Sunday, October 7, 2012
The Critical Mom's Guide to A German Vacation Or the German Birthday, Part Two
The spa is the way to go. My husband chose it for his birthday and has wisely decided just to take the family. We chose a spot that two of my children have enjoyed since before they were born, judging by the mother's influence on the child and the happy face of the mother in photos of her eight months pregnant self at this very spa . . . Bad Salzuflen in NorthRhine Westphalia. When I was eight months pregnant with my second child, who happened to be exceedingly large at birth, my hips felt as though they might crack. Nothing soothed them like a swim in a salty, warm waters of Bad Salzuflen. Boiling salty water geysers out of the earth, is controlled by feats of German engineering and then pumped, in various shades of temperature from pleasantly toasty down to freeze-your-booties-off cold in a variety of pools. No American could possibly afford this if indeed it exists in the States and I would bet you, dollars to doughnuts, that it does not. You can swim laps in a large outdoor pool, even when there's snow on the ground. You can soak in a hot pool and have your ankles automatically massaged by hidden jets of water, and then jump into a freezing pool. Then there's the sauna. You park your bathing suit in a plastic cubbyhole and enter the coyly designated "textile-frei" sauna area: clothing is verboten here and patrons wander naked or draped in towels which are immediately removed to lie upon in the very hot saunas. There's the "fire" sauna, which at 95º Celsius (that's 203 ºFahrenheit) is quite warm. There's another one that's only 85º C. but I could hardly tell the difference. I was sweating buckets within minutes, and found more than minutes unendurable. But sweat is what you are supposed to do, and then you're supposed to run outside and dive in the cold pool, or rub crushed ice over your neck and chest, and/or consume little conveniently placed cups of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Now all this was just the outdoor saunas. Inside, a little halo of saunas in designated themes ("Colore," "Rustico," "Nebbio") radiate off the main room like chapels in a cathedral. Each delivers what it promises: in "Colore" the lights flicker becomingly in shades of yellowy-orangey-red to blue and purple and then green; that's the least hot sauna, at 55º Celsius or a mere 131º Fahrenheit. In "Rustico" you're treated to herbal aromas emanating from the hot brick walls. The hottest one here is "Silencio" at 100º Celsius or 212º Fahrenheit, and you're silent because speech involves inhaling and you're too baked to do it. "Nebbio" turns out to be a steam room, but it seems as hot as "Silencio." Germans believe that all this is very good for something that they call your KREISLAUF, which literally translates as circulation but actually means quite a bit more . . . the sine qua non of health is your Kreislauf. If it is going, you are in good shape. If you are dizzy, fatigued, anemic, overweight, depressed, or feeling a general lack of energy or enjoyment, then your Kreislauf is out of whack and you better get yourself into the sauna, where you sweat, sweat, sweat and then go out and plunge into freezing water. Sometimes the staff leaves herbally-aromatised rock salt around in bowls, which you rub onto your skin. Then more freezing water! By the time you are done with this process, you are lobster red and pleasantly tired. If you are American, you're ready for dinner. Same if you are German, but if you are German you also feel that your Kreislauf is now ticking away, utterly recharged. You feel virtuous; you feel that your body has been exhalted to healthy heights. It is sort of like finding out your HDL and LDL are perfect. Then you go eat pizza or Greek food and stagger off to bed . . . . in rose-covered sheets. The Haus Cecilie, a charming little place, has hallways filled with stained glass windows and an imposing porcelain guard dog, a proprietress eager to make sure we have internet access. Now, off to another day in the hot tubs and saunas . . .