Too hot too handle!

This baby is definitely in the premier league of sauna destinations – 15 sauna and steam rooms accompanied by a healthy aufguss schedule, alongside a variety of indoor and outdoor pools, and chill out areas – SchwabenQuellen is awesome!

There’s something of the Crystal Maze about this large jungle sauna complex in Stuttgart. Each sauna is themed and there’s loads of spaces to discover on several floors which makes it a lot bigger than it initially seems.

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As a big complex it also has the room to include some facilities above the norm, such as the solarium, Salt Cave and snow room – something I’ve not come across before. It’s essentially a freezer room with a wind blowing through it – not a very pleasant experience but it cools you down quickly!

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I made the mistake at the aufguss (randomly to the tune of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’) in the Canadian lodge sauna room to go on the top of four tiers. Ice was used on the coals and I can honestly say that was the most intense sauna I’ve ever had! I thought I was going to have to make a very embarrassing climb down but fortunately the aufguss finished just before I was about to pass out and I was able to make a swift exit to the plunge pool. My mate complained that his teeth were getting hot!

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We went in October when Wassen was on – Stuttgart’s (better) version of Oktoberfest – all the fun without any Aussies or Americans 😉

There is definitely an element of bravado when it comes to aufguss, but with each room being different it’s hard to judge how hot it’s going to get. I learnt my lesson though and went for a lower tier when I went in for another aufguss in the same room.

The place has friendly staff, is really well maintained and clean and has a number of nice touches, such as the Ottoman steam room with a hot tub in it.

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The only bugbear with SchwabenQuellen is that the main pool, the central point for the complex, has cold water in it. I’m not sure what the thinking is here as it could be a great communal space. But as it is you only want to spend a short amount of time in there.

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This, however, is a great sauna complex – choice, intrigue, peace, and a sense of fun. SchwabenQuellen should be on anyone’s list if they’re going to Stuttgart.    

Summary: A sauna complex at the top of its game.

Overall sauna experience: Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!

Facilities: Basic, Standard, Excellent  

Cost:  £££

Website: http://schwabenquellen.de/de

Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g187291-d2618213-Reviews-Schwabenquellen-Stuttgart_Baden_Wurttemberg.html

 

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Inside the world’s largest spa

Therme Erding is the daddy of European saunas. Forty minutes outside of Munich they’ve created a vast sauna complex that dwarves even large sauna establishments. 25 different themed saunas, loads of unique aufguss, a hamman and hot tubs. The centrepiece of the spa is a massive pool heated to 34 degrees that continues outside – great in winter and a swim-up bar means that you can hydrate after all those saunas! If you want to experience total sauna, this is the place to come.
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After a day on the beers in Munich we headed to Therme Erding to recover and take it all in. We were also keen to escape a bitterly cold January and reap the heightened benefits of saunaring in winter.  And we were surely glad we did. Some quick highlights included:
  • An erupting geyser: the aim of the exploding geyser in the sauna room is to keep the air comfortably humid. But the clouds of steam and the bubbling activity create a bit more theatre than your average sauna room.
  • A Roman villa: what have the Romans ever done for us? You can recreate the high art of Roman bathing in a communal pool that looks like a Ben Hur set.
  • A bakery sauna: smell the delicious scent of baking bread whilst you cook in the sauna and enjoy your hard work by scoffing the bread rolls at the end.

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Therme Erding achieves a rare feat of managing a large volume of people well. Part of that is down to the scale of the place but it’s also due to the customer service. The staff doing the aufguss make a real effort to engage with the room and make you feel like you’re having a unique experience.
One of the rooms for example, was themed on recreating a Bavarian pub. You’re given a pint of beer and then a member of staff begins telling jokes and anecdotes. Then other people in the room would chip in with their own jokes. (This was all done in German of course, of which we speak little, but we laughed along anyway!) So the member of staff created an atmosphere that made you feel that he wasn’t just going through the motions, which you can often get at large attractions.
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One of the other unique aufguss included a sauna where you’re given an ice eye mask and a receive guided meditation. You do have to get into the room early as the aufguss are popular. But if you’re keen and plan your timings you shouldn’t have a problem.
Some of the rooms are quite unique as well and I’d put a recreation of a Celtic feasting hall at the top of that list! And that’s we liked most about Therme Erding is that sense of fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is novelty and light heartedness alongside some serious sauna experiences.
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As we stayed into the evening, a Caribbean show came on. Standing naked with hundreds of others, in a warm pool, with a beer, watching dance routines – what’s not to like!
A few comments on Trip Advisor mentions the crowds during the German holidays, but I think they mainly refer to the waterpark which is also part of the same complex. We found that outside of the aufguss most saunas were pretty quiet. A few other reviewers mention the price. But we thought that at 37 euros (£29) was pretty good for a day pass, as we were there all day. We also stayed in a local budget hotel rather than the onsite hotel to keep costs down.
On the whole the Trip Advisor comments and rating are overwhelmingly positive and you can feel people’s amazement of Therme Erding through their comments.
There really is something here for all sauna tastes from the intimate to the theatrical.
Since we went in January 2015 they’ve added more facilities and the website now bills itself as the biggest spa in the world!
Summary: A must. Probably the number 1 sauna complex in the world!
Overall sauna experience: Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!
Facilities: Basic, Standard, Excellent  
Cost: £££
Trip Advisor: here.

Black Forest bathing

slider-caracalla-12-slCaracalla Therme (Baden-Baden, Germany)
So good they named it twice, Baden-Baden is one of those lovely historic spa towns that still makes big business from its natural hot springs.
This place is where it all began for the sauna odyssey of the Sauna Boys so we’ve got a soft spot for this small and genteel town (which means that we can be mentioned in the same breath as Dostoyevsky, who also loved the town). We chose it as a long weekend destination for no other reason than it was the cheapest flight out of London! (again, much like Dostoyevsky).
Nestled in a valley at the edge of the Black Forest the town boasts two large sauna/spa complexes (coincidentally Baden-Baden translates to Bath-Bath) that cater for different crowds.
The first is Friedrichsbad – a Victorian monument to the ritual of Roman bathing. This upmarket establishment takes it thermal spring waters seriously.  
The second is Caracalla Therme – a family friendly spa/sauna multiplex on a 4,000 square metre site.
The huge complex is split between the main bathing area downstairs (swimwear) and the saunas upstairs (non swimwear).
The sense of space you get from the ground floor glass domed interior is impressive. It means that, coupled with a spacious outdoor bathing area, there is room for lots of various pools, plus there’s a rock grotto, steam bath, a brine inhalation room and a lazy river. My favourite are the pressure jets that pummel your shoulders into smithereens!    
The main event, however, is upstairs where you can find a large sauna room with a very good aufguss. Let’s just say you should only sit on the top tier if you like the heat you get by opening an oven door. Then there’s 7 or 8 other traditional sauna rooms of varying temperatures, a couple of which are in cabins outside, including my favourite sauna room – EVER! A room with a fire at one end which creates a really hot and dry heat. The room is quite dark, save for the fire, and the only noise is the crackling of logs. Bliss.
There’s also a good number of post sauna facilities including foot baths, a plunge pool, a solarium, cold bucket showers, drinking water and seating areas.
I really like this place. I think mainly because it’s consistently very good in all areas. Our latest visit was in October 2015 and we dragged a mate with us. He couldn’t understand why we were leaving the beer festival in Stuttgart (Wasen) to go to a quaint spa town! But he was completely converted to saunas after going there. I’ve also just read on Trip Advisor about a guy from the UK who’s been there 30 times in 25 years – wow! 
Talking of Trip Advisor – there are a number of comments on there about how busy it gets at certain times. It sounds like something that needs to be addressed if its lessening people’s experience of the place, although I wouldn’t want the owners to move to a system where you’d have to book in advance.
But the popularity of the place clearly shows that Caracalla Therme is onto something – or perhaps just reflects the fact that there isn’t much else to do in Baden-Baden! :).
In short, this is a great establishment that caters for all.
Overall sauna experience:  Cold, Warm, Hot, Top Sauna!
Facilities:  Basic, Standard, Excellent  
Cost:  £££
Summary: This place is worth going out of your way for
Trip Advisor: link