Sunday, June 4, 2017

Unexpected fest leads to unexpected nudity...

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!

2 comments:

  1. Europe really does seem to suit you... or should that be unsuit you... hmmm
    Sounds like a fun time - too bad Amur'ca can't get over the sight of skin.
    Great story!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Andrew! We really did have fun. I thanked Bill for being such a good sport yesterday. I daresay he had a spring in his step. I think he slept well.

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