Mein Kampf for Comfort

| September 2, 2012

On any given day, I am composed mostly of tense muscles. Following a transatlantic flight in the middle of family uproot, I turn into a brick. Yesterday when we were familiarizing ourselves with the hotel, I asked about a local masseuse. The manager directed me to a spa.

Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme, Wiesbaden

I walked in to see if they had availability for a massage, for either that afternoon or the next. Neither woman spoke much English, although their “not much” certainly trumped my “not at all” German. They had availability for 4:00 p.m. that day, so I took the appointment. “Eh–Bring a towel if you like,” one of the women called out to me as I left. Hmmm…

After we ate lunch, Paul and Sequoia and I wandered around Wiesbaden looking for a towel. Not so easy to find along the streets we knew. At the sporting goods store, I thought I had a winner: I approached an employee and asked him if he sold towels. His face lit up as he said yes, then he darted down the aisles. To some exercise equipment. He pointed proudly at the tension cords you hold out in front of your chest and pull apart. The thing they tied Brandon up with in Goonies. “Towel!” He looked disappointed as I shook my head. “No?”

“No–” I began patting down my body. “Towel. I take a shower, I dry myself with a towel.”

“Ahhh, tow-wel. No, sorry, I do not sell.”

Sigh Before this, I had been sure to modify my pronunciation: I casually pronounce the word as if it has only one syllable (“tal”), but I find that it is easier to get a foreigner to understand me if I use every single vowel Ican whip out, pure as gold. So I definitely asked for a “tow-wel” when I was offered the exercise equipment.

Never did find a tow-wel.

I returned to the bathhouse a little nervous about this massage. I was concerned that I would be shivering if I had to lay without a cover for the whole massage; I was also concerned that there were other rituals requiring towels that I was not aware of. The latter was the bigger concern.

So I arrive and inform the women at the front desk that I could not find a towel in the local shops. They now tell me I can rent one. I wish I’d known that before lunch and the towel hunt. Woman hands me a bracelet. It looks like a watch, but with the battery back side of the watch on both sides. I have to hold the metal part up to things, for access. First I use it on the turnstyle to enter the bathhouse.

At which point I notice the naked man.

And the thought process begins: Oh my God, I’m in the men’s locker room! No, wait, there’s a naked lady. OH MY GOD IT IS A CO-ED LOCKER ROOM. DIVERT EYES. DON’T LOOK. DON’T TRIP. JUST FIND A LOCKER. NAKEDNESS.EVERYWHERE.

It is, in fact, a co-ed all-ages-letting-it-flop-every-which-way room. I am looking down, which is not helping me find the lockers. I locate locker 19, which I open by holding my gadget up to it and turning a knob. I can barely accomplish this now that a guy in his late-twenties has approached with a towel wrapped around his waist, which is at the bottom of his sculpted top half. Now, I know that a towel covers more than, say, a bathing suit, but there’s something more intimate about a towel. And now this guy is next to me in his, and I don’t know him, and I really don’t know how I’m going to undress and get into my own towel, and oh my god that old lady is dripping wet and naked, why can’t she please do something about that?

I turn around and notice stalls. Kind of like a dressing room, with a little bench, only the doors are on both sides to allow access to two sides of the room. The walls are very high, green and sleek and Ikea-esque. I entered and shut both doors. I peeled off all but my underwear and wrapped the towel around me. I pushed on the door. It was stuck. I pushed on the door behind me. It was stuck. Maybe you have to pull? There was nothing to pull on, so I stood on my tippy-toes and grasped the top of the door. Nothing. I began to panic. Had I locked myself in a freaking changing room? Was I not supposed to close doors in naked city? I looked around for somewhere to push my high-tech bracelet. Nothing. Just a smooth, green jail cell. I refrained from pounding on the door and screaming, which was my first instinct, because I did not want to be the American idiot who locked herself in a changing room. I looked around once more for clues. When I moved my clothes around on the bench, I noticed a shift of some sort. I pulled on it. Click. Doors unlocked. I noticed a word on the stall, above the shift. It might have meant Unlock.

My heartrate returned to normal and I made my way through the naked maze. When I arrived downstairs at another desk to check in for my massage, the masseuse asked me if I’d been in the thermal baths. I said no. She asked if I’d showered just then. No. Apparently I needed to shower immediately before a massage. I looked confused during the entirety of our exchange and I spoke slowly so that I could be understood.

Back upstairs. It was a female-only shower (Shwew!), but wouldn’t you know, it was dorm-style. One large bay of shower heads that you could see at nearly every angle when you opened the door from the locker room. I showered as thoroughly as one could with one eye on the door, one foot extended with a towel and underwear hanging off of it, and no soap. I patted myself down and returned to the desk downstairs.

I entered the massage area and the masseuse asked me, “Do you understand English?” I guess I was speaking more slowly than I thought.

My massage was very relaxing, which took the edge off of returning to the maze of the naked.

Will I return? Actually, I do plan to. The bath house is supplied by the hot springs of Wiesbaden. I’m just trying to do some research as to whether you absolutely have to be naked to take a dip. On my list of things to bring: Towel, bathrobe, horseblinders.

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Category: Activities, Germany, In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (10)

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  1. Stacia says:

    Yeah, definitely not enticing me to visit Germany. 😉
    Glad you are there safely. Love the blog. Looking forward to more of your exploits.

  2. William says:

    I have only been naked in front of strangers once. It was 1991, and I was not conscious. I don’t plan on doing it again. Thanks for passing this along, it was a nice break in the work day. So only time for one bad joke- How do you find a blind man in the Co-ed locker room? Answer- It isn’t hard. rim shot? I didn’t think so.

  3. Kristin says:

    Love the blog. I had a similar experience in Italy once. We were on a ski vacation with my parents and my aunt and uncle and decided to use the hotel spa. Nothing like being in a room of random naked men and women with your parents AND your spouse.

  4. Ponzi says:

    Love it! Keep ’em coming!

  5. Jacki says:

    You’ll have to take Paul with you the next time.

  6. Teresa says:

    You learn to get past the “looking” stage.

  7. Lynn Bullock says:

    printed and await time to read with great anticipation

  8. Suz says:

    ohmygod.

  9. I am ecstatic that you have started a blog. I guess I am your very first fan, but know that I won’t be the last. That is, if you continue to write after being inducted into the naked city.