Spa: Sanus per Aquam an Old Roman Cure
German spa culture is an adopted tradition taken from the Romans. During the time of Roman Empire bathing was used by soldiers returning from battle as a form of hydrotherapy. The word spa itself is a Latin acronym meaning ‘health by water’ or sanus per aquam. Mineral sources were particularly soothing remedies then as now.
Today, Germany has one of the most comprehensive spa cultures in Europe, with the support of the German federal health care system to boot! The German equivalent for spa is Heilbad or ‘healing bath’ or Kurort which literally mean ‘cure place’. Any town in Germany can qualify and choose to use the prefix ‘Bad’ or bath before their town name i.e. Bad Soden. Those towns that qualify have met the strictest air and water quality standards and have been able to establish the necessary medical staff and infrastructure to cater to those seeking treatment.
If your medical insurance coverage is through a German provider or Krankenkasse, you may be eligible to request a prescribed medical “cure.” This entitlement is available every three years for usually three weeks, must be prescribed by your physician, and covers two conditions:
- In order to minimize or delay development of a potential condition (i.e. caused by stress, headaches, shift work, insomnia etc.)
- In order to treat a chronic condition (i.e. muscle dystrophy leading to a mild to severe handicap, etc.)
Once a Kur or cure therapy has been approved, a patient will be sent to a certified Kurort or spa where a patient will enjoy a holistic experience of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, communication and motivation custom-fitted by doctors and medical staff. The focus is to provide a Kur guest with the best possible natural environment to cure or prevent the further development of illnesses.
Please check with your German medical insurance provider for further details if you think you might qualify.
German spas are not simply a generic collection of saunas and mineral baths. There are several distinctions in the ranking of cure towns.
Germany differentiates between:
- Kneipp spas, adhering to hydrotherapeutic healing methods developed by Sebastian Kneipp
- Mineral spas, subscribing to using mineral-based healing methods
- Marsh or Moor spas, using marsh-based healing techniques and products
- Sea spas, focusing the healing methods of the surrounding environment or seascape
- Salt water spas, using salt-based hydrotherapeutic healing methods
For more information on Germany’s spa and wellness industry, see: http://www.germany.travel/en/leisure-and-recreation/health-wellness/health-wellness.html
Other wellness option popular in Germany are thermal baths or Therme. These are strictly leisure-focused day spas and not cure facilities, which are purely medicinal. Thermal baths are often modern designed oases of relaxation in a natural atmosphere and not simply an indoor pool. Guests come to enjoy the soothing surroundings without splashing, noise or chaos.
Typically a Therme houses a variety of different saunas, steam baths and tanning beds, with a separate section dedicated to cosmetic spa treatments such as facials, manicures and pedicures, massages and body wraps.
Germans are very particular when it comes to spa etiquette and if you want to blend in easily make sure you pay attention to certain unwritten rules. Swimsuits are worn in many of the areas and in the pool but in the saunas, steam baths and massage areas it is typically “towel only” or as it is more commonly referred to in German “Freie Kürper Kur” or FKK. Europeans have a very casual attitude toward the human body; baring all is not seen as shameful or embarrassing. Showering before you enter the pools, saunas and steam baths is expected. Hang up your bathing suit on the hooks provided as you enter the designated “towel only” areas. Your flip-flops or bathing shoes are left outside of the saunas but can be worn in the steam baths. Always enter the sauna quickly and close the door well to ensure minimal heat loss. Sit or lie on your towel with every body part on it. Germans are very particular about not water-staining the wooden benches.
For more information on spa culture, see: http://spas.about.com/od/europe/a/germanspas.htm
Perhaps the biggest wave to hit the German hydro-leisure industry in recent years is the substantial development of water parks. These comprehensive and often themed hydro-parks cater to your every water fantasy! The Freizeitbad or leisure pool is usually a combination of indoor and outdoor pools with additional in-house spa facilities. The other amenities you might find include tents, sand beaches, rain forests, water slides, palm trees, restaurants, etc.
Whether your focus is health or just good fun, these parks offer a great holiday alternative at affordable rates! For an overview of water parks in Germany see: http://www.freizeitbad.de/index.php?id=16&L=1
One of the Rhine-Main areas most popular for thermal baths is the Taunus Therme in Bad Homburg v. d. Hühe. The facility’s philosophy incorporates the use of the four earthly elements, water, fire, air and earth, to provide wellness and is the foundation of this leisure oasis.
The Taunus Therme is completely wheel chair accessible, offers a variety of 10 different saunas, a swimwear boutique, restaurant, day spa, massage center, cinema and if you want to stay longer than one day, you can have hotel arrangements made for you onsite. The Taunus Therme offers special rates for early risers, night owls, students and offers a long night once a month.
General opening hours: 9:00 am – 11:00 pm, Mon-Fri
Tickets can be purchased as season’s passes, by specified numbers of visits i.e. 10 x, by 2 or 4 hourly rates or as a day pass: 2 hours – € 12,50, 4 hours – € 17,00, Day Pass – € 24,00. The fees include access to the pools, saunas, steam baths and changing rooms but the tanning beds and massage and cosmetic areas will cost you extra.
The Taunus Therme has created a small women’s sauna area with a roof-top terrace.
For more details on weekend and holiday rates, hours and services see the English website: http://www.taunus-therme.de/en