January 21st, 2014

The last time I was in Germany, I stayed at a hotel with a sauna, steam room and pool on its basement floor. Amazing, right? I was with a large group and we took full advantage of it, some of us preferring to go first thing in the morning, others of us liking it better just before bed, and a few of us thinking twice a day was the obvious choice. There was one complication, though. No one could quite decide if we should be wearing bathing suits or not. Germans don’t wear them, or, at least, the German men who were in there on our first trip down were not. We, then, were the prudish, clothed Americans. Next time, in an attempt to fit in, we eschewed them, only to find soaking herself an elderly German woman in a full-coverage one-piece. Yikes!

This is, of course, a story about Americans in Germany and not a story about Germans and their opinions about our spa choices. The Germans, ultimately, do not care whether we wear bathing suits or not. For us Americans, though, nudity is not a neutral subject. Mine was not a shy group, and yet we couldn’t get a grasp on the social convention around nakedness in a co-ed hotel spa and so nothing we did felt totally comfortable. Ambiguity is one of the exciting parts of travel, but relaxing it is not, which is too bad when you’re hanging out in a sauna.

Thank goodness for the simplicity of this hotel of ours. Our pool and hot tub are outdoors. You must wear a bathing suit. And in that bathing suit it’s possible to relax completely, knowing for sure that the facilities are there for your enjoyment and you are enjoying them in exactly the way you are meant to.

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