Friday, November 03, 2006

Globe update: They haven’t changed their page – they did briefly update with some travel articles that were published after mine, but took those down after a couple of hours. I suspect it's never going up, not surpriseing as I never signed anything with them. So, for those who really want to read my deathless prose, lemme know and I’ll send the text and associated images via email. Until then, you’ll just have to reply on my assurances that it was awesome like an embarrassed Zebra – black and white and read all over.

Moving on, more life in France stories for you. Except this one is in Germany…

November 1 is a holiday here – Toussaint or All Saint’s Day. So, on Hallowe’en we went out to the spas of Baden-Baden with a few of Amynah’s co-workers and their families.

Baden-Baden (the name means “Bath Bath” in German, the redundancy necessary to distinguish it from all the other spa towns in the region) is only about 60 km from Strasbourg. Historically it was where all the European aristocracy would go to take the waters to cure themselves of their gout, ennui and other illnesses that afflict the wealthy and idle.

It’s still a haven for their 21st century equivalents, though they’re more likely to be Middle Eastern oil-Princes or celebrities. The English Football squad was based here during the World Cup. Apparently, Victoria “Posh” Beckham spent something like 45,000 Euros on a single shopping trip.

There are two main “Bads” in Baden-Baden – Friedrichsbad and Caracalla. We went to the more modern one, the Caracalla Baths. (you can click on the arrow under the photo and you can see photos of both).

We walked in to be greeted by a sign that informed us that Caracalla is an officially-recognized “Wellness Spa” a designation authorized by the German government. I was familiar with this, having done some previous research on it – it’s the spa equivalent of Michelin Stars, and has the slogan “Where it says Wellness, there is Wellness!” Personally, I love saying that with my best “Wehrmacht-prison guard screaming at Steve MacQueen in The Great Escape” accent.

So, to the spas. First of all, my commodious Bermuda-short-like bathing suit caused a bit of consternation with the French folk we were with. Apparently, in many European public swimming/bathing facilities, males are “required” to wear Speedos. So, that explains that stereotype. They claim it’s for hygiene reasons, though no one really explained how that works.

Carcalla has 18 different pools in the non-nudie portion, both inside and out. They’re all heated to different temperatures. Most have bubble-jets or waterfalls by which means poolgoers massage themselves. I also discovered the utility of a Speedo at this point – bubble jets had an unfortunate tendency to fill my shorts with air which had a number of effects – it created buoyancy in my mid-section that made it difficult to remain seated on the in-pool benches, it made it look like I was passing wind underwater when I tried to release the air, and it made me look like I was enjoying the proximity of the various bikini clad Teuton-ettes much more than I actually was, if you know what I mean.

The pools all had different features – though with 18 I think they started to run out of ideas to put in each. One that I found bewildering was a giant outdoor pool with no discernible attraction, other than being cooler than the others. At regular intervals, the jets would start up, creating a fairly strong current that circled the pool. I believe in German it’s called the koldkurrentzpool. Yay!

There was a hot-tub contained within, but it was being monopolized by the Speedo-clad Sasquatches so I went back inside. Here I spent some time in the sauna, baking, until Amynah’s impatience with just sitting around being hot forced us to move along. We then when to the freizyernutzov pool (say it out loud) and then into the genuine hot tub. The temperature difference between the two is supposed to be about 20 degrees, and I must say, it was a lot of fun going to the first, reducing my core body temperature until even…my… thoughts… were… congealing… and then jumping into the hot tub, which stung at first, but then warmed you to your very soul.

We finished our trips by collectively taking over on of the smaller, warmer baths. Using one arm to hold onto the side-railing, I let the currents take me, swaying underwater like seaweed. I looked over at Amynah, eyes half closed, as I slowly turned into a human hammock: “I could get used to this,” I said.

“Good – because I want to come back and go to Friedrichsbad” she said.

Ahhh. Friedrichsbad is the older and more traditional spa in Baden-Baden. Not for it the modern “relax, take your time, enjoy yourself” indulgence of modern spa philosophy. Rather, it is a regimented series of 16 baths, taken in sequence for specific times, and completed with a vigorous massage that I am told is administered by misanthropic stone-masons. Oh, and did I mention that all of this is in the nude? (the customers, not the stone-masons. I think).

I clutched my Bermudas. Suddenly, I’m not so relaxed.

1 comment:

Tasha Ogryzlo said...

Do you need a big-ass mustach to be part of the Friedrichsbad (?sp) groups? Amynah has promised us a trip there when we come, and I am extrememly excited. Although I may want to stick to the non-nudie areas.