Yes, you read that title correctly. No, we did not accidentally fall into a vat of beer. We did it on purpose. Just kidding, we didn't fall, we carefully stepped into it. This past weekend, we knocked another item off our European Bucket List and took a bath in a tub full of beer, while drinking beer, all in the name of our health!
Czech is known for it's beer. It's given the world the Pilsner style of beer, including Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser (among many others). Ok, so the version of the latter with which most Americans are familiar may not be the best beer in the world, but I digress. Recently, the Czech Republic has also seen a boom in it's spa industry. And in a way that only Europeans can, they have managed to combine the two into a beer spa. And make it a ''health getaway.''
A couple of months ago, Aaron came across an article on the Gizmodo UK blog about the beer spa in Chodovar Plana, Czech Republic. When I looked to see where that was, I was delighted to see that it was just across the German-Czech border and was only a 3 hour drive from home. It was a no brainer, we had to try this for ourselves. Thankfully, we have flexibility in time and scheduling, so we went in January, which is one of their slower months. Regardless, we found out that the hotel was still sold out when we got there, and were thankful that we had scheduled everything a couple weeks in advance.
We took Friday off and headed over Friday morning. Aaron had us make a slight detour which pushed us up on to a smaller road when we crossed into the Czech Republic. As we approached the border, there was an old border crossing building off to the side, a relic of a time when crossing most international borders in Europe was much more of a hassle. Today, we drove right past the building without stopping, fopllowe by a small blue sign with a ring of stars encircling the name (in German) of the new country into which we were traveling, and just like that, we were in the Czech Republic. The only immediately noticeable difference between the two countries was the road quality. Whereas the German portion of the road was well maintained with a narrow shoulder, the Czech road was in much rougher condition, with no shoulder or lane lines, and was in need of some TLC (tender loving care). As we drove through a couple tiny towns, we noticed that the homes fared worse than those in Germany, only a few miles away. Most of them had fading paint, and large chunks of concrete looked as if they had been peeled off the exterior; a stark reminder that this country was once part of the Eastern Bloc. The Czech Republic has only been a country as it is known today since 1993 and it was not considered a ''developed country'' by the World Bank until 2006.
Not too long after crossing the border, we arrived in the small town of Codovar Plana about a half hour before our treatments were to begin - we had booked a massage and the beer bath. The brewery is pretty much the only thing in town, so it's kind of hard to miss. We checked into the hotel, and then showed up at the front desk, ready to start. The massages were up first. They cost 480 CZK each (about 17 euro, or 20 USD) for a 50 minute massage. I am normally used to deep tissue massage, and this was more of a ''fluff and buff'' but for the price, I would gladly take two of those each week. Once the massages were complete, it was time for the main event: the beer bath!
We opted for the ''double'' bath, meaning we shared a larger tub instead of each having our own individual. Once again, we went to the front desk, and waited for them to tell us where to go. There was a small staircase, which we were told to go down, and then ring a bell. We were behind a group of older Russian women, so no ringing was necessary on our part. This part of the hotel smelled faintly of stale beer, but with a touch of sweetness mixed with a bread-y, earthy aroma to it as well. We were then led into a small changing room and given a sheet. After disrobing, we weren't quite sure if we were supposed to wrap the sheet around us or not. We opted to wrap up, being only slightly less prudish Americans than when we first got here.
We were led to the bath room which had dozens of stainless steel tubs all lined up, with curtains hung between them for added privacy. Our tub was still being filled when we walked in. Just in case you were wondering, yes, there was beer flowing out of the giant brass faucet. A thick, white foamy head was on the bath and it smelled, and looked, similar to wart (if you've ever home brewed, you know what I'm talking about). The attendant placed our mug of beer (this one was for drinking) on the tray table attached to the tub, showed us the step to use to get into the large, claw foot, stainless steel tub and pulled the drapes closed around us. We stepped in to the warm, foamy beer and sank in.
At this point, we still weren't sure what to think. There was black gritty stuff in the beer, which made us question the cleanliness of the tub. The concoction was slightly more slippery feeling than regular water, which could have easily all been in my head, and was clearly not for drinking. Only a few inches below the surface, your hand would disappear, much as they do in dirty dish water (which this closely resembled). The beer we were soaking in looked more like it was destined to be a dark beer, had it not been interrupted on its journey for our bathing pleasure. We soaked in the beer for 20 minutes and sipped on the pilsner provided to us. Neither one of us fully submerged into the bath, but perhaps if we go again, we will be a little more adventurous :) I hear it's good for your hair.
At the end of the 20 minutes, the attendant walked back in, told us to rinse off any of the foam and black gritties (which upon further inspection made us fairly sure that they were grain and hops from the brewing process), step out and wrap up in the sheets. We were then led to the relaxation room, with another glass of the pilsner to drink. The relaxation room was more like a cellar, with its domed ceiling and dark atmosphere, lit only by a few pink salt lamps. We laid down on the lounges, and were wrapped up burrito style to relax for another 20 minutes. At the conclusion of the relaxation period, we were led back to the changing rooms and strictly informed to not shower for a minimum of 4 hours. Honestly, at first I thought that was kind of gross. We had just taken a bath in beer, and I thought that I would be sticky or strongly smell like I had, well, bathed in beer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was relaxed, my skin was incredibly soft, and I didn't smell one bit like stale beer. Well, at lease to myself I didn't smell like that. I cannot attest what others thought I smelled like.
The Russian ladies were led in to the relaxation room not long after we got there. After a few minutes of silent relaxing, cocooned up in our sheets and blankets, all bets were off. Europeans are not prudish in the least bit and there were definitely glimpses of partially nude, older Russian ladies. Surprisingly enough, they did not have a flask of vodka with them. I've yet to see a Russian without a personal flask of vodka yet. Even in restaurants, they can be seen taking a long swig from their trusty flask that magically appears from who knows where.
We finished out our evening by having dinner in one of the two restaurants associated with the brewery - Ve Skale. It is in an old mine in the town and has a really neat feel to it, albeit a little creepy at first, especially with all the life-sized mannequins. The food and beer were both delicious. However, we did't have reservations and there was a large group coming in after us, so we needed to vacate our table. We continued to sample the local brews, and a dessert, at the second restaurant - Stara Sladovna. If you're in the area, you can't go wrong with either one. Unfortunately we are old and headed to bed soon after, where we dreamed of taking more baths in beer.
Anyone else had a similar experience? Anyone now want to travel to the Czech Republic to experience a bath in beer for themselves?