Last Saturday, I booked a babysitter so Gary and I could head over to Bad Homburg to try out one of their well-known baths called The Taunus Therme. Our entire area is well-known as a retreat for Germans to dip their bones into the natural mineral waters provided at various spas. German royals funneled here for hundreds of years for that very reason. By the way, if you see the word “Bad” in the name, that means it is a spa town. Spas and baths are quite a strong industry in that the German health care system supports citizens to attend the spas to treat certain maladies or to prevent others. We were feeling just fine but I thought it still sounded like a very relaxing way to spend a couple hours.
The complex, which is designed in a Japanese theme, sits on the edge of park. Once we got into our swimsuits, we decided to jump straight into the first pool we saw. Then we tried them all –there had to be at least 6. Some were heated, some were not. Some inside, some outside. After soaking in the hot tubs, we decided to try the saunas. There are about 15 of them and they all are different–herbal, cedar scented, hot, extremely hot, on and on. We decided to visit all of them and to start with number 1. As we entered the sauna area upstairs, we were so focused on finding #1, we didn’t look too closely at the people around us. I noticed a few naked people showering behind a wall to the left and then I saw swimsuited people drinking tall glasses of beer at a bar to the right. When we got into #1, the only 2 people in there were nude. No problem, we just sat on our towels and breathed the sweltering air. Then the lady in front of us got up to leave. Hmm. A few minutes later, as we traipse into #2, I open the door to see an older man nuzzling his female companion. He was all smiles. Then he looked at us and his eyes went wild. He pointed at us and roared something in German that surely meant “Get the hell out of here!” We stopped in our tracks blinking at him like Bambi and friend. So, finger still pointing at us, he decided to repeat the message with even more fire. It was as if he thought our swimsuits were packed with explosives or we were carrying signs that said “We’ve got swine flu!” Still a bit confused about the fury, we turned on our heels and left the room.
“Are we supposed to be naked in the saunas?” I asked Gary as we surveyed the area and confirmed everyone was naked, except at the bar. Some wore towels as they strolled around but they were all obviously naked. Except us, the sore thumbs. Until that moment, I’ve never been embarrassed to be fully clothed. We decided to travel back to familiar territory and went back to the hot tub to soak up the magnitude of our faux pas.
On a practical level, being nude in a sauna makes much more sense than wearing a swimsuit. Why? Well, it’s hot. Since it is a well-known hallmark of German culture and many others on the continent to be comfortable with public nudity, I’m not bothered by theirs. But, my public nudity is a different story. Gary and I then started talking about well, what if the next time we just go native? But what if we ran into someone we know like the landlord, Nora’s teacher, or some of our new friends? We shuddered at the thought. Once you start thinking that way, the list of “All the People I Don’t Want to See Naked” grows very long. Not because I think anyone else’s physique is sub-par– I don’t want them to see me naked either. It’s just because it’s not part of American culture to socialize in the buff unless you’re from Vegas maybe or West Hollywood. Maybe we’ll cross this divide next time… or not, we’ll see.