Thursday, 4 August 2011

Naked German Saunas?

A few weeks ago I told the story of how I met Zoe – at Cologne Karneval in February 2005, whilst weeing in a bush at 3am dressed as a giant stripy gnome. Well there was one part of the weekend that I failed to mention that deserves a blog in its own right. A day at The Claudius Thermal Spa.

I’ve just looked at the web site, and it looks just as amazing as I remember. Have a look for yourself http://www.claudius-therme.de

Claudius Thermal Spa.
I’ve only had a quick look, but I can’t see mention anywhere or any pictures of the thing that stands out so clearly in my memory – it was full of naked Germans!

Our friend / host Steve, while not actually German, fully embraced all that the culture had to offer. This included getting his kit off and encouraging everyone else to do likewise. He raved about ‘Claudius’, as did some of my friends who had been there before. As I was reassured that I wouldn’t be pressured to strip, I decided to give it a go.

We approached ‘Claudius’ from above. The spa was set into the hill side over looking Cologne – and was right underneath the path of the cable car. As I looked down I could see a beautiful modern building with outdoor pools and lodges and ....... naked people, loads of them, lying around on the grass and on sun loungers. I had an aerial view of old and young alike, airing their bits in the February sunshine. I studied the cloud formations!

On arrival we were issued with thick, white towelling bath robes. We changed and met together to plan our day. It became apparent that the intention was to spend most of it in the buff. 

I’d already expressed my intention, to fully explore the facilities while keeping my under crackers on. But once there, it didn’t go down very well. In a way, it would have been better had it been a building full of strangers. The fact that it was other peoples boyfriends and husbands - people that I would be expected to look in the face again. No – I just couldn’t do it. The thought horrified me. You just don’t go there.

Steve, determined to convert me to the joys of naturism, offered to give me a guided (clothed) tour of the facilities. I agreed and off we went. We stopped to admire a Tibetan sweat lodge out in the grounds. It was complete tranquillity – unfortunately however, we’d managed to time our arrival to coincide with the half time break of one of the sauna sessions. Suddenly what seemed like hundreds of naked Germans dived out of the Tibetan sweat lodge and surged towards us. Nowhere to go and nowhere to look, we were surrounded by a sea of bratwurst, as naked people beat each other with twigs and rubbed ice into each other.

As soon as they arrived, they were gone. Off to sweat out some more toxins.

‘Did that just happen?’ I asked Steve, who nodded, smiled and winked. ‘Fancy a bit of that?’ he asked. ‘No!’ I replied firmly. On this occasion I was more than happy to remain a spectator.

After reassuring everyone that I would be perfectly fine lying on a sun lounger with a magazine soaking up the tranquillity, the others went upstairs to free themselves. Their plan was to work their way through the timetable of ‘exotic’ sounding treatments and saunas. 

I however, was being terribly British. We may have joined the European Union, but it didn’t mean I had to show my ‘Lady Godiva’ to the world. No, I would stay on a sun lounger, in my swimming costume and bath robe – done up to the neck. I even considered going back to the changing rooms for my cardigan for extra protection.

It wasn’t just a case of not wanting to see the ‘bits’ of people I knew – I didn’t want them to see me and all my lumpy, bumpy bits. I’ve made a career out of devising cunning ways to hide, shape, lift and separate them. I wasn’t about to destroy the magic now.

After about an hour of listening to the relaxing sound of dolphins coming from ‘the grotto’ and peeping over the top of my magazine, I was starting to feel a bit braver. So I got up from my lounger, pulled my robe extra tight around myself and set off to explore. 

The building was divided into ‘almost naked’ downstairs and ‘full on naked Wombling free’ upstairs.

As I rounded the corner into one of the stair wells, I saw a sight I’d hoped to avoid. Caught unawares, I was face to face with my friend's husband. Well, actually it was worse than that. He was at the top of the stairs, and I was at the bottom. I say, you don’t know anyone properly until you’ve seen them from that angle. And all I can say to my friend is – congratulations!

It took me a few years for the flashbacks to stop. Every time I saw him, there we’d be, talking about the weather, when – BANG – flashback - eeeeeeerrrrrrr! Every time we go for Sunday lunch, it’s a different kind of meat and two veg I can see, I think I’ve been suffering from a mild form of post traumatic stress disorder!
 
After negotiating this awkward moment, I carried on upstairs and discovered what can only be described as the set of ‘Carry on Cleo’. A large central room with doors leading from it, which when opened released clouds of steam. There were stone columns, places to lounge, vines cascading from the ceiling and a large central pool, beautifully lit with seductive lighting which cast shadows across the room. It was heavenly.

I soon located the foot spas and sat there (still in my bath robe), drinking in the atmosphere and watching the naked people walk by. Willy’s I have discovered come in a range of shapes and sizes. Rather than perving at them, they were fascinating. One after another I scrutinised and analysed. Which is all very well when it’s old fat German men walking past you, but when ‘Hot Hans’ walks past you in the buff and the first thing you do is check out his proportions. That’s bad, and that is when you feel like a pervert (phwooor)!

I’d been sitting for probably about 10 minutes with my feet in the foot spa, when an old, fat German man came and sat next to me. He spread his legs, rubbed his belly, leaned back and gave me a nod and a smile. 

Aaaarrrrhhhhhhh - ‘Ich bin kalt’, I muttered with a look of fear in my eyes as I got up and scuttled away. At the time I couldn’t understand why he gave me a funny look. I thought ‘I am cold’ was a perfectly good excuse. Unfortunately what I’d actually said translates as ‘I am frigid’, which I think, under the circumstances was an equally good excuse.

We all gathered together again at a pre-arranged time for a spot of lunch. Whilst I’d been flying the Mary Whitehouse flag of decency, the rest had had a lovely time rubbing each other with honey and beating each other on the buttocks with walnuts.

The restaurant was also upstairs, just beyond Cleopatra’s pool, and was also open to ‘the naked’. While my friends had thankfully covered up for the occasion, there were many others who had forgotten their Lederhosen. No, I don’t think it’s very hygienic either and there was sausage on the menu!

My day in ‘Claudius’ was the day when I confronted head on my body image and my attitudes towards nakedness. A big part of me would have loved to have thrown my bathrobe and caution to the wind and joined in enthusiastically, being beaten by a large squid which sucks out your toxins with its tentacles. But full on nudity – I just couldn’t do it.

In the intervening years however, I am proud to report that I have made some progress. I did manage to go topless on a beach in Northern Spain – but I was behind a boulder!

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