Friedrichsbad Spa | Germany

Saturday, October 08, 2011

"You know this is a naked spa?"
"Ja", I said with a confident smile as if I were a regular.

Rewind.

The truth is, in my 33 years I had never stepped foot in an all-nude Spa. It's not for being modest, rather we just don't have anything like this in America. But I do love a Spa, so when we were in Germany last month I read an article on Friedrichsbad located in a small town along the French border. I knew it was an all-nude Spa. No biggie. It was also a naturally healing Roman Bath, and I'd been told that folks came from all over Europe just to visit the place. I shoved the nudity part to the back of my mind and quickly scribbled 'Friedrichsbad' on my must-do list.

Wait, did I mention co-ed? Shoved that one to the back of my mind as well.

Flash forward.
I stood in the foyer of Friedrichsbad as an attendant let me know that I'd be experiencing 17 separate rituals over the course of 3 hours. She told me not to worry about losing my way as there would be directional plaques in each room in both German & English. As she continued, I glanced around the space to notice the details of the historic building and pristine decor. It was all so white, quiet and clean. Peaceful. I was listening, but it was also becoming more and more apparent to me that in only a few short minutes I would be completely nude talking and milling about with other naked people as if it were perfectly normal for me. Once inside the dressing room, I saw one other woman, an older lady who without a doubt had done this a time or two before. She latched on to the fact that I had not, and mimed her way through an explanation of where I was to leave my clothing and how I was to carry on into the first ritual room. As quickly as she had arrived, poof she was gone. And I was left to navigate this deal by myself. So I grabbed the white sheet left for me, and draped it over my shoulder toga-style. I think that's what I saw her do before she slipped out. I gave myself a quick glance in the mirror, turned from side to side, sucked the stomach in, and fluffed my toga. I walked toward the door that would lead me into the first room. At least I hoped it was the door. Lots of German signage, and several doors. In the back of my mind, I was silently praying, "let there be other naked people through this closed door, let there be other naked people... please don't let it be a room of fully clothed people..." I put my ear to the door and heard running water & voices. I pushed the door open.

Hall-e-lujah. The door did lead me to the first ritual room where people were showering. I glanced around, looking for the plaque on the wall with a '1' on it instructing me on what to do. Spotted it! All the shower heads were taken so I removed my toga and placed it on a shelf, where I saw other togas, then stood awkwardly off to the side. The only thing escaping my raw nakedness at that point was the tiny pendant around my neck which I fidgeted with incessantly during those few minutes awaiting my turn under the shower. This was going to be a long 3 hours.

And then a shower freed up. I walked over, turned the lever and the heavy stream of natural spring-fed water poured over my head and down my body. Slowly I began to relax, slowly I began to feel more confident. The next few rituals were sauna and steam rooms, progressively getting warmer, followed by pool rooms, progressively getting cooler. In between the warmer rooms and cooler rooms was a cleansing room where a large German woman scrubbed my entire body with warm, soapy water and a bristled brush. I was taken aback by the 'smack' on the rear when she was done, but I had also never felt so clean in my entire life. If all that happened to come with a generous ass smack, well, then smack away.

Toward the end of the rituals, I noticed a room that not many women were going in but was clearly on my designated path. I went in only to realize that I was the only woman, surrounded by completely naked men of all ages. I froze there in the doorway. Should I go in, shouldn't I? It's skinny-dipping Lila, it's just adult skinny dipping. A few men stopped and glanced, and then went about their way. If they weren't bothered by me, I shouldn't be bothered by them right? So I walked through the doorway and slipped into the pool. I submerged my entire body and smirked as I shimmied across the bottom toward the other side.

I had done it.

I popped up on the other side, and leaned against the pool edge. I dropped my head back, doing the scissor move with my legs, and thought about the previous 3 hours. Maybe it was the healing properties of the water that were getting to me, but I began to feel incredibly liberated. Not in a granola, hokey-pokey sort of way but in a very real grounded way. Every one of my physical imperfections had been revealed. There was no makeup to hide the dark circles under my eyes, no flattering swimsuit to hide the curve in my back. What I came to realize is that it didn't matter either. Underneath it all, people are all people. We all have imperfections. We just choose which ones we share, and which ones we hide. When you're stripped down to what's really you and you're not able to hide a thing, that's a really, really vulnerable and then highly invigorating feeling.
I would imagine my European friends reading this are going to laugh a little to themselves. But you know that we have such a different view of nudity, and as a culture Americans are obsessed with perfection when it comes to our bodies. So this experience for me was much different than just a relaxing afternoon at the Spa like it is for you. I walked in to that first ritual room about 1/10 committed, and walked out of the last ritual room without that toga covering my unflattering parts.

-lila
Images, top is mine, the other two are via baden-baden.de as cameras aren't allowed inside the Spa

2 comments:

  1. Nice article Lila and pleased that you felt the liberation and more importantly the realisation that we are all the same.
    I read this after you left your comments on our site Livesharetravel.com.
    You have made me want to visit Friedrichsbad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terry, you must visit Friedrichsbad if you have a chance. The little town that it's in - Baden Baden - is just beautiful, as is the surrounding area. It's near the French border so to me there's just this perfect mesh of French & German, we loved our time there.

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