I think I might be Bubbles' soul sister...
I woke up early this morning needing to pee. As I got up, somehow I twisted my neck and gave myself a whopper of a crick. When I was fully awake later this morning, I realized that I couldn't turn my head to the left without a lot of pain. Seriously, folks. I was really hurting. I still have some pain after our naked afternoon, but it's not as bad as it was earlier today. I have my generous, good sport of a husband and the spa to thank for that.
I suggested the Schwabenquellen, knowing that Bill probably wouldn't be too excited about it. Although he always ends up enjoying the spas whenever we go, he's very self-conscious about being seen in a bathing suit. Well, the bathing suit wasn't a problem today, since the Schwabenquellen is almost always textile free. By that, I mean you usually have to be without a bathing suit in the saunas, the steam baths, and the pools. You are, however, highly encouraged to wear a robe and/or a big towel. I bought Bill a new robe last week for just that purpose and we brought two towels each, one to sit on and one to dry off with. We ended up only using one each. I also brought "shower shoes", but didn't end up using them much.
The Schwabenquellen is located in the SI Centrum complex, very close to Kelley Barracks. There's a huge parking garage there and, if you use the spa, you can get your parking ticket validated so parking is cheaper. Today, we spent 2,50 euros.
Naturally, I didn't manage to get many pictures. This is one I got in the garage as we were about to climb the stairwell to the spa.
We decided to get the all day pass, since it was priced only a little bit more than the two hour pass. We weren't sure how long we were going to be there today, since I knew there were a lot of rooms, themed saunas, and steambaths available, as well as two large pools. In retrospect, we were smart to get the all day pass the first time, even though we don't usually stay longer than a couple of hours. The reason we were smart was because there is a bit of a learning curve to figuring out how things work at the Schwabenquellen. For example, it took both Bill and me several minutes to figure out how to get the lockers to work. We also had a mishap when we had lunch. There will be more on that in the coming paragraphs, because I intend to give my readers the lowdown on what to do at the Schwabenquellen.
After we paid the entrance fee, the lady behind the counter gave us the little plastic watches I've come to expect at Germany's best spas. The "watch" doesn't tell time; it provides you with a way to make purchases without using cash and it also gets you use of a locker. There are some small lockers available in the lobby that run on coins, but if you have more than a wallet and a phone, you're probably going to want a bigger one. Unlike the Mineraltherme, the Schwabenquellen separates its locker rooms by sex. There are also no individual changing rooms at the Schwabenquellen like there are at the Mineraltherme.
How to use the lockers
In the interest of helping out my fellow man, I'm going to explain how to use the lockers at the Schwabenquellen. They, too, are different than what Bill and I have encountered at the Mineraltherme and the Palais Thermal in Bad Wildbad.
Step 1: Wave your watch in front of one of the monitors in the locker room.
Step 2: Wait for the monitor to tell you which locker is yours.
Step 3: Find your locker.
Step 4: There's a little green light that should flash on. When it does, put your stuff in the locker, close the door, and turn the knob counter clockwise. That should lock it. You'll know it's locked if the dial stays to the left instead of coming back in a horizontal line.
It took us awhile to figure out this process and we did not see any signs in English explaining it, although there are English instructions on the monitors. If I had known to pay attention to the monitors, I'm sure I would have figured it out much faster. I don't think I even noticed them until several frustrating moments had passed with me trying to lock up my stuff.
Now, you have your locker and you put everything away. Be sure to remember which number you have, although when you come back into the locker room, you'll need to swipe your watch again. The monitor will remind you which one is yours as it unlocks the locker for you. Also, be sure to stow your cell phone. Phones and/or cameras are not allowed in the spa for obvious reasons.
Once you've stowed your clothes in your locker, make sure you're naked, unless you happen to be visiting at a time when swimsuits are allowed. The first Saturday of every month is when patrons can wear suits. Also, every Tuesday after 6:00pm, patrons have a choice of whether or not to go naked. There are also designated ladies days on the first Wednesdays of March, June, September, and December. That means ladies only, but I don't think it means you can wear your bathing suit. For more information, click here.
You can now simply walk out of the locker room naked if you wish, or you can cover up in a towel or a robe. Put any other stuff like extra towels and robes in one of the many cubbies scattered throughout the facility. It may be strange being naked in a spa. Some people may find it embarrassing. For some reason, I've taken to nudity like a native. Next thing you know, I'll be sporting Jack Wolfskin activewear. Then I'll really pass for a local, at least until I open my mouth.
Careful with the first stop...
The first thing you will come across is a very large pool with two waterfalls. It's a very deep, inviting, beautiful pool. You can see it pictured on the Schwabenquellen's Web site. Allow me to warn you that that particular pool is cold. If you're a guy and you go striding in, thinking it's going to be warm, it's likely you will experience major shrinkage. However, the water is refreshing and you should get used to it quickly.
There's another pool that is warm and full of salt water. If you want to, you can access that pool inside and walk outside in the warm water. Or you can access it outside. The salt pool is really nice, though both have jets on them.
Bill and I aren't much into saunas, but we did try the Canadian sauna next to the salt pool. It's 90 degrees Celsius and nice, dry heat. I liked that sauna because it's very large and there's plenty of room. As a matter of fact, the spa wasn't busy today and there was plenty of room throughout the complex. I found it a very nice change from the Mineraltherme.
We also tried the amethyst steam room, which was very hot and intense. I couldn't take more than a couple of minutes in there.
How to order food and drinks.
This was another area where Bill and I had a slight problem. The spa has a bar out by the "beach", which is a sandy area with loungers where you can catch some rays. The bar sells drinks only. There's also the Mandala Bar, which overlooks the cold pool with the waterfalls. The Mandala Bar offers a buffet as well as a small menu with burgers, salads, pizzas, paninis, rumpsteak, salmon, turkey, and baked potatoes, as well as some snacks. You can also purchase cocktails there. If you order food that has to be prepared (as opposed to taken from the buffet), you will get a chit and a beeper that will go off when your food is ready. Don't forget, as Bill did, to give the chit to the cook. If you don't, you will be waiting a long time for food that never gets made.
As for food... I think this is one area where the Schwabenquellen could improve. The Mineraltherme in Boeblingen has a nice restaurant with really interesting choices that are pretty healthy. The Schwabenquellen's offerings are a lot more pedestrian, although we enjoyed what we had. Bill had a ham and cheese panini and I had a Hawaiian pizza, which was way too big for me to finish. Food and drink prices are pretty standard. It's not like the tourist traps of the United States where they take advantage of a captive audience. I noticed none of the food was priced over 15 euros.
And yes, you ARE expected to wear a robe or a big towel when you're dining at the Mandala Bar. In fact, you need to sit on a towel or wear a robe whenever you are not in the water. There are also rest areas where you are expected to wear dry swimwear or otherwise be clothed.
As Bill and I were enjoying our late lunch, I commented that the spa reminded me of an adult oriented Rainforest Cafe. I don't know how long the spa has existed, but to me, it has sort of a late 80s vibe. The Mineraltherme appears to be a lot more modern, although it's also a lot more inclusive. One thing I did notice today was that there were no children around and that was a good thing, especially since everyone was naked.
I noticed that a lot of the signage, though not all, was translated into English. That was very helpful, although we could have used English instructions for the lockers. I also noticed that they were playing horrid pan flute music in the bar area. Think Zamfir... It certainly added to the late 80s early 90s vibe.
They were playing "The Rose" today... not sure if it was Zamfir, but it sounded like this.
Staff was very friendly and I thought the facility was pretty clean, if not a little dated looking. I didn't get to try everything available, but I enjoyed today enough that I'd happily go back for another visit, especially since I now know how to use the lockers. We spent a little over three hours at the spa and might have stayed longer, except we knew our dogs were at home waiting to be fed. I also noticed that though my neck isn't totally back to normal, it does feel a lot better after some time in the water and the sauna.
If I keep going to textile free spas, pretty soon, people will be calling me Bubbles...
As we exited the spa, we handed our watches to the attendant and Bill paid for the food and drinks. Then she gave us tickets, which we used to get through the turnstile and back into the land of the clothed. Of the three spas I've tried so far, I think I might like Schwabenquellen the best. Yes, it's a little cheesy and slightly more expensive than Mineraltherme is. And yes, I like the food at the Mineraltherme better and the Mineraltherme offers a choice as to whether or not you have to disrobe. But today, at least, it was less crowded than it has been at the Mineraltherme the last few times I've been. There also seems to be more to do at the Schwabenquellen. I like all the different saunas, steam rooms, and treatments you can get at the Schwabenquellen. And the absence of kids, much as I like them, is definitely a plus if you really want to relax.
We really could have spent the whole day doing stuff at the Schwabenquellen. Next time we get a day pass, we'll have to spend more time enjoying all of the facilities. I would definitely recommend the Schwabenquellen for a fun and interesting date night. Just keep an open mind and avert your eyes. Above all, relax, enjoy yourself, and remember that no one is looking at your junk.
I took a shot of Bill as we exited, just to prove he was there... All told, we spent roughly 100 euros today, including the two day passes, lunch for two, four beers, and parking. You can also rent towels and robes and purchase shower shoes if you find yourself unprepared.
Children under age 6 are not allowed in the Schwabenquellen. As for kids over age 6, here is the policy according to their official Web site.
Personally, I don't think this spa is a good place to bring children, whether or not they are allowed.