BARING IT ALL IN THE BLACK FOREST
While visiting the Black Forest my partner Rob and I discover there is more to the region than chocolate cake and cuckoo clocks. Our apartment is owned by the Klumpp family, who are as sturdily hearty as their name suggests. They embody the German ethos of ‘wellness’, achieved by fresh air, physical exercise…. and bathing. The Klumpps’ are keen for us to visit Friedrichsbad, the famous 19th century thermal baths at Baden-Baden.
Rob is all for it, but my heart sinks. I once had my suntan removed by a large lady at a thermal bath in Turkey, who then pummeled my flesh with what I felt sure was unnecessary vigour. Unfortunately, any hope of being saved from Friedrichsbad by the lack of a swimming costume vanishes when Mrs Klumpp assures me ; ‘Clothing is tastefully never worn’ . What? Oh my giddy aunt!
And yes, the baths at Baden-Baden are primarily unisex, but thankfully we happen to choose a day when the sexes mingle only at the final stage, a bathing pool below the building’s great dome. I feel an ominous stab of separation anxiety as Rob disappears at the entrance; justified when I become trapped in the ladies turnstile and have to call for help.
I emerge from the locker room in my birthday suit and glasses, the latter retained due to fear of approaching the wrong man under the dome. Unfortunately, spectacles prove a great hindrance. Firstly, they fog up. Secondly, I’m forced to keep doubling back against the flow of fräuliens to retrieve them between showers. I become so hot and bothered that I can’t work out how to turn the taps on, and two minutes in the sauna is all I can tolerate. I am also too shy to use the small plunge pool, which is full of young ladies who seem to know each other very well. Perhaps it’s a Baden style hen party?
Needless to say, I complete the first stages of the regime (showering, defoliation, skin-scraping, hot air baths etc) in indecent haste. I am desperate to meet up with Rob. However, a supervisor has been keeping tabs on me since the turnstile incident and shoos me away from the dome with the admonishment; ‘Repeat!’ When I finally do join Rob I resemble a boiled rabbit, and he is so convulsed with laughter that he swallows a cupful of spa water. Let me assure the modest that anonymous nudity is fine; it is only when Rob says he has spotted Mr Klumpp that my complexion changes from crimson to chalk white. The wretched man is joking, but the thought of meeting someone I know even slightly is disconcerting.
We separate again, and while drying off I am pointed in the direction of yet another room . I am told to lie on a bed and wait for the attendant. Oh Lord, I didn’t pay for a massage and I certainly don’t want one! While no-one is looking I sneak out to the lockers, struggle into my gear as quickly as a clammy body will allow, and escape to the entrance foyer.
It’s a very long time before Rob appears, looking serene and rejuvenated and saying, ‘Wasn’t that last bit fantastic?’ Apparently what I imagined was a massage room was a relaxation area, where clients are placed on heated beds and gently swaddled in soft towels. ‘Yes, it was wonderful’, I lie. There’s only so much humiliation a woman can take.
I regain my composure at a nearby cafe. The menu includes a list of ‘wellness’ drinks but it’s strong coffee for me, though I’m sorely tempted by a cocktail called Bathing Pool; a powerful blend of rum, vodka, cream of coconut, and blue Curaçaco. In retrospect I should have downed a couple before entering Friedrichsbad.
FOOTNOTE – A few days later we visited a Wellness Sensory Walking Trail. I took off my shoes and felt soft moss under my bare feet. I paddled in chilly spring waters, and I joined some giggly young girls in the oozing mud pond. Oh yes, foot bathing while fully clad is so much more my style!
There’s another story about my travels in Germany HERE.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE? LEAVE A MESSAGE IN THE BOX BELOW. DON’T FORGET THE ANTI-SPAM SUM!