dim lights that invoke a feeling of calm and peace. Some rooms are just simply quiet spaces to snuggle into your towel, listen to some calming sound effects and drift off into relaxation land. Each sauna and room is a bith different with varying purposes and “benefits.” It’s kinda like your playing Forest Gump and you never know what your gonna get!
Bad Abbach: A Step By Step Guide
Just a note before starting: When all else fails, just look like you know what you are doing! It can feel intimidating not knowing if you should go to this pool first or that one, if you are supposed to go somewhere specific in the pool, how long to stay in each one, etc. Again, nobody is really paying attention to you, so don’t worry about it too much. But, if you feel like your having shifty eyes back and forth out of confusion, hesitating on what to do or are just plain lost… just fake it ’till you make it!
Planning a Spa Getaway?
1) When you enter the facility, you can choose how many hours you want to stay for. This was MY day, so of course I chose the 4.5 hour option, no need in cutting my spa day short! They currently take cash and credit.
Tip: At least on the day that I went, I found that almost none of the staff spoke English. No worries though, look at the website prior to going, know what you want and then just point if all else fails.
2) You’ll receive a stylish bracelet (ok, not really…it will be just a plastic thing with a tracker inside, but when you aren’t wearing anything else, surely it’s fashion at it’s finest, right?). This is for your locker (see below.)
3) Once you walk through the turnstyle, head down the stairs to your right. This will lead you to the locker rooms that are directly on the floor to the pools.
Note: There are no women’s and men’s separate rooms. Again, no need to panic, there are private dressing rooms, separate bathrooms etc. But just don’t be surprised if you get a sneak peek for what’s to come while in the locker room itself.
4) Find a locker that is open and do a test run with your bracelet. Put the tracker piece up to the button on the locker and push in with the bracelet touching the button. You’ll see it light up, so turn it to lock. Press back on the button to unlock. Voila! Magic!
5) Grab your suit and head to one of the stalls. These have two “entrances” to them, so when you go into the changing room, make sure that when you turn down the lock, that it goes down on both sides.
1) In order to get into the pools, you’ll have to go through the shower room. Like most public pools, go ahead and rinse off before heading into the main pool
2) The main room has two pools and then there are two outdoor ones. If you want to swim laps, bring whatever gear you’d like for that. Honestly, just go with which pool look the best, are to your temperature liking or look to be the least crowded!
3) See that line of people along the walls that somehow all magically move a few feet to the right all at the same time? No, it’s not synchronized swimming. Listen carefully and you’ll hear a bell every so often. Hop in line along the wall and follow the string of people. You’ll soon feel a jet hitting your lower leg. Each jet along the way goes slightly up along your body and then back down, each massaging a part of your body that you didn’t know needed some TLC! After the last one, hop back in line at the beginning or head off somewhere else.
4) Lining the decks of the pools, you’ll find people cozied up in their robes catching a few zzzs, flipping through a book or gabbing with a friend. If that’s your prerogative, grab a chair yourself and kick on back
5) There is also the “wild room” on the main floor. Watch out kids, things are about to get nuts. Actually it’s just a fun lazy river for us kids at heart. No protocol here. Just hop in and let the winding waters take over.
6) If you like the ideas of saunas but prefer your swimming suit over your birthday suit, there is a nice wet sauna (dampfsauna) in the same room as the lazy river. There are also a few more if you walk out of the locker rooms and keep heading straight and then down the stairs.
The cafeteria is upstairs. If you’d like to go inside the actual room, have some clothes or a robe ready, if you just have a towel, there are tables that overlook the pools (all still inside).
Have cash on hand, as they do not accept cards and you can’t charge it to your bracelet like some pools in Germany allow.
They have typical Germany “pool food” ranging from wursts to pizza to full on meals like schnitzel. Naturally, you’ll find a selection of beers, pop and coffee as well for refreshments.
1) Back in the main floor locker room, you’ll see a set of stairs leading to the basement. Remember the fake it till you make it comment from above? Here’s where I wasn’t sure what to do, but hey…it worked for me. I grabbed my towel and headed down the stairs.
2) I hesitated as I had no idea where to go next. For the sake of just making a decision, I headed to the right where I found a set of mini lockers. Just right in the hallway, I wrapped my towel around me, dropped my drawers and hopped into my birthday suit. Alternatively, there was a teeny tiny bathroom you could de-robe in (but what’s the point, when everyone is gonna see you in your full glory in a minute anyway). The fact that I didn’t get any weird looks tells me this wasn’t that out of line. But I’ll be honest and say I didn’t see anyone else do this, so I’m not 100% sure on the “correct” way to skip the skivvies here.
Note: Everyone seemed to have robes with them. This was a great way to cover up as they went from sauna to sauna. For those of us that didn’t have a robe, a towel wrapped around was enough to give you coverage as you walked around without giving a show to everyone around. Next time I head to Bad Abbach though, I plan on taking my robe. It just looked too comfy to NOT have one!
3) Now, I’m sure Bath House experts are going to school me here on if/how there is a correct way, amount of time, order etc to use saunas. For me? I just went where I wanted, when I wanted and for how long I wanted. If a particular sauna didn’t seem appealing, or was too hot or too crowded, I simply grabbed my towel and made my way to the next one. When I was too hot and needed a break, I plopped down on a bench and hung out until I was ready for the next. It was very relaxing not having an agenda!
4) As you walk around, keep your towel with you. As you enter each sauna, use your towel to sit on. If you are still squeamish about the nude factor, you can use it to keep you covered, but by now I’m sure you’ll be relishing in your new found freedom from clothing!
Tip: Take TWO towels. One to wrap around you while you go sauna to sauna (in addition to the robe) because it will get quite wet and or sweaty. Have a second, fresh towel for drying off or showering at the end.
Taking it All In
5) Now that you’ve had some time to settle into your (bare) skin. Just explore. Wander from sauna to sauna. Stay in the one that you particular enjoy, return to the one that you found to be the most therapeutic and move past any that don’t tickle your fancy.
6) Heading back to the main area of the sauna section, walk past the bar that has drinks, snacks and coffees and you’ll find the showers and two small indoor, heated pools. Of course, rinse off if you’ve been sweating up a storm before dipping into the waters.
7) Take this moment to look around you (NOT in a rude or perverted way). Take this opportunity to see body types from super skinny to the people who clearly enjoy their biers und schnitzles. Find peace with the fact that we are all human with all the same beautiful body parts and finally just smile at the 80 year old men and women who clearly have figured out long ago that your body does not define you.
After just 4 hours at the baths, I felt like a new woman. I was refreshed, energized and had never felt more accepting of myself and my body than ever before. Talk about a physical, mental and emotional recharge!
Have you ever been to a German or European Spa? How did you handle the drastically different culture of nudity?
Interested in heading to other European Spas?
- What about taking a bath….in BEER?
- Have a full, relaxing weekend at Baden-Baden
- Skip the touristy Karlovy Vary and instead head to Marianske Lazne
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