Before I talk about the spa, I want to tell you about my new German-American friend and neighbor, Mia.
In our neighborhood, there is a free Baptist church group; it was founded in the late 50’s by a Baptist mission from the States, and was originally a summer camp. The current pastor and his family, who are from Iowa, have lived here for about seven years. Mia and her husband, Steve, are also from Iowa, and they are associated with the church community. Mia was actually born and raised in Bavaria, but she met her husband in the States. They lived there for quite awhile before Steve found work here. Like me, Steve and Mia have their feet in both the American and German cultures.
They live just a few doors down from us and have been more helpful to us than you can imagine. Mia takes me grocery shopping in Bad Tölz, and Steve has helped us with the Recycling-Hof (Recycling Center), for example. Mia enjoys playing with Rosebud when we visit, too.
Mia had some vacation time, so about a week ago, she proposed we have a girls’ day at the Königliche Kristall-Therme. (The official website of the spa is here. The spa is located in the town of Schwangau, which is famous for two of King Ludwig’s castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. The town of Schwangau has its own castle as well, Bullachberg. I’ve not had the chance to visit Bullachberg before, and I’d very much like to. According to the website, it belonged to the noble Thurn und Taxis family.
But we weren’t in Schwangau to visit the castles; not this day, anyway. Instead, we wanted to pamper ourselves and let Rosebud play in the naturally warm, mineral-rich waters. Our spa day was fantastic! In the first place, the hour drive down to Schwangau was gorgeous, as we were headed closer and closer toward the Alps and the Austrian border. The elevation gradually climbed, evident from the amount of unmelted snow. And of course, once we reached Schwangau, we could see Neuschwanstein nestled among the mountains.
On the day we visited, most of the spa-goers were retired people, but there were a number of German mothers and their babies, plus a few older children. In fact, we bumped into a mother-baby spa group. There were about five mothers and their babies, around Rosebud’s age. She was so interested in seeing other babies, and even flirted with a baby boy of nine months. Later on, a boy of about four or five came over to Rosebud as we were holding her in the water, and she babbled at him, too.
The main feature of the spa are the natural salt water pools (temperatures between 32 and 38 degrees Celsius – warm bathwater temperature). One of the salt water pools had an outdoor portion with a whirlpool, from which you got a fantastic view of Neuschwanstein. (Just close your eyes and imagine swimming outside in comforting, mineral-rich water, while gazing up the Bavarian scenery of the fairytale castle, and the Alps covered in snow…)
The spa also features an oriental Hammam treatment, a salty steam room, a relaxation room decorated with semi-precious gemstones, a sun deck, and a sauna*. We enjoyed the salty pools – especially Rosebud. She was adorable in her little bathing suit. I often take her into the bath with me, so she is used to being in the water. I told her that the salty pools were like gigantic bathtubs! She squealed with delight, kicked her little legs, giggled at all the retired couples and thoroughly enjoyed herself. I had to laugh, though: when I first entered one of the pools with her, a German man kindly said to me, “don’t let her drown!” He was very sincere in his advice and meant it well, and really, I appreciated it – but all the mamas I know are very careful with their little ones.
Anyway, Mia, Rosebud and I really enjoyed our relaxing afternoon at the spa. After we were done swimming at the spa, we found a restaurant near Schloss Neuschwanstein and had Kaffee und Apfelstrudel. One of my favorite German customs is going for a hike or doing some other strenuous activity, and then sitting down to coffee and cake. After that, we drove across the border to Austria to buy gas. It was about twenty cents cheaper there; Mia told me the Austrian government subsidizes the price of fuel so it’s common for people in border areas to refuel in Austria rather than in Germany.
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon – I can’t wait to go back! Next time, I would like to incorporate the spa as part of an overnight trip, and also visit the castles. There are some lovely hiking paths around the castles and I’m eager to do that.
*note: if you go to a sauna in Germany, you should know that nobody wears clothing, although you might sit on a towel… if you are really curious about sauna etiquette in the Germanic lands, here’s a link for you to read.