Naked and Afraid in Germany

When I suggested to Vanessa that we plan a trip to Germany, I never expected us to end up naked. The plans called for a picturesque drive through the German countryside in search of fairytale characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Charming. Nothing about that plan called for nudity—or being ‘nekkid’ as we say down South where I’m from.

It started with an e-mail from my contact, Lisa, at the German Tourism board. She was writing to ask if we would consider experiencing the spa culture in Baden-Baden during our visit. In particular, she wanted us to experience Friedrichsbad Spa, one of the country’s oldest and most famously nude spas. I immediately called Vanessa.

Terri: I just got an e-mail from Lisa about our trip to Germany. She wants us to go the Friedrichsbad Spa in Baden-Baden and experience the spa culture.

Vanessa: That’s awesome, sign us up!

Terri: There’s something you should know. Friedrichsbad is a nude spa.

Vanessa: So, what’s the problem? We’ll never see those people again.

Terri: I’ll see you again.

Vanessa: You’ll get over it.

Looking back on this exchange, I should have exercised one of my vetoes, which I seldom use. But what are the veto rules when you’re not actually on a trip yet? I need clarification.

Clearly, Vanessa is more comfortable being naked than I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been naked in front of people before, but it’s always been a one-on-one encounter, if you get my drift.

But there we were checking in at Friedrichsbad, and as we were given our locker keys and spa bracelets, the lovely young lady at the desk casually mentioned we had arrived on co-ed day. Yes, we would be experiencing the 17 stations ranging from saunas to steam rooms to bathing pools with ALL the other guests, fully exposed.

Terri: So….this is not good. At least we’ll have a few minutes in the locker room to adjust to the idea of roaming around for the next three hours with naked men and women.

I opened the locker room door to find a smiling and exceedingly friendly gentleman wearing a dress shirt and tie. And nothing else.

Terri: Dear God.

Vanessa: Wow, that was a fast few minutes.

Averting our eyes, we found our lockers and began to undress. Inside the locker I found hope—a large sheet to cover myself. But hope is a devastating emotion, and it vanished completely at the first station—a room full of showers with no curtains. Imagine your worst high school gym nightmare.

A woman at the door took my sheet and sent me off on my naked way alone, well, actually not alone; there were plenty of other naked bodies to keep me company. After the shower, stations two and three consisted of saunas with reclining cedar chaise lounges. Vanessa and I stretched ourselves out on two of them alongside several couples who were thrilled to be there on co-ed day for some quality naked togetherness. Awkward.

From the dry hot saunas, we ventured into the first of several steam rooms and settled in on the ancient tiles to await the call for a body brushing and massage.

Vanessa: I don’t even want to think about what I’m sitting on. Do you know how many naked people sat here before us?

Terri: Shut up.

Vanessa: But seriously, think about it.

Terri: We’re not allowed to talk in here. See all the signs telling us to be quiet?

Vanessa: Now, you’re not going to talk?

Terri: I’m not going to talk about that.

I must admit I was really looking forward to the body brushing and massage. Of course, I was picturing a private massage room. Not a chance. We were called for our treatments together, and our male attendants directed us to two marble tables situated smack dab in the middle of a hallway where other gleefully naked spa guests were meandering from room to room.

Vanessa: I feel kind of on display. Like items in a deli case.

Terri: Is this what it’s like to be on an autopsy table? I kind of wish I were dead.

The good news is that after a while, you become distracted by the sheer gorgeousness of the spa. There’s nothing like luxuriating in a thermal 100-plus degree pool, staring up at ivory and gold cherubs on the ceiling and admiring the artistry of the craftsmen who had designed the frescoes more than a century ago to take your mind off the fact that you’re naked. The fact that we were looking up because we were trying not to stare at the gorgeous couple, um, flirting beside us in the pool didn’t even detract from the view.

By the time we got to the cream massage, I was finally at the point where I decided to hell with it—I’m here, I’m nekkid and I ain’t afraid. Because we’d added this last service at the last minute, we needed to pay for it separately, which was a slight problem when it came to logistics.

Vanessa: Surely they can see that we don’t have pockets.

Terri: Surely they don’t think that what we’ve got is worth money.

After hitting the locker room and settling up, we proudly headed back out into Baden-Baden to celebrate our fearlessness at the nearest bar. Fully clothed. And with a few less inhibitions.

If You Go

So it may not sound like it was relaxing, but visiting a German spa is a wonderful way to get immersed (see what I did there?) in the culture. In Baden-Baden, check out:

Friedrichsbad Spa

+49 (0) 7221-275920

Hours of Operation:

Monday – Sunday, 9AM – 10PM

Bathe with Your Partner: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, public holidays and February 14 (isn’t that cute?)

Separate days: Monday, Thursday, Saturday

Basic, Wellness, Luxury and Luxury Plus packages available.

We haven’t tried this one (yet), but it comes highly recommended. It features a number of bathing pools, both indoors and out, stunning gardens and a Roman saunascape.

Caracella Spa

+49 (0) 7221-275940

Hours of Operation: M-Sun 8AM – 10PM

To learn more about Baden-Baden, Germany, visit www.baden-baden.de or www.germany.travel.