How elaborate and awesome does a Roman style 17 step bath sound? Pretty awesome? Yup, it is. We got into Baden Baden early Friday afternoon and after checking in at the hotel, we headed across the street for the first of our spa experiences for the weekend.
This is the one that had me nervous. How can basically taking a bath make someone nervous? Well, because it's a nude bath. With other people. Thankfully, I knew this going in, and was able to do some research, including this blog post, which helped. Still, I was nervous and knew this would take me completely out of my comfort zone.
Before we get to the whole bathing sequence, let's address this whole "nude" thing. Since most of you are Americans I can bet you're probably thinking to yourself, "Wait, what?! A nude bath? With other people? Those crazy Europeans,'' because those thoughts went through my own head when I first heard about Friedrichsbad. However, what I came to realize is that's it's not nearly as weird as it sounds. I can practically hear you thinking, "They're crazy!" Now, now, hear me out.
- The staff is used to this, and are so nonchalant about naked people, that it helps to put first timers at ease
- Being at a beach, where women are wearing skimpy, revealing bikinis is way more "sexual" than this was. When everyone is wearing the same thing (or nothing at all in this case), the "look at me" factor disappears - private/Catholic schools have been using this trick for years
- The reason for nude bathing is due to hygiene. The rooms are (mostly) all warm, moist environments and the Germans believe wearing clothing in this environment can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Throughout the process, you are provided with clean sheets to sit on, towels to use, and sandals to wear.
- No one else is really paying attention to you, and you should do the same. In fact, the only person I even made eye contact with the entire time were the staff members and Aaron - that's it. Europeans are much more used to being nude than Americans and soon their "whatever goes" attitude will wear off on you.
- Communal bathing has been going on for hundreds, no thousands, of years - the Romans were famous for it (note the ruins from Roman baths in Bath, England, Baden-Baden, Germany, Rome and Pompeii, Italy just to name a few). Solo bathing is a relatively new phenomenon.
Now, on to the actual bathing. The whole process starts off with a shower. These shower heads are amazing and it feel as if you're standing in a waterfall. A warm, gentle, drenching waterfall. I want these shower heads in my own bathroom. Actually, no, I don't. I couldn't afford my water bill if I had it. Anywho, the mineral water, which naturally comes out of the ground at temperatures up to 68C (154F), is diluted with cold water according to individual preferences (you set it yourself, much like your shower at home). After the shower, it is into the first and then the second dry sauna. They both have lounge chairs and regular chairs to use. One word of warning - the chairs are hot, and it's a good idea to double up the sheet you are given to sit on. After the saunas, it's back to the showers before the optional brush and soap massage (tip: choose the soft brush, it's still pretty rough - I can't imagine what the hard brush is like). After the soap, it's another shower and then on to the next two steam saunas. After the steam room, you continue on to the baths, which has been described as swimming in Evian (not my words, but it is an incredibly apt description of the experience). The first is a warm 36C (98F) pool - I could sit in there all day. The next two baths were progressively cooler. The third of these baths (the one pictured to the left) is the under the big Roman dome, a beautiful sight. It's then back to the shower and a cold plunge (a frigid 18C, 64F). You are then given a towel and directed to the lotion station. After generously applying lotion (which smells and feels fantastic), you head into the relaxation room. It's a quiet room with beds where you lay down and are then wrapped up like a burrito. After a warm bath, a nap is a logical next step, right? When you wake up, you can then head on to the reading room - a kinder way of easing you back into the real world instead of just saying ''Ok, time to get dressed and leave!''
Now, a couple of tips if you are thinking about going to the Friederichsbad for yourself (which we highly suggest you do, we both agreed that it was one of the most relaxing experiences we had ever had):
- There are both mixed gender and single gender bathing days. Monday, Thursday and Saturday, men and women bathe separately, but still meet under the large Roman dome in the middle. The rest of the weekdays are mixed gender bathing. On holidays, regardless of which day of the week it is, there is mixed gender bathing.
- If you are traveling alone, especially as a female, try attending on the single gender day if you're nervous. We went on a mixed gender day since we wanted to experience it together.
- Expect to lose track of time quickly, we did within minutes. There are clocks, but not at every station. Don't worry if you can't remember what time you started or how long you've been in the steam room. It's all part of the experience.
- A "suggested" amount of time to spend at each station is listed, but in reality, you can spend as long or as little time as you want at each station. There are no employees shuffling you from one step to the next if you overstay your time (very un-German).
- They say to limit your consumption of the mineral water (there are sinks in a few rooms so that you can hydrate) to about a half liter a day for reasons that were not thoroughly explained. Forgetting my measuring cup at home, I had no idea how much I actually consumed. I can say this though, the water is pretty darn tasty, make sure you try it.
- Sheets, towels, and sandals are all provided for your use, no need to take your own.
- If you opt for the soap brush scrub, be careful of the brush hardness. Even the soft one is pretty rough.
- You can choose your package from three levels. The base package is 3 hours long and the top-tier package is 4 hours. However, you can overstay your time if you want. It's an extra 50 cents for every 10 minutes you stay over your allotted time which is tracked with a wristband you get when you sign in (it also operates the lockers).
- Make sure you note your locker number. The wrist bands don't record them, and you really don't have any place to write it down (unless you carry a portable tattoo machine and tattoo it on yourself). The last thing you want is to be wandering around naked after the most relaxing bath you've ever taken, looking for the locker that has your clothes (although at this point, you may not mind being naked ... unless it's cold outside)
- Relax and enjoy the experience. It will be unlike anything you've ever experienced and way more awesome than any bath you think could possibly be.
If you have any questions, put 'em in the comments and we will be sure to answer them! For more information on the bathing process, please visit this link.
- Meghan -