The past six months have been all about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and I would consider myself successful in that. However, a few weeks ago, I pushed myself out of the comfort zone outside my comfort zone, into a whole new zone that I’ve labeled “just let it happen.”
Surprisingly (or maybe not), I absolutely love this new zone.
Baden Baden is a resort town, filled with public fountains, luscious window boxes and greenery, biergartens, a close proximity to the Black Forest, and Roman-Irish Baths.
The Black Forest is impressive due to the sheer massive extent of land that it covers; from 2,000 meters above Baden Baden, you can see only the northern tip of the forest. And, if you’re in the mood to defy gravity, you can paraglide over the forest and Baden Baden (personally, I chose to just watch from the quaint restaurant at the top and keep my feet planted firmly on the ground.)
After you hike to the viewpoint for the Black Forest, you’re going to be hot and sweaty due to the sun beating down on you. The absolute best solution? The Roman-Irish Baths! Treat yourself to a spa day. But first, you’ll need an open mind, and to get past your comfort zone.
The Roman Irish Baths in Baden Baden are nudist baths, and on multiple days of the week (including Sunday, when I went), they are co-ed. The naked in front of strangers thing was a stretch for me, but I was there, it’s supposed to be incredible, and I went for it. (Not that this was easy. I was totally freaking out but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t do this just because being naked with strangers was so way, way, way far out of my comfort zone, so in my brother’s words, I told myself “what the hell” and bought the package). There are different options available, ranging from 27-60 euros, but generally the baths experience consists of 17 steps, and takes about 4 hours.
Before you begin, you walk into the changing rooms (luckily, I went in the late afternoon and they were empty). You take off all your clothes, shoes, and jewelry, put everything in a locker, and grab a towel, which you’re really just supposed to carry around for when you sit.
At this point, it hit me that I was about to go walk naked in front of the male attendants I saw outside the changing room earlier and I totally FREAKED OUT, swaddled myself in my towel, did some deep breathing, and dragged myself from the changing room clutching my towel to my chest so that no one could pry it away from me (not that anyone tried. Everyone is super laid back, helpful, and sweet. But I didn’t know that yet!).
Walking out of the changing room brings us to Step 1: Shower.
I very regretfully ditched my towel, slipped on some white showers shoes provided, and headed to the showers, trying very very intently not to stare at the elderly man showering nearby. I showered quickly, re-swaddled myself in my towel, and moved on.
Step 2: Lay in a room with dry heat for 15 minutes, at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
This room is lit with low lighting, has lovely tiled murals one the walls, and features multiple mahogany loungers. Luckily for my freaked out state, no one else was in the room, so I spread out my towel, and laid out on the lounger looking at the soothing scenes on the wall. I don’t know if it was the swans floating in the lake or the pastel flowers, but sometime during the first ten minutes, I relaxed. So, I was naked. So was everyone else. Everyone was very respectful and kept to themselves so far. The only problem was my own self-consciousness, and I was not going to let that get in my way. About 4 minutes after my “it’s all okay” realization, I exchanged hellos with another naked German as he entered the room. All was well!
Step 3: Move to another, smaller room with dry heat at about 170 degrees Fahrenheit, for 5 minutes.
I was relaxing about being naked, and if I wasn’t, this room would have taken my mind off of it. HOT. Hot hot hot! I couldn’t even lay on the lounger, I had to double up my towel and sit on one of the chairs, it was so hot.
Step 4: Shower again.
Another community shower. The cool water feels awesome, I’m getting more comfortable with the everyone-being-naked thing, this is nice.
Step 5: Soap massage.
This time, I had to really focus on keeping an open mind. I am so glad that I did, because the soap massage was awesome. The attendant takes your towel and lays it over a cushioned table, you lay on the table in all your naked glory, and then the attendant scrubs your body with soap. You have the choice of soft or hard brush, natural or perfumed soap, and it feels incredible, like an exfoliating massage. At this point, I overhear the guy next to me say he’s from New York, I can’t help myself from looking over, and I’m pretty sure I’ve met him while clubbing in NYC at some point. I choose to let that go and refocus my attention on my soap massage.
Step 6: Shower again.
Getting easier! I’m naked and it’s awesome.
Step 7: Sauna heated by natural thermal heat from the hot springs for 15 minutes.
This is the most gorgeous sauna I’ve ever seen. The natural rock with water from the hot springs are open and visible on the back wall, so you can see the slight waterfall that’s steaming the room while you sit on your tiny blue towel (they take the full coverage towel after your soap massage).
At this point, sitting naked in a sauna, I hear a “hello there!” This is very strange, since pretty much no one talks to each other here, and silence is recommended. I look up, and seriously what are the odds, it’s the mom and son that my mom and I met on the bus that morning and told about the baths. Here I sit, naked as the day I was born, chatting with the guy I met that morning, while his mom stands next to us. Weird! But also awesome, because we all acted like this was normal. I’m pretty sure every time I hear “hello there!” for the foreseeable future, my response will be to crack up laughing.
Step 8: Slightly less hot sauna for 5 minutes.
Oh, look, I’m sitting next to New York guy this time. That’s cool.
Step 9: Float in a 108 degrees Fahrenheit pool/bath for 15 minutes.
By now, I could not care less that everyone is naked. I’m floating in a pool with New York guy and two other strangers. Who cares, the water is warm and I feel awesome.
Step 10: Sit in a shallow, slightly cooler pool with jets in it that massage your legs for 15 minutes.
Deep relaxation and inner peace has begun. Plus, the ceiling is gorgeous and nice to look at while you meditate or just enjoy the water.
Step 11: Sit in a different, even more slightly cool pool of water for 5 minutes.
This bath has a domed ceiling, with cherubs and scrollwork leading up to a frosted skylight. If I ever have enough extra money and inclination to build myself a personal bathing pool, I would want it to look like this one.
Step 12: Go back to the open shower area and shower again.
I totally know what I’m doing by now.
Step 13: Take a dip “shortly” into the freezing cold pool of water.
In the instructions, I would have added “and then run out in search of the fires of hell to warm you again.” Nonetheless, I’m sure my pores were snapped shut.
Step 14: Dry off after the super nice attendant lady swaddles you in a warm towel.
I don’t even care who touches me, I just want to be warm. Warm towels are the best.
Step 15: Cream massage.
Similar to the soap massage, lay naked on a massage table while an attendant massages you with lotion. Again, no covering, you’re full on nude. Just go with it, it’s wonderful.
Step 16: Take a 30 minute nap in the Relaxing Room.
An attendant will lead you into this circular room filled with raised beds, where you lay on your towel and she swaddles you again. It’s warm and fuzzy and feels like you’re sleeping in a cocoon.
Step 17: Sit in cute loungers in the Reading Room, enjoy a cup of tea or small meal, and read magazines or relax for 30 minutes.
Sadly, the baths experience is almost over. I am now totally in love with being naked and I don’t want to put my clothes back on. The food they serve is delicious and I enjoy my meal swaddled in a towel on the balcony with a nice breeze.
By the end, I knew all of the attendants. I was so sad to go! My mom and I were the last ones out of the baths. I would rate the entire experience at a 25 out of 10. Not only is my skin smoother than it ever has been, but I came to the understanding that bodies are just bodies. There’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Some bodies have scars, some are smooth, some are curved where others aren’t, and that’s okay. Your body is your body, and you should love it no matter what.
To sum up: if you ever have the opportunity to visit the baths in Baden Baden, I urge you to open your mind and experience it.