The challenge of having guests here is keeping it interesting for yourself. Of course they have to see the Heidelberg castle, old bridge, and Hauptstrasse. I wouldn't keep anyone from doing that, but you have to give yourself something to be enthusiastic about as well, which is why I couldn't wait to take my old high school friend, Julie, and her sister, Katherine, to another spa in the area, especially since I just can't seem to get the spouse to go. You know how you can always spot a European male on the beaches in the States because he's wearing a speedo and sipping his can of coke with a straw? Well I don't know what the straw is all about, but many of the pools here require that men wear speedos, interestingly enough, for sanitary reasons. Your other option is to go to a nude place. Nudity or speedos aren't exactly selling points with Ryan, however places do exist where regular old trunks are worn. Miramar, in nearby Weinheim (20 mins.) is one of them.
It's not hard to tell from the map above, that the place is enormous with a gazillion options between the two main divisions of Badelandschaft (roughly "pool land") and Saunalandschaft ("sauna land"). It's probably best described as an amusement spa and if that sounds like a paradox to you, you know exactly what I mean. If your focus is kids, water, and a tiny bit of relaxation, Badelandschaft is the way to go. This option brings with it Kinderwelt or Kids' World (wave pool, waterslides, water playground), a wellness area where you can get massages involving a variety of oils (and maybe even chocolate? as in smeared on you and not eaten?), and standard rubs for a reasonable price, and a multitude of pools with different temperatures, minerals, and aromas. Kids were present in all of the pools that I saw no matter how mineral-y or aroma-y they were and that's not necessarily a bad thing especially if you're a kid. I tend to find that kids are way more behaved and chill here than in the States. Kids and dogs. Yes I'm comparing kids and dogs. They'll have their kid moments, though, and accidentally splash you or whatever...I'm just saying don't expect utter serenity and quiet.
If lying around and sweating in an assortment of temperatures and aromas amongst other naked people and more up close and personal massages are your speed, Saunalandschaft is your place. Everyone has their own philosophy and "sauna recipe" but the main idea is alternate between hot and cold. Here you'll have a whirlpool (89.6F), aroma sauna (158F), the old windmill with hay sauna, infusion sauna (185F), hunter's sauna overlooking the lake, bio sauna with eucalyptus (131F), citrus sauna, stone oven sauna, warm outdoor pool, cold water dunk, warm foot baths, steam room, rest areas, and all the smoking areas your heart desires.
The two areas are priced separately so if you want to go to both, you have to pay for both and the price will vary between 8-18 Euros depending on whether you're a kid or adult, if you're coming for 4 hours or all day, or after 7pm. Massages will always be extra. Apparently they have one or two Freikörperkultur (FKK) or free body culture nights (that means no clothes), but seeing as the Badelandschaft people will run into the Saunalandschaft people on non-FKK nights/days, don't be surprised when nakedness abounds even though you checked the schedule 90 times to be sure. There's no huge division between the two areas and well...they just don't care about nakedness like we do.
Sometimes I forget that the experience started off with a woman who greeted us, dressed in a sexy nurse's outfit and sporting 9lbs of make-up in the Wellness Center. At first I actually wondered if there had been some kind of mix-up and if the place actually performed sexual services (chocolate massages!). Funny how the pressure of speaking and understanding a foreign language can make you immediately forget the long glittery eyelashes and the diamond stud embedded in her tooth because you're afraid of looking like an ass. Turns out she was the friendliest, most helpful person around who wound up serving as something like our own personal assistant as she helped us sort through our options, assisted us with our locker troubles, guided us through the routines, pointed out all the areas, AND scheduled our massages just before the last few slots were taken! Sexy Nurse was the best!
Now I should point out that we had to pay for Saunalandschaft before we knew what we were in for. I understood that our massages would be one right after the other so it made sense to take part in Sauna land not only because our Hamam massages were located in Sauna land but because what else were you going to do while you were waiting? And I guess I expected nudity...you know, the changing area kind and some in the saunas because it's cremation temperature and all, but I certainly wasn't prepared for A) the amount of people, including pre-adolescents, and B) the amount of "ugly naked." Harmless, I suppose, but let's just say that people aren't afraid to really sprawl out and sweat. Oh and there's that small American and European cultural difference of circumcision...it being a cultural difference and all, it's...hard not to notice and ponder a bit. I've wondered since if Europeans would have this same culture shock if they were in a nude American spa (should we ever open a place that's okay with revealing more than ankles, that is). Julie and Katherine also reported a number of randy couples around, which deterred any ventures into the warm baths.
Now that I've convinced you to go...
The Hamam massage was wonderful and it's the first thing a person should do in order to break down any insecurity about the nudity because the massage is completely naked and up close and personal. While American sports massages tend to be more of an anatomy lesson because muscles are isolated and worked on, this was more like being bathed with a skin rub. Boobs will be rubbed more as a consequence of being a part of a woman's chest than because they're boobs. If you have any doubts, remind yourself that the guy is wearing a red headband, therefore he is not a sexual being. The butt will be rubbed as well, but not the genitals.
Ten minutes before the massage you're required to lie in the Hamam, itself: a room full of heated marble. The massage tables (heated marble slabs as well) are located behind screens in the Hamam. The massage started off with my masseuse gently and quietly leading me to sit on the side of the slab. He turned his back to me for a second and before I knew it he had thrown a large bowl full of hot water on me. He did it so abruptly that I thought it was a joke...like you walk through a door and a bucket of water falls down on you ha ha. Then in the sweetest and cutest accent he asks, Iz eet too hot?
Then he laid me down and poured this hot water all over me several times for a good rinse. Then comes the soap scrub. I liked this because it felt like an exfoliation, but at the same time I felt like a little kid. Someone was washing me as though I wasn't capable of doing it myself, but I got over it as soon as the bubble bags came. This may have been the best part because you can feel each tiny bubble sliding down your body. After about ten bubble bags, the actual massage starts, which still seems like an extension of the bathing with all those bubbles around but this takes up the majority of the 30 minutes spent on the table, capped off with a final hot rinse. All this for 20 Euros! After stranger's rubbed your entire body down, you might be able to imagine that the rest of sauna land seems harmless.
More to come on Miramar...I just wanted to get the general overwhelming overview of it out there first...plus I need to see if I can get some guest blog contributions from Julie and Katherine!
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