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    Enough saunas for two football teams!

    Naturism’s best kept secret…think of a place with 22 different themed saunas, indoor and outdoor thermal pools, a swim-up bar, open all year round; imagine swimming outside in 32°C water, with the January snow gently falling on your head, watching the sun go down…

    We found Therme Erding in ‘The World’s Best Nude Beaches and Resorts’. We both liked Germany, because of the friendly, trust-worthy people and clean, safe and reliable public transport, so it seemed like a good place to try.

    Therme Erding is a 30-minute train ride from central Munich, with a bus connection from Altenerding station (free with the DB day ticket) or a 20-minute walk. It is divided into three areas: Galaxy, a water slide area which is textile (they aren’t keen on the friction possibilities); Vital Oasis, a sauna and pool area (textile until 6pm) and Sauna Paradise, a textile-free area of 22 saunas, two pools and sauna gardens.

    Like most German saunas, clothes are forbidden (‘Texteil Frei’). Some people put on swimwear to go into the Galaxy area but about half of the visitors walk around nude while the rest cover up with towels or gowns. Both seem acceptable. We did once see a man enter the pool in trunks; he was the only person who attracted the stares of all the pool-users, looked suitably embarrassed and left the pool within five minutes. The mix of allover tans and tan-lines suggest that not all sauna-users are naturists, but the German culture rejects swimwear in saunas.

    Each time we have been, the atmosphere has been very relaxing, very calm, welcoming and not intimidating. The majority of visitors appeared to be couples, but there are also single-sex groups (some people go straight after work). Unlike a night out in many British towns, there was no rowdiness or aggression. The lower age limit is 16, but some families seemed to discreetly bring in teenage children.

    It is rare to hear a British accent and even rarer to hear an American one. Prices for food and drink are in keeping with theme parks and consequently, it’s not cheap. Indeed, many people discreetly bring in food from outside. The massages are very professional, but can add to the cost of your trip, although they are worthwhile for an occasional treat. An allday ticket (over three hours) in Sauna Paradise costs 36 to 42 euros each, depending of the day of the week.

    The swim-up bar is wonderful, servinglocal Weiss bier (wheat beer) and cocktails. Everyone drinks in moderation (possibly due to the cost!), but in the summer, many visitors take a drink outside whilst they enjoy the sunshine. Like most naturist places, politeness and consideration for others are the norm. It helps if you can speak some German, but virtually all the staff and visitors speak some English.

    Each sauna is themed. One smells of baking bread and a fresh roll is served at the end of the sauna ceremony. One is like a bar (beer is served), another themed like Stonehenge. Others smell of citrus, roses,or are themed for meditation …temperatures range from 50°C to 104°C.

    Cold showers near the saunas are designed like a rock waterfall or a giant lily, even an outside shower (that is for the 104°C sauna).

    The times for the sauna ceremonies (‘Aufguss’) are marked outside each sauna. If you enter for these, it is impolite to leave before the end. Bear this in mind if you are not used to the heat of a sauna. You can,however, use any of the saunas at any other time for as long (or short) as you like.

    Relaxation areas include one designed like a Bedouin tent, plus many others with different themes. The water is from an underground thermal spring; it is clean but not chlorinated. Each time, we left with soft skin and no wrinkled skin. There are two outdoor pools and an indoor pool with a retractable roof for hot summer days. The indoor pool is the size of an aircraft hangar and at the far end you can swim through a small hatch, directly into the outdoor pool.

    In winter, both the indoor and outdoor pools are lovely and warm. Each time we have been to Therme Erding, we have stayed in or near central Munich. There are plenty of hotels to choose from and it is handy for the museums, beer gardens and shops. Dachau concentration camp, 30 minutes from the centre by train, is a touching and worthwhile day-trip.

    There are hotels in Erding and at or near the airport; if you only want to spend time at the Therme, these would cut down on the travelling.

    It is a fantastic place for a break from the British winter. We would recommend at least two full days there in order to explore all of the saunas and fully relax. It is busier in winter months, as it is such a great way to get warm. BN

    Tel: 08122-22 70-400/-515

    Website: www.therme-erding.de

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