I spent the Christmas holidays in Köln, home to one of the most beautiful architectural wonders, the Kölner Dom, and my man. I had not celebrated a German Christmas before and although I knew what to expect, I was overwhelmed with surprise after surprise, of the good kind. I am a Christmas baby and the mere thought of spending my birthday in Germany sends chills up my spine. With everyone away at home or on holiday, Heidelberg becomes my least favourite location. This year I was far from having a lonely holiday season, and farther from Heidelberg, two hours of driving to be exact. I not only got birthday presents, but also actual Christmas gifts.
Tim’s parents gifted us with tickets for a full day at a thermal bath in Köln. So on the last Monday of 2014 we slipped into our swimming costumes, packed our robes and drove through the snow to Claudius Therme.
We had decided beforehand to split the sessions into two four-hour treats, giving us another excuse to drive back up to Köln soon for a spa day. As I was standing in the entrance queue next to Tim, my bob tucked into a ponytail, a style I rarely give into, I whispered to him, “can we stay for two hours?” You see, boredom comes to me easily and it doesn’t only stop at activities where I have nothing to do but relax. But that’s an issue beyond a blog post and requires a listener with a background in psychology. Tim reassured me that we could leave the moment I got bored or felt the steam was overpowering the oxygen.
I needn’t have worried. The moment I dipped my toes into the warm water I exclaimed “Let’s stay!”
The temperature was perfect and the salty essence of the water did not bother me, but tickled my skin. We floated around in the main pool before taking the plunge and swimming our way to the outside area. There, while fresh snow sat on the sides of the pool, I allowed my smile to get wider. You see, I easily get excited about small things. Be it a denouement in a film like Interstellar where my eyes glistened, as I cupped my hands around Tim’s telling him “this is amazing”, as he looked at me with wide eyes, unable to conceal his surprise at how little it took to excite me, or my mere presence in a heated pool surrounded by snow on a late December afternoon. And though water is not the element assigned to my birth month, (not that I believe in such fields of superstition) I like to claim that aqua is my element.
A jacuzzi was situated in the middle of the outside area, surrounded by a circular pool with an entrance from the main lido. A mild gush of water took anyone who entered for a ride around the jacuzzi. Ideal for lazier swimmers, one did not even need to make the slightest effort.
I am surprised at how many deep, serious conversations Tim and I have had in our swimming costumes, neck deep in water. There’s something about Adam’s ale that gets us pondering and conversing. These aqua sessions have had us concluding important decisions to be precise.
The dreaded part had to come. The sauna. The German sauna. Where nudity is not only not taboo but encouraged. Hell you’re not even allowed in with your swimsuit. Now, I am not a woman who is ashamed of her body, yet I have a problem with walking around in my birthday suit, passing strangers until I find a spot in a steamed-up cabin. Another issue I have is seeing said strangers’ most private body parts barely veiled by the thick steam. Tim was on the same page as I. We stood outside the “Sauna Village” clinging tightly to our robes, looking through the glass door at men and women, from all age groups in a variety of body shapes, step out of the showers and into the area, bared to the skin. Loud and proud. Tim persuaded me to give it a little tour visit. While still tucked in our robes, we took a stroll in the village, peaking at a few wooden cabins, squinting to read the entrance boards through the steam, looking for one sauna room where nudity was not an absolute must. Defeated and disappointed we walked back to the pool area, passing by a relaxation room walled by nothing but glass, revealing beds comforting visitors taking deserved naps from all that relaxing in the pool, or the Christmas feasting prior to their spa day. Whichever of the two had been more exhausting.
We left Claudius Therme, already looking forward to our next visit, but not before wandering effortlessly in pools of rusty mineral, varying in temperature.
Tim’s mother opened the front door as we pulled up the driveway.
“Und?” she asked wanting to know if we had enjoyed it.
I went in for a long, firm hug. “Danke danke danke!” I exclaimed suddenly falling in love with Christmas and the thought put into each and every gift exchanged. A quality I admire in German gift-giving…