Some people have said to me that they live vicariously though my travels. I find that a bit hard to live up to and I hope it really isn’t true. However, I have been to many cool places of the world and places I like I tend to return to. One of these is a place innocently called Therme Erding near the Munich Germany airport.
It is one of my twenty all time favorite places in the world. I first heard about this place by whispers. First in Italy and then in Austria. The internet site does not truly describe the experience and it is both under-signed and the outside, although large, looks more like a parking ramp than what it actually is. You may then ask why this is one of those must see places in the world?
I will put it simply: Two thousand naked Germans can’t be wrong….that is not a question but a statement of fact. As I sit here, writing this watching the Eurocup semi-final match, and probably against sensibilities of the conservative crowd of where I live, I shall repeat….two thousand naked Germans cannot be wrong even though they are losing to Italy as I write this.
You see, Therme Erding is the world’s largest sauna. It has over twenty four saunas, multiple pools, swim up bars, steam rooms, spas, and other bathing facilities. The roof is even equipped with sun lamps and it is designed like a tropical garden for cold days although you can swim in and out of the building. It harbors over two thousand guests on a given day and one thing must be noted. Something I am pains to admit to as again to the sensibilities of my readership. The entire facility or at least all the water saunas, everyhting…..is ‘textile free.’ This basically means that everyone is nude although people usually wear towels and robes between the many saunas but it depends on when you go. The evening crowd seems less shy than the daytime crowd.
The place is just simply magical. The body temperature water is idyllic. You can have massages, beer, or other favorite drinks from the swim up bars, or you can have a fine assortment of food from the various restaurants. This year we had Thai food from the Thai restaurant. Last time we visited we had an Italian dish from a patio restaurant overlooking a rather brave cold ‘cattail pond’ which apparently is something Germans want to bath in, but not me.
There are large spas all over Germany. They are in Baden-Baden, Stuggart, Berlin, and many of the larger cities. These spas are huge and generally unimaginable to an American. The one we visited is as large as a shopping mall. There are oodles and oodles of smaller ones in almost every city of any size. Most Americans have never experienced such places and or will never be admitting they have. For some reason, being textile free has a much different meaning on our side of the Atlantic than on the European side. Over there (or here as I write this from Germany) it isn’t much of a deal. Therme Erding is a place for many young couples to hang out for dates (pun intended) or a place for married couples to go to. We saw sixty year old sisters, and college aged couples entering the pool behind each other. The body in Europe, in art, or in spas is non-sexual. In Finland, it is actually illegal to were anything other than a towel in a sauna. Those with medical conditions are allowed to have a blue dove embroidered on their suits and are allowed to wear a suit no questioned asked but beware if you violate that.
Germans have similar rules although there are some other things that need to be followed. First, bring your own towel, rental of towels is not cheap either. Secondly, feet need to be on towels, therefore it becomes quite difficult to keep your towel around you modestly and have it under you and also under your feet. After five minutes, you need to realize, it just doesn’t matter….repeat…it just doesn’t matter. Shoes are important, Crocs or other shower shoes are a must. Do not wear them into most saunas although in the Celtic sauna with the big German waving the fan of steam (you have to see it to believe it), the floor is too hot for bare feet, so wear them inside with you and leave them at the bottom. I follow the when in Rome do as the Romans, and in Germany, do as the Germans. Watch, follow and just throw all those American hang ups in the wind.
This year we tried the new citrus sauna. It is shaped like an orange and has a citrus scent to it and is pretty mild at only sixty five degrees Celsius. Seventy to eighty is normal and you can sit in here for a long while. The ninety degree saunas will weed out sauna neophytes pretty quickly. They had windows like cut lemons, and the most interesting thing outside is the hanging bucket. You leave walk ten feet and pull a rope. An old oak bucket filled with ice cold water, splashes on your head. Primordial screams are expected and instantly chilled I walked into the steam bath on the other side….whew! That was great!
Yes, sauna people are crazy and can be hard core but just soaking in the body temp pools, the artificial current, or the submerged lounge chairs with bubbles are some of the most delightful experiences I have had and should be experienced by everyone. If this is decadence or immoral, I have a problem with your definitions.
My favorite beer-like beverage (it is not beer, per the German beer laws) is Erdinger hefe-weise and it is available at the swim up bars….heavenly. A favorite beer (well close enough) coupled with a favorite place….can I say any more?
This place is located about ten miles from the Munich airport. There is NO hotel at the spa, but many of the local ones have package deals. They don’t get many Americans and the place is pretty large and daunting. If you bring kids drop them off at the attached water park and say meet them in three or four hours. They also do not take USA credit cards very well so my advice is to bring Euros. Everything you buy (or them) is registered on your arm band. You only pay at the end for the incidentals.
I advise you to take a cab, swallow hard, buy the day pass, find your locker, strip off in the communal changing area, wrap yourself in a towel, and walk into the sex specific shower, on the other side meet your friend you are traveling with and drop the towel and throw yourself in the first pool you find. There you should swim up to the bar and drink something, start with a margarita or something with a kick. Look around you and say to yourself, heck, two thousand naked Germans have got it right!
…then you won’t have to live vicariously through me.
Stay in the sauna my friends!