“What do you think of going to a German spa?”
I was out to lunch with several German lawyers speaking English in a Vietnamese restaurant. I wanted to know if this is something they did or if it was something written up in the guidebooks for tourists.
“No. We don’t ever go to a spa,” replied Stefan with a bemused look on his face.
“Why is that?” I asked. “I thought you Germans were famous for soaking in hot mineral baths to achieve maximum wellness?”
“Because spas are for old people. If you go to one, you will lower the average age of the people there by at least ten years.”
The others laughed and took the conversation in another direction.
Two weeks later we had nothing on the calendar for the weekend, the weather was cold and gray, and I was ready for some adventure.
“Hey!” I said to my wife. “I know what we can do. Let’s go to a German spa for the weekend. I’ll find one on the Internet. Pack your swimsuit.”
When I read this on a website, I knew I had to check it out:
“Revitalize yourself in the warm waters of the springs of Bad Griesbach. The medicinal properties of the water drawn from the depths of the earth in the Rott Valley can be beneficial to you and your wellbeing. The therapeutic thermal mineral water is brought up from a depth of 1,522 meters.”
I didn’t know my wellbeing was different than me. Maybe my wellbeing is something I carry around in my pocket.
We hopped the train out of the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station in Munich, and into the heart of rural Bavaria. After a couple of hours we arrived at the small spa town of Bad Griesbach. We checked into the hotel and headed for the restaurant for some chow. A polite mâitre’d hotel showed us to our table in the center of the restaurant.
After I ordered my meal I started to observe my surroundings. The restaurant was pleasant enough, in an old Bavarian mountain style. The waiters and waitresses were young, energetic, and attentive. But there was something a little odd about the place to me, and I have never even seen Cocoon.
It was made apparent to me when the next diner walked in. She was a spry little woman, expertly and expensively dressed, with large diamonds on her ears. She was using a walker. Her face was extremely wrinkled and her hair glowed silver. I think she must have been 100 years old. Wellness, indeed.
As I looked around I noticed that at five decades I was the youngest person in the room (I can say that because I am ten days younger than my wife). The restaurant was full of senior citizens, and most looked to be in their 80s and 90s. Maybe there is something in the water here…
After an uneventful meal watching the other diners take multiple trips to the desert bar (why not when you’re that age, I will surely do the same if I am lucky enough to live that long), we retired early. We had a big day planned for tomorrow, with lots of soaking and lounging to accomplish.
The next day was cold and gray again. Germany in March is dull. I donned my swimsuit, a fluffy white robe, and goofy bath slippers and searched for the Thermatorium (or whatever they called it in German).
The place was fairly empty at 10am and I had my choice of the best seats in the house. Maybe the elders were sleeping in, or perhaps had died during the night (although I hadn’t heard any ambulance sirens).
I tried the heated whirlpool spa first. I didn’t notice any mineral smell to this water, unlike in Thermopolis, Wyoming. After soaking for a while I jumped into the large indoor pool. This pool had a nice feature I hadn’t seen before. At certain times during the hour a current was generated and you could float around the perimeter of the pool without paddling.
I next tried the sun room. After being in a Northern European winter for three months, I desperately craved some sunshine. The sun room was small and the walls were decorated like a Tuscan villa. There was sand on the floor, and it was warmed somehow, just like you were on the beach in the Mediterranean in summer. It was dark in there, which I found strange, but I stretched my towel on the warm sand anyway and sat down. After a couple of minutes, the room became steadily lighter. The light increased, getting brighter by the minute, until at some point the lights were shining as bright as the noon day sun. It was like being transported to the tropics. I felt warm and relaxed as I dug my toes into the sand.
The progressive lighting process then reversed as if it was now late afternoon and then the sun was setting. This continued until the room was almost dark again. Bummer. I liked it better in the light.
Back in the main room I saw a guy go outside. He walked to a spa that I could see from the window, took off his robe, and got in. He was out there for quite a while and then came back in. I should try that spa. I like the feeling of soaking in hot water with just my head exposed when the air is cold. It was about 35 degrees out.
I put my room on, went outside, and ran in my flippy-floppy slippers to the spa. I threw off my robe, climbed in, and sat down.
It was then that I realized that this spa was unheated. $%#@&$%*&(!!!
From there I went straight to the sauna warm up. There were several sauna rooms of different kinds and temperatures. I picked a dry sauna that wasn’t too hot (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit) and went in. It was empty so I had the place to myself. I rapidly warmed up and started sweating.
I was daydreaming in a sauna-induced stupor when I noticed a shape outside my sauna door. The door was made of semi-opaque glass so I could see through it, but not clearly. The shape was a person in a white robe. The person took off the robe and hung it up on a hook across the small foyer.
The person was a woman, and it was not the 100 year old walker woman from the restaurant. This woman was young, fit, and attractive. She was also naked.
She looked through the door to my sauna, and then opened the door enough to stick her head in. She looked at me and smiled, retracted her head, and closed the door. I heard the door to the sauna next to mine open and close.
That was a close call. That would have been awkward!
I left my sauna to sit in a cool plunge pool in the sauna foyer. As I cooled off, I heard a group of people come in behind me. I could only see their reflections in a tall narrow mirror hung on the wall across from the plunge pool.
There were eight of them – four attractive Teutonic model couples in their late 20s or early 30s. They were all tall and blond. I think it was Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer, and some of their friends, but I could’t see clearly in the mirror reflection and I thought it would be rude to get up and change my position in the plunge pool to see them better.
They were chatting in friendly tones as they nonchalantly took off their robes and hung them up. They stood around for a few minutes continuing their conversation before sauntering off to one of the saunas.
From my eavesdropping station in the plunge pool I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. But I could see enough in the mirror to determine that they were all naked, and my presence had increased the average age of the people in the room.
I went to the men’s locker room. A naked old man with a huge beer belly was drying his hair. It was all hanging out.
“Gruss Gott” said the old man. This is what polite Bavarians say instead of hello.
“Gruss Gott” I replied. I took off my swim suit and slowly got dressed.
Note: The narrator apologizes for the non-descriptive nature of the images accompanying this post. Due to the subject matter involved, it was not possible to take photographs.