Friday, September 24, 2010

The Friedrichsbad

*Edit: Key words "N U D E" and the like have been edited so people searching these terms on google won't find this blog. 

As I mentioned in my last post, we were reunited with grade school friends this past weekend in Baden-Baden. "Baden-Baden" literally means "bathe-bathe" in German and so it is no surprise that the baths are the most popular attraction here. There are 2 major spas: The Caracalla (bathing suits allowed) and the Friedrichsbad (only birthday suits allowed). We opted for the Friedrichsbad because, well... why not? I can't think of a better way to break the ice than to go to a - n u d e - spa with friends, definitely makes for some interesting conversation.

The Friedrichsbad is a completely - n u d e - bath and they alternate between coed and non-coed days. We decided to go on a non-coed day just to make the transition a little less awkward. We got up bright and early Saturday morning and took the kids to child care. Luke and Chris were the first to head over to the baths while Holly and I got the kids situated in day care. It was to be a 3+ hour bathing experience so we wanted to make sure the kids were happy and settled before we headed out.
Outside the Friedrichsbad

We headed over to the spa about 30 minutes after the guys. When you check in they give you a little wrist band which is the key to your locker, and the only thing you can wear in the bath. We headed up the stairs to the changing rooms.
Heading up to the changing room. Let's see if you are more observant than us...

It was still early in the morning and not many people were at the baths. We were the only people in the locker room when we started to undress. Holly and I each had our own little private room where you have to take off all your clothes and put everything on to a special little hanger. Then you have to walk out wearing just your wristband. Just when I got enough courage to open the door and walk out, I heard voices. Not just any voices, but male voices. I jumped back into my private room and shut the door. I whispered to Holly that I heard men talking and that I didn't want to leave my dressing room. We figured it must be spa attendants since this was a non-coed day. So, bravely we left the dressing room and stepped out into the locker room happy to at least be wearing a wristband. When we opened the locker to put our clothes inside we were happy to see a white sheet. We both wrapped ourselves up as quick as possible and headed to the first room to be weighed.

Holly stepped up to the scale first, and that is when I heard it again...male voices. I turned around to see where they were coming from, and when I saw - n a k e d - men in the shower ... terror struck me. We were in the men's locker room! Holly and I were just about to make a run for the doors when a man in all white came up to us and happily informed us that we were in the wrong dressing room and led us back to our locker to gather our things, then through a series of back doors to the women's dressing room.

In the women's dressing room we were greeted by women attendants dressed in all white who happily showed us our new lockers and then the bath experience began.

Here is the sequence that they suggest you follow, and I will follow it again to take you through the experience.

1. Showers
You hang your sheet on a hanger and step into a the "shower room." There are 4 showers that are absolutely amazing and must dump hundreds of gallons of water on you as you sit there for 3 minutes getting used to the idea of walking around - n a k e d - for the next 3 hours.

2. Warmluftbad
After we were thourougly clean, we walked into the next room which is basically a sauna. Holly and I each found a chair and laid down for 15 minutes barely breaking a sweat.

3. Heissluftbad
Also known as 5 minutes in hell. I guess that's what it felt like to me. You are supposed to lay your sheet on the chair before you lay down, but a portion of my sheet did not cover the chair all the way so when I sat on the hot wood I branded my backside. Ouch! I don't think we lasted the whole 5 minutes, all I know is I felt like I would faint if I stayed in 1 second longer.

4. Shower
I guess they don't want melted skin in their precious mineral baths, so you have to go back to the shower room and rinse off again

5. Seifenburstenmassage:
There were 2 people ahead of us in line so we had to wait in the next room before we could get our massage

7/8 Thermal-Dampfbad:
Another type of sauna. We were only supposed to spend 15 minutes here, but since we were waiting for our massage we ended up in this room for at least 30 minutes. I think we probably sweat out at least 2 pounds while we were waiting. After 20 minutes of waiting Holly got called in for her massage. Left in the room were a big Russian momma, her teenage daughter, and me. They were much more "European" than myself and were very comfortable in their birthday suits. The daughter and myself were sitting next to each other while the big russian momma was sitting across from us, up on a raised platform. Not to get too visiual, but when sitting modestly her knees were at my eye level. Everything was fine until the daughter asked her mom something (not sure what they were saying because they were speaking Russian). Next thing I know, big Russian momma spreads her legs and starts pointing to something that I didn't want to see. They carried on a very lively conversation about something I can only guess went something like this:
Daughter: "Mom, where did I come from?"
Russian mom: (opens her legs) "Right here, Look!"
Daughter: "Really, right there? You're kidding!"
Russian mom: "Nope, if you look closely you can see my scar. Want to see?"
Daughter: "Yeah, where is it?"
Russian mom: "You think we should show blondie right there?"
Daughter: "Oh, yeah" (nudges me and then points) "Look, that's where I came from"

Okay, so that last part didn't happen, but it was a very awkward situation to say the least.

Thankfully after the daughter learned her very important anatomy lesson, they left. I immediatly moved to the raised platform so that I would not have to deal with anyone else sitting in front of me like that. About 5 minutes later a nice Asian lady came in. There were many other places to sit in this room, but she decided to sit right next to me. So here I am sweating next to this - n a k e d - asian lady when she leans over a little and lets out a fart. Before I could laugh, she lets loose a big, guttural burp. I decided it was time to take a shower and I left. Thankfully, right then I was called in for my massage.

5. Seifenburstenmassage:
For my massage I was told to lay face up on a stone table. I have had massages in the past and they usually cover you up a little while they massage you. Not in Germany! You have to lay face up completely - n u d e - while the attendant scours you with soap and pad. After she has rubbed of your skin on the front, you have to flip over and she scours your back. You know you're finished when she slaps your butt.

6. Duschen:
Time to shower again to rinse off the skin that was just scrubbed off

9. Thermal-Vollbad
A nice warm pool. I could have spent the whole 15 minutes in here if it wasn't for the men watching. Men watching? Yes! This pool is connected visually to the coed pool and then to the mens pool. Some pervert was hanging on to the edge of the men's pool, looking directly accross to the women's pool and he was serioulsy panting and drooling. Okay, I couldn't see if he was drooling, but he was making it really obvious that he was looking for a show. I dove under the water and swam to the edge of the pool where he couldn't see, climbed out and ran to the next room
A diagram to help explain the situation. You have a direct line of sight from the men's pool to the women's pool.

10. Thermal-Sprudelbad
I met up with Holly again in this spa with bubbles. This was my favorite part of the whole bath and we spent the whole 15 minutes swimming around and relaxing. I warned Holly about the pervert lying in wait in the men's pool, but we decided to venture out to the one coed part of our bathing experience.

11. Thermal-Bewegungsbad
We bravely walked to the coed pool and pervert #1 was gone. But he was replaced by pervert #2 who was, not very casually, kicking back right in front of the women's entrance to the coed pool. We both got in to the pool as quick as possible and then pervert #2 decided to come shower right next to us. Now don't get me wrong. Not every man we saw was a pervert. There were several other men showering and relaxing non-chalantly. They were probably Europeans and used to the whole - n u d i t y - thing. But the two perverts, probably Americans, were staring like a couple of puppies waiting to be fed. Holly and I swam in the coed pool long enough to look at the beautiful dome, and then we got out of there.

12. Duschen
Time to shower again.

13. Kaltwasserbad
A freezing cold bath. Holly bravely stepped in one foot at a time, and I climbed up the edge and jumped in and out.

14. Abtrocknen
Shivering, we walked to the next room where we were given a warm towel to dry off

16. Ruheraum
I guess we went out of order here, but next we walked into a room where the attendant had us lay on a very comfy bed and then she swaddled us in warm sheets. Then she set a timer for 20 minutes and left us alone. Just about when I felt ready to fall asleep, the attendant came to get us.

15. Cremeservice
We were brought to a room full of mirrors and lotion. We lathered up and and happily grabbed a sheet to cover up again

17. Leseraum
Happy to have our sheets again we walked into the reading room and grabbed some hot tea. Various magazines and other books were available, but seeing as none were in English I grabbed a French magazine and browsed the pictures. After about 10 minutes we were done and ready to find our husbands and check up on our kids.

Here we are after the whole experience. Cultured and clean (and clothed). Bathed and bonded. Don't know if I'd do it again, but I'm glad I did it once. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weekend in Baden-Baden

Through the wonderful world of Facebook I was reunited with a friend I have known since kindergarden. She and her husband (and 2 year old daughter) live in Germany, about an 8 hour drive from us. As it turns out Luke and her husband Chris have also known each other since grade school! We decided to plan a weekend get-away about half way between us and meet up in Baden-Baden, Germany.

We left Friday morning and stopped for a hike at Triberg falls. They are the highest waterfalls in Germany.
We got to our hotel Friday afternoon

As soon as Jack took one look at Daisy, he was smitten
Daisy wasn't sure about all the hugs at first
But Jack was relentless, and soon enough Daisy warmed up to him
Then, they were inseparable
Dinner the first night with friends we hadn't seen in 10 years! Holly, Chris and Daisy
And what is the best way to reunite with old friends than to go to the nude spa together... right? Okay, but that is going to be a whole post in itself...tomorrow

So after the nudie spa, we walked around Baden-Baden and sat for a while in the portico of the Trinkhalle
It was a great place for the kids to run around

Once we were finally able to get the kids to sleep, we scoped out a place to get some Black Forest cake

*photo courtesy of Holly and her awesome camera
*photo courtesy of Holly and her awesome camera

Then we went back to our hotel for a few drinks of Absynthe
*photo courtesy of Holly and her awesome camera

Jack and Daisy were as happy as could be jumping on the bed together

Back outside again, the kids were getting into trouble
and trampling through the gardens

On Sunday we took the bus and a funicular up to Merkur to get some fabulous views of the Black Forest
Enjoying lunch at the top
Holly and Chris

It was an awesome trip and traveling with another toddler made a world of difference for Jack. I just hope we can have a few more trips with Holly, Chris and Daisy while they are still here in Germany.

Now, time for some Absynthe and blog about the nude spa...stay tuned

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Things found in the country

Our expedition to the nearby town of Avenches last month (you can read about it here) inspired me to explore more of the "boring" countryside we live in. A few miles away from us we discovered this old fortress dating from 200 BC.

Another day we visited the town of Gletterens where an example of a Neolithic settlement has been set up.

I read about some WWI man made caves that are carved into the sandstone near our house. Jack and I set out to find them but it wasn't easy. After driving for almost an hour (what should have been a 15 minute drive), we kept reaching dead end roads when the map said I needed to keep driving. Finally we got out and decided to hike and see what we could find. What we found were lots of stairs
And signs with no information
But finally we found the caves and they were amazing! A little boys dream come true!
All sorts of places to run and hide
Apparently these caves were made in the first world war as fortification for the infantry with machine guns. The interlinking tunnels extend for 200 meters.

Some of the areas were pitch black. I can't imagine ever doing this back in the US where I would be afraid some serial killer was lurking.
But here in Switzerland that sort of stuff is rare. So we put on our headlights and explored

I'm sure this is where they had a machine gun positioned

My brave boy going down in to the tunnel

Some shots of the caves from the outside

A picture of how the guns were set up in the caves
Of course, after all the running around this little guy was so tired he wanted me to carry him back up all the stairs. Who can resist this face?
Definitely not the little girls
Jack has the smooth moves of his dad
Jack and his best friend Emily at the Natural History Museum
No trip to the museum with 2 toddlers in tow is ever complete without both kids rolling on the floor
And running through the aisles
Jack and a goat at the Bern zoo

Best part of the zoo (according to Jack) was the big octopus slide

It rains a lot here and I have been searching for an indoor play area for the last 3 months. I finally found one this week right near our house (well 30 minutes away, but when you are in the country that seems close enough)It was amazing! It even had a rocket ship that Jack loved.
And rides
And climbing walls
And bouncy slides
And a ball pit. I signed up for their frequent visitor program since I know we will be back this winter...maybe sooner
This past weekend we had great weather so we all ventured out for a "short" hiking trip. First we drove to a tiny little town for lunch
From the restaurant we started our hike along the river

It was an amazingly beautiful hike. It took us 3 hours (instead of 1.5 mentioned on the trail information), but we had a toddler "hiking" with us so that was okay. The big time waster was when we tried to catch a train back to the restaurant and found out that the train only departs 1x per hour. So we waited 45 minutes.
Then we had to catch another train and we missed it by 5 minutes. So we had to wait another hour. While we were waiting we decided to get a drink from the vending machine and noticed that this particular machine also sells pregnancy tests and condoms. Hmmm... never seen that before!
Sunday we took Jack mini golfing for the first time. At first he was frustrated with the whole prospect of hitting the ball with the club. Once we told him to just drop the ball in, then he started having fun.

No nice weekend is complete without a trip to the beach!
And this picture is just too cute. Jack is so proud of his "big boy" status
And his "big boy" underwear
He loves to show them off!