SO…WHAT IS THIS THERME ALL ABOUT?
The second largest spa in Europe, Erding’s Therme is divided into several areas. These include, but are not limited to, a fun-filled zone with different kinds of slides perfect for any thrill-seeker and a more relaxing zone with loads of saunas, each featuring its own special attraction. The sauna zone however has a strict ‘no swimsuit allowed’ policy. I learnt this is fairly common in Germany, there are many wellness centres and people are accustomed to going buck-naked. As far as I’m concerned however, even if in the past few years I’ve adopted a more spontaneous attitude and embraced a somewhat ‘take it easy’ outlook on life, I still have a long way to go before I can really call myself an adventurous person. Which is why accepting my friend’s last-minute invitation to join him felt like a sort of achievement – an insignificant step for mankind, a giant leap for me. Besides the fact that I barely knew this guy, having only met him once a couple of months ago, guess where my friend mostly wanted to spend the evening? While he is a sort of veteran, having visited the spa a few times already, I couldn’t stop thinking that I was, for the first time, willingly going to expose my body in front of strangers including my friend, a stranger as well to some extent. After being torn in two for a few hours though I gave in to the part of me which screamed ‘just do it!’ So flights were quickly reserved and even if I knew I could still withdraw I also knew I would regret it forever if I didn’t take that chance.
HOW TO GET THERE
My plane landed in Munich in the late afternoon, I met my friend at the airport and from there we took a taxi to the Therme. It took less than half an hour to reach our destination and I understand this option may be a bit pricey for the average traveller. For those on a budget, which is usually my case, it’s absolutely possible to use public transportation to commute from the airport to the spa and vice versa – just be aware that while it would cut down costs it would also take much longer and involve changing trains either at Laim (S1 line) or at Leuchten-bergring (S8 line) onto the S2 line, stopping at Altenerding (a 10 minutes walk to the Therme). The spa also features a hotel which is directly connected to the complex and which was fully booked because it was nearly the end of the summer holidays in Germany and nearby countries, meaning a lot of people were there to enjoy their last bit of freedom. A newer though technically less luxurious with ‘only’ a 2-star rating hotel was recently built just a few metres away and that is where our friend had accommodated us for the night – definitely not affordable for those on a shoestring. I was lucky enough that my friend had insisted on covering all my expenses as well. It was hard for me to say yes because I knew I’d feel indebted anyway, but I’m glad I did because I would have missed out on a great opportunity. So if you’re not worried about money or if you are but you’re also willing to give yourself a little treat then make it this one. You’ll be thankful you had this experience, a little splurge every now and then never hurts anyone!
Once the accommodation situation was sorted out and we’d left our luggage in the room, we eventually made for the spa. Again, entrance fees may be a tad prohibitive for most people and aren’t all-inclusive – check the website for prices and allow extra for food and drinks or anything else you may want or need. This thermal bath complex has small shops selling toiletries, pyjamas and so on, it’s possible to rent towels and there are restaurants and bars. Also make sure to check the opening hours, as they vary sensibly. It is worth noting that, during the summer, on the first Saturday of the month the spa is open until 1am. Bear in mind that the ‘no swimsuit allowed’ zone can only be accessed by people aged 16 and over and that before actually entering the pools area it is mandatory to take a shower so as to avoid as much as possible dirtying the water. Regrettably, my friend and I ended up staying in the sauna area throughout the evening thus being unable to check out the slides and the arguably more fun-filled part of the spa. Apparently a few hours are not enough to see and do it all, without rushing at least. In general, most activities are regularly scheduled during the day – just check the programme. Following is a list with my top 5 attractions in the centre.
MY TOP 5 ATTRACTIONS IN THE SAUNA PARADISE
- SAUNA SUMMER PARADISE
For those who are not used to being completely naked in front of strangers this may be a good way to start off. Fight the initial embarrassment and plunge in the clear waters of the outdoor thermal pools, take a swim or simply chill out, perhaps get a drink or a bite at the bar. Also, there’s probably no better way to inaugurate a day at the spa especially after a long and tiring journey or a stressful week – those wishing to relax and take a load off their minds will find this area is just what they were looking for.
- BACKSTUBE (bread-baking sauna)
Yes, you read that right. The Backstube is one of the many saunas with a twist which can be found in the spa. While people unwind and enjoy the beneficial effects of the vapours, bread rolls are put in a small oven to bake for a few minutes. Getting through this session may be harder than it seems – the temperature in the Backstube reaches 60°C but it is still fairly tolerable. Try resisting the inebriating smell of the baking bread however, I bet that will be the biggest challenge! Don’t panic, once the rolls are ready to be eaten they are distributed among the participants. For the record they are quite yummy! These fragrant and slightly spiced seedy bread rolls may not appease your hunger but they will surely do for a little snack before you hop on to the next sauna.
- ERDINGER SCHWITZSTUBE
Is it hot in here or is it just me? No really, things in this sauna get pretty steamy as the temperature reaches an unbelievable 100°C. If that wasn’t enough however, expect guides dressed in traditional costumes to start pumping typical Bavarian music through a portable speaker, then while everyone proudly sings along the Aufgussmeister (ceremony master) first pours some ice cubes on the stove and later waves a towel so as to increase the humidity level. If you ever wondered how Hell may be like, let’s say this gets fairly close to the idea we generally have of it – at least in terms of heat although there are no flames involved thank goodness! It may be sweltering, it may leave you puzzled – especially if you don’t speak German – but the fun is guaranteed.
In this sauna there are two ovens which keep the temperature at a ‘reasonable’ 65°C and usually there are various Aufguss ceremonies throughout the day. This is how it works: people take a seat on the wooden benches (remember that the higher you go, the hotter it will feel) making sure not to touch the furniture directly by placing the towel under their feet – this is very important, the guides will scold those who don’t follow their instructions! The door is kept open for a little and with the help of a towel the Aufguss airs the room in order to reach the desired temperature. Once the door gets shut, the guide proceeds to explain what will happen – some may attempt doing so in English, should any foreigner be present. When I went my friend and I were the only foreigners, which the other visitors seemingly found amusing, so the guide made a more or less enthusiastic effort to involve us in the ritual as well. I realised however that the experience loses a bit of its ‘wow factor’ without the element of surprise so I suggest attending without asking for any translation if you don’t speak German. Either way, once the presentation is over that’s when the real fun begins. The Aufguss takes some citrus-scented water from a bucket and starts pouring it on the stove, generating a mist which increases the humidity while a zesty smell of lemons, oranges, mandarins and grapefruits penetrates the room. The guide then enhances the experience using a towel to make the vapours circulate, directing torrid gusts onto everyone. The procedure is generally repeated twice more and while this happens people can also enjoy lights and music shows. During my session we listened to a couple of 80s songs and as per usual everybody had a blast shouting lyrics out and even sort of busting a few moves. The guides plead with the visitors not to leave the sauna until the ceremony is over but, of course, if you don’t feel well you may exit the room. After the ritual is completed, those who soldiered through are rewarded with a complimentary ice lolly – a very welcome treat indeed considering how dehydrated we were at the end. Bottom line is: do this, do this, do this!
- SALZSTEINZIMMER – Salt Aufguss ceremony
The award for Best Sauna goes to… well at least this is my personal favourite. A small, round room whose salt stone walls are soaked in warm coloured lights and where no ‘extravagance’ is involved. Blackthorn branches ornate the ceiling they’re hanging from and a salty mist permeates the air. The calming atmosphere could be enough but the best is yet to come. Participating in the Salt Aufguss ceremony will make you attain your ultimate goal – pure relaxation all the while undergoing the most effective healing treatment possible. At scheduled times throughout the day, a guide will enter the sauna and dispense mineral salt that you need to apply to your body. Even if the temperature in the room is set to a bearable 55°C the salt on your body will rapidly melt and you will soon start sweating like a pig, but that’s a good thing! Sure, you’ll look and feel like a dirty, sticky fountain but as they say ‘no pain, no gain’ – you can always get a shower later anyway! Not only rubbing yourself with the fine salt crystals will peel your skin and make it feel smooth like that of a baby, the purifying effect of the iodine-rich nutrients as you perspire in the steamy air will further cleanse your body – this is hands down the best detox available at the spa.
It’s a pity I didn’t get to see and experience all the attractions but what I did see and experience is more than enough for me to recommend this spa. It may be a bit expensive but it’s definitely worth it – I left feeling knackered and regenerated at the same time. The next morning, after a good night’s sleep on one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on, I indulged in the complimentary continental breakfast buffet. Once my belly was full I was ready to set off for Munich, but that’s another story… to be continued!