BadeLand Wolfsburg – My first experience of a German Sauna
Until you’ve sweated it out in a full-on German sauna, you can’t really claim to be a proper sauna aficionado. Happily it’s an experience I can now tick off my bucket list, courtesy of a free morning while on a work trip to Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony.
Wolfsburg is of course the home of Volkswagen, and the famous VW logo is everywhere in this city. A little research identified BadeLand (www.badeland-wolfsburg.de), a waterpark with separate adjoining sauna area as a suitable facility. Located on the River Aller, it’s within walking distance (25-30 minutes) of the iconic Volkswagen factory with its four chimney stacks dating back to 1938, as well as Volkswagen’s Autostadt museum and customer centre which is well worth a visit. The Courtyard by Marriott hotel is located next door to BadeLand for anyone looking for a convenient place to stay.
The fact that BadeLand’s website is in German only caused a few reservations about whether I would have problems finding my way around, but the helpful lady at the desk explained in perfect English that a half day entry fee of €16.20 would allow unlimited access to both the pool area and the sauna area. If you need towels, they are €2 each, and flip-flops are also recommended – I brought my own. You do need to have swimwear to use the pool side, whereas the sauna area is textile free.
At check-in you are given a wristwatch type sensor that allows access to the various areas, as well as locking your chosen locker and recording any drinks or other items you purchase in the bar area.
Changing facilities for the sauna area are unisex, though there is also a dedicated female changing area. So it was off with the clothes, and with a towel wrapped around me, into the fray.
The sauna area is built on two levels, with a number of saunas and areas for chilling as well as the showering and changing facilities on the upper level. Downstairs there are additional saunas as well as steam rooms, a generously sized jacuzzi, plunge pools, a cold shower area and two mini pools that go from indoors to outside, one decidedly cold, the other more jacuzzi temperature. There also a bar area downstairs where you can order food and drink.
Outside there are at least three other buildings housing other saunas as well as sun-loungers for relaxing when the weather is warmer.
My lack of German meant that deciphering what unique benefits each sauna or steam room offered was a case of jumping in at the deep end and finding out. Basically there is something for everyone, from a comfortable solarium which is little warmer than a hot day, to full on sweat houses, each with its own special infusion. Many are generously proportioned, capable of taking 30 or 40 people. It’s certainly a far cry from the single cramped sauna you get in most Irish facilities.
Despite it being a work day, the sauna was well populated with people of all ages, and an even split of the sexes. As a naturist, the dress etiquette is slightly interesting. Most Germans who use saunas are not naturists per se, so typically they put on towels or robes as soon as they come out of whatever facility they have been using. But equally a towel wrapped around a shoulder seemed to be perfectly acceptable, and there were plenty who were comfortable walking from place to place just holding their towels. Nobody batted an eyelid either way. Adding to the slight oddity of the whole thing is that while the changing areas are unisex, the shower facilities are segregated.
An essential part of any German sauna visit is to experience an Aufgussmeister or Sauna Meister doing their thing. At designated times, a man or woman will perform an intricate exercise of towel waving designed to extract maximum sweating using special blends of essential oils that they add to the hot coals. It’s clearly a highly considered art form, with the very sweaty naked audience applauding the Sauna Meister at the conclusion of their routine. Performance times are displayed in advance, but be aware you need to get into the sauna in good time to be sure of a seat as they are very popular – which leads to the problem of overheating even before the towel waving performance starts.
Overall this is an incredibly relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon – or even an entire day. You leave feeling tired yet revitalised at the same time. Wolfsburg isn’t the most obvious of destinations for Irish visitors – the nearest airport is Hannover about an hour away which doesn’t have direct flights (at this time of the year at least) from Ireland. But as an example of what a German sauna offers, BadeLand has certainly left me enthusiastic to come back for more. What a shame we don’t have similar facilities in Ireland.