Roman Baths by Giovanni Paolo Pannini
My first experience of a traditional bath house was in Baden-Baden Germany several years ago when I was traveling in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. There is a communal bathing tradition in all those countries, but Baden-Baden literally meaning “bathing-bathing”, is legendary. Roman troops once bathed in the warm mineral springs as early as the reign of Emperor Hadrian when the settlement was known as Aquae. Later, royalty from across Europe took advantage of the supposedly curative waters. Mark Twain visited on his famous European tour, immortalized in his works Innocents Abroad and “A Tramp Abroad.” In fact, the very spa he visited, Friedrichsbad http://www.baden-baden.de/en/health-wellness/thermal-baths/friedrichsbad-the-roman-irish-bath/ , still operates, little changed from the days of his visit. Of Friedrichsbad, Twain wrote, “Here at the Friedrichsbad you lose track of time within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20....”
Friedrichsbad stil practices the traditional bathing rules. There is a 17 step ritual, with the steps consisting of baths and saunas of various temperatures, hot to cold, wraps, and a vigorous body scrup with soap and a hard-bristled brush. The bather is nude for all these steps, and men and women are segregated, except for a common pool which is optional. All this takes place in the original structure, built in the late 1800s and beautifully decorated with tiles and frescoes, just as it was when Twain visited.
|(from website http://www.baden-baden.de/en/health-wellness/thermal-baths/friedrichsbad-the-roman-irish-bath/ )|
|(from http://www.buckstaffbaths.com/ )|
All images from www.jejusauna.com Salt room, Jade Room, Bath area, outside of Salt Room
Whether you’re traveling or you have an establishment in your hometown, consider trying this experience. If you’re a little squeamish about the nudity, there are some facilities that allow or even require bathing suits. However, once you dive in, pun intended, it really isn’t much of an issue. Check out TripAdvisor or other travel and review sites and prepare for hours of relaxation, while enjoying an historic tradition as old as civilization itself. I look forward to trying Russian and Turkish baths in future travels.