Nudity: it seems like such a daunting concept- to be nude. After all, we humans are such silly and complex creatures. Despite being born nude, the idea of being naked in front of other people, even sometimes ourselves, can be frightening. Yet it is our natural state. I’m sure it’s worse here in the United States, as we have such intense and deep Puritanical roots in our nation’s history, but even so, being nude can be a daunting task even knowing all of this. Perhaps, that’s why I was so intensely nervous when presented with the opportunity to visit a real roman bath, one that must be done in the nude, when I was visiting Baden-Baden. Friedrichsbad spa has been around for over 140 years, and one of its most notable visitors was said to be Mark Twain. In fact, supposedly, Twain said the following about the nude spa, “After 10 minutes you forget time, after 20 minutes you forget the world.” Now, if Mark Twain could do it, so can I… right?
Now, I don’t consider myself a philosopher or a conceptually creative mind, but I do love to collect experiences. And this was the opportunity to experience something incredibly unique and, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime. But could I break my fears, my self-conscious nature, and my social awkward behaviors well enough to be in this type of situation? After mulling it over and getting some encouragement from my new friend at the Baden-Baden tourism board, I decided that my excitement about visiting Freidrichsbad over-weighed my anxieties, and I decided to go for it.
Perhaps one of the factors that convinced me to visit Friedrichsbad is its gorgeously ethereal beauty. It was said to be the most modern bathhouse in Europe when it was opened in 1877, and despite its gorgeously baroque style, there is nothing “old” or “outdated” about it. Its classy, impressive domes, marbled detailing, hand-painted mosaics, and classy style are unlike any other spa I’ve seen before. It allows you to truly emerge yourself into the centuries-old bathing traditions instead of feeling as it you are in a modern spa. In fact, you truly feel as if you are in a Roman bath, making the experience seem more real or validating and, somehow, less artificial or new.
When I arrived and went upstairs into the building, despite not speaking the native German language, the whole experience was still easy-to-follow. I was given a locker wristband which I used to store my belongings. From there, I was given a towel coverup and shoes, and off I went, shedding my clothing as well as my fears- mostly. The first shower was likely the most awkward experience, as you’re still getting over the fact that you’re rinsing off in front of other people… naked. But as you move through the steps- which must be followed in an easily-laid-out (numbered) order, you begin to get more comfortable in your own skin-quite literally. You move from dry warm sauna to hotter dry sauna to steam baths and then into the pools, each pool getting prospectively cooler than the last until you wind up in a very cold bath at the end.
The formula of switching from hot and dry air to steam baths to exercise baths into thermal bubbles is a recipe to increase circulation, thus helping the immune system. When I was done, I can honestly say that my skin felt refreshed and revitalized, and I somehow felt just a little bit braver.
My favorite part of the experience was most definitely the circular exercise pool which rested at a chilly 28 degrees Celsius (or 82 degrees Fahrenheit which is just below normal pool temperature). When I got to that part of my experience, I was completely alone, which made it an experience like no other. You see, this pool is under a brilliantly beautiful cathedral-like dome, so, as many have said, it feels as if you are swimming in a chapel. And I honestly couldn’t agree with that statement more. There are a circular grouping of magnificent statues, pillars, and a bright glass center all swirling high above your head as you enjoy a peace you can only find in this type of setting.
There are a few things to note about Friedrichsbad. There are days where the genders are separated and days they are not, so be sure to inquire if mixed gender bathing is an issue for you. You can also request a private spa experience if you so desire, which will be subject to additional prices and availability.
All in all, I wouldn’t change my decision to try out a real thermal bathing experience in this way, and if you are comfortable, I would encourage you to try it, as well, on your next trip to Baden-Baden. This type of experience can really help you grow and add memorable moments to your experience lists at the same time.