Bathing in the nude

CARACELLE THERME, BADEN-BADEN

What a dehydrating day! But all for good reason. With one night in Baden-Baden I had to see if it lived up to the rationale of the city’s name so I ventured to Carcalle Therme, one of the city’s most well known thermal baths. The other, which is probably more popular amongst tourists, is Friedsrichsbaden. For those of you who’ve yet to travel to Baden-Baden, Friedsrichbaden is an all-nude bathing house whereas you wear your bathers at Carcalle Therme. Now I haven’t ever been skinny dipping or nude around friends; In fact I’d probably be more comfortable (i.e. less conscious) being nude around strangers. But I still couldn’t brave it, so I chose Carcalle Therme.

Overall it was a pleasant experience – of course more enjoyable with friends family or your significant other – and if i could be a bit more critical, I had expected a more luxurious, pampering time. When I first walked in it pretty much looked iike your every day leisure centre. There were swimsuit shops, some lounges, a cafe. I walked up the ramp following the ‘Eingang/Entry’ sign and pretty soon realised this was in fact a leisure and wellbeing centre. There was a gym, sauna, massage clinic, and of course the baths. The whole building was definitely built in the modern ages ; There weren’t old relics or stone walls like I had expected. So it was less of a tourist exclusive attraction and more of a really nice local attraction. But anyway I had to see what all the excitement on trip advisor was about.

I enquired with the lady at the counter, telling her it was my first time and asking whether she’d recommend 2 (15euro) or 3 hours (18euro) for a first timer. She responded ‘Oh 2 hours is okay, but 3 hours is better to take time to shower etc’. It was 16 euros to rent a towel, 10 of which you get back when you return it. She handed me a ‘token’ that you wear around your wrist, enabling you to use the lockers and scan when purchasing any foods indoors.

What I brought with me: dry clothes, bathing suit, thongs, plastic bag for wet clothes after. What I didn’t bring and should have: my towel because I was under the impression that they’d give me one, and my water bottle – this was just silly.

Looking left and right, I expected mens and womens, but people were all over so I asked one of the staff to direct me. He took me to the left through the many rows of cubicles for changing and lockers that could probably accommodate up to 300 people. He then directed me to one of the change rooms that were free – you enter through one door and out the other though which you can find a locker to put your things. the cubicles did have a cool locking system though! You’d pull down a lever on either of the doors that lock them both. How clever (and lazy). I like clever. At this point I wondered where all the naked/bathing people were – I ran down the hall and looked left and right and sure enough I saw men and women in bathing suits surrounding the bath entry – Alright, so it’s okay to get into my bathers! Keen!

On an overcast day like today, and on a Sunday, every town in Germany feels like a ghost town. In Baden-baden, if you’re wondering where the locals are, they’re all here soaking in 38 degree waters, in the solarium, in the nude saunas, in the outdoor thermal baths, heat baking, or swimming about in the circular central pool. The ceiling is at a grandeur heigh allowing for relaxation and steam from the waters to clear. I tried it all except for the nude sauna, the solarium and the cold pool!

Even though it was ghastly windy and rainy outside people still enjoyed the outdoor thermal baths. What made it enjoyable was that you’d enter the pool from the inside and waddle your way through plastic seal curtains so the only part of you that felt the cold was your face. It’s wonderful how our body could cope with being in hot temperatures while our heads adapt to the cold above. Sounds like a recipe for a fever but it was quite soothing.

The highlight of my experience though was the thermal sauna – it wasn’t an ordinary sauna. the first time i walked in, I lasted literally 10 seconds before walking back out. Main reason being was that I had already felt very warm, walking into xx degrees was overkill. I did come back after an hour though! The It was a small room with 3-4 circular seatings and in the middle was a podium with a bowl where the hottest steam rose. At the doors were two symmetrical cold-running taps, here you would take a sitting mat with you after which you dunk it back into the water. It was difficult for me to get used to breathing in that heat, and i wondered how, with all the steam, people with glasses enjoyed the baths haha.

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