Before moving to Germany, you couldn’t have paid me to go into a mixed gender sauna. Heck, you probably couldn’t have gotten me into an all women’s sauna either. The idea of sitting around with a bunch of sweaty, half-naked (or totally naked) strangers in a dimly lit room just never sounded all that appealing to me. I mean, most saunas feel like Texas in August anyway, so why would I want to pay to sweat when I could just go sit outside for free? But, that all changed after I experienced my first German sauna. I was very fortunate in that the very first time I went, the very first sauna we walked into, was minutes away from an Aufguss. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – anyone who says they don’t like the sauna or don’t understand the hype has never experienced an Aufguss. If I hadn’t walked into my first sauna experience and immediately been introduced to the Aufguss, I probably would have said the same thing and never gone back again.
But this article isn’t just about saunas, I promise.
My husband and I tend to go to the same couple of saunas, but, recently, I had a newly arrived expat ask me about hot springs in the area. I did some research, came across Bad Bertrich, and mentioned it to my husband. He had never been, but he had definitely heard about it. Bad Bertrich is very popular with Germans in the Eifel – and not only did it have a natural spring, but also a sauna. So, of course, we had to check it out.
About the Town
Bad Bertrich is tiny. It only has a little over 1,000 inhabitants, but it dates back to the 11th century. It lies in the Vulkaneifel area of the Eifel region, and it’s situated in a valley, completely surrounded by tree-covered mountains. It’s part of what the Germans call the Gesundland Vulkaneifel (meaning Health Land or Health Country) because of the spring that comes out of the mountains.
We came up from the south, on A1, and, after exiting at Hasborn, had a really beautiful drive through the countryside. I would imagine it’s some amazing scenery from any direction, though.
Yes, people actually live here, but this town is basically a spa village. It’s all about relaxation. There are several restaurants, cafes, a couple of nightclubs, and several hotels – including an absolutely gorgeous five-star hotel called Häcker’s Fürstenhof.
About the Spring
The spring in Bad Bertrich is pretty unique in that it is the only spring in all of Germany to contain Glauber’s Salt (which is a healing salt.) The Romans discovered and made use of this spring more than 2,000 years ago once they realized its “powers.” The water comes out of the surrounding volcanic mountains at 89 degrees Fahrenheit. You can swim in it or even drink it – although, the water is not bottled. You can only drink it out of a fountain that is pumped directly out of the spring.
About the Vulkaneifel Therme
I have to start by saying that this place is amazing. Not just in what it offers, but also in the ambiance. I mean, the parking lot was already amazing just for the view.
We really picked the perfect day, too, because, as you can see, it was cold and gray and dreary.
The Vulkaneifel Therme has three floors, and depending on where you come in from, you are either level with the main entrance or you’re down below and have to take a glass elevator up to the second floor. We were parked higher up, so we were level with the main entrance.
Now, once we got inside, I couldn’t take any more pictures, but here you can see the view from the lobby.
Once you go through the lobby, you’ll choose what type of card you want. You can either go into the hot spring/swimming pool area (which is where everyone has bathing suits on) or you can go into the sauna (which is where most people are naked). If you choose the sauna, though, you also get access to the swimming pool. You just have to put a bathing suit on before leaving the sauna area. The prices are different, and you can either choose to pay for a set number of hours or for the whole day.
Now, we did the sauna/spring option, and you’ll see that there are only two time options – either two hours or the entire day. If you choose the two hour option and then go over on your time, they charge you for the full day (so an extra 5€). We weren’t sure if we would like it, so we just did the two hour option. I will say that the next time we go, though, we will do the day card because it is absolutely worth spending the entire day there.
One thing to mention about the price. There is a restaurant inside that connects to both the sauna and the swimming pool. If you spend more than 5€ in the restaurant, they will give you an additional hour for free. If you bought a time based card, it doesn’t matter if you picked the pool or the sauna/pool combination. You get an extra hour on your time. Just make sure that the waitress scans each individual armband – otherwise only the person they scanned gets the added time. I’ll explain more about this further down.
It’s important to note that the sauna changing room is separate from the pool changing room. So, if you’re worried about seeing naked people, rest assured that they change their clothes elsewhere.
Since we went the sauna route, we changed in this other room, so I don’t know what the changing room for the pool is like. But, the sauna’s changing room was very nice and very clean. The locker system was a little bit different from the other places we normally go. Instead of a plastic card, the cashier gave us wristbands with chips in them. They looked like this –
You just pick an open locker, change your clothes, and when you’re ready to leave, you shut the locker and hold the chip against it. That will lock it, and then only this chip will unlock it. (I even tested random lockers to see if my bracelet would open them. It wouldn’t.) Now, you don’t have a number on this armband that tells you which locker you put your stuff in. So, if you forget, there are these little machines (kind of like the price check machines at Target and Wal-Mart) where you can scan your armband, and it will tell you what locker number it’s connected to.
The basics of this sauna are exactly the same as the one I described in my introductory article about how to sauna in Germany without getting naked. If you need a refresher or have no idea what I’m talking about, you can go back to that post for the information about showers, what to pack in your bag, etc. because I’m going to skip that here.
This sauna was quite a bit bigger and with way more amenities than the places we usually go to. We didn’t go into all of the different saunas because I am an Aufguss junkie and had to plan which ones I went into based on which one had the next Aufguss scheduled. In three hours, though, you just don’t have enough time. That’s one of the reasons I would suggest buying a day card.
These are the saunas we tried out:
Schiefersauna (194 degrees Fahrenheit)
Yes, it is every bit as intense as it sounds. Unfortunately, there are no pictures online of this room, but this picture from another location looks really similar.
We did the Aufguss in this room, and it was extreme. Like I said, the starting temperature was 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the Aufguss started, it got so much hotter. I have no idea how high the temperature got, but it was so hot, and the steam from the stones was so intense that several people had to get out of there (usually, people don’t walk out on the Aufguss). This particular Aufguss had an orange scent, and while it smelled absolutely divine in the beginning, there came a point where some people started coughing. Not in a bad way, though. It was just that intense. The sauna meister gave us ice cubes halfway through, which we were all more than grateful for. I have to say this was one of the most intense Aufgusses I’ve experienced thus far.
I loved it!
Dampfbad (122 degrees Fahrenheit)
I don’t always love the steam rooms, but this one was really neat. Instead of benches, they have chairs. You actually sit in your own little alcove with armrests, and, if you’re tall enough, foot rests.
You have the hoses to wash down your seat before sitting down. You can see one in the picture above. That fountain in front of the seats is where the steam comes from. The ball spins the whole time and helps the steam to rise and distribute throughout the room. When you’re in there, the room looks nothing like this. There is so much steam that you can barely see your hand in front of your face. But, see those spots at the top of the picture? Those are tiny lights. They change colors every 20 seconds or so, and they shine through the steam beautifully. So, you sit in your little alcove, engulfed in warm fog, staring up at what looks like a neon colored starry night. The only downside to this room is that it’s small, and only seven (I think) people can be in there at a time. We had to leave and come back twice before we were able to get seats.
Funny story. My husband and I were in the steam room, and it was full, but then several people left together. They kept the door open for too long, and a lot of the steam escaped. So, my husband and I were able to see the room almost as clearly as in the picture above, and we were alone. We sprayed some water into the fountain to get the steam going again, and it filled up crazy fast. The next thing we know, this older couple comes in. Well, the man (poor guy) probably had the same problem my husband has, which is that he can’t wear his glasses in the sauna. They get foggy, sweaty, and depending on what room you’re in, they can burn your skin. So, my husband is usually quite blind beyond the changing room. Well, this steamroom is a circle, with all of the alcove-seats facing that fountain in the middle. My husband and I were sitting on opposite sides of the door, so no matter which way around the room this couple went, they would have to walk in front of one of us. As luck would have it, they walked around my husband’s side. The wife went first. She passed my husband and sat down in the next chair. The poor man, however, walked to that first seat and tried to sit down in my husband’s lap. I saw enough through the steam to know what was happening, and let me tell you. It took everything in my being not to die laughing.
My husband tried to push him a tiny bit, and the instant the older gentleman realized someone was in the chair, he moved.
But, did I mention that they were both naked?
It was hysterical. We got out a few minutes later, and my husband whispered, “That man tried to sit on me!!” So, just a word of warning if you plan on going into the Dampfbad!
Eifelhüttensauna (194 degrees Fahrenheit)
This sauna is the same temperature as the first one I mentioned, but this one is laid out a little bit differently.
This is an actual picture of the Eifelhüttensauna. The Schiefersauna was set up more in a square shape – whereas this one makes a semi-circle around the stones. We also did an Aufguss in here. Somehow this one wasn’t anywhere near as intense as the other one. We didn’t get any ice to cool down with, but we did get a cup of iced tea after it was over.
Vulkansauna (212 degrees Fahrenheit)
This sauna had the best ambience of all the ones we went into. I couldn’t find any pictures online, though. It was a smaller room, also laid out more in a square shape. But the walls were painted black, and they were lumpy like the side of a volcano. They had painted the bottom parts of the wall this bright orange to make it look like lava, and there were lights underneath the benches. We didn’t do an Aufguss in this room. They seem to only offer them in the Schiefersauna and Eifelhüttensauna, which is just fine because I don’t think most people would be able to handle an Aufguss that starts at over 200 degrees anyway.
These were the ones we made it into. But there were two other sauna rooms that we didn’t get to try. Not to mention all of the other amenities like the whirlpool (with cold water), the cold water basins for your feet, and the outdoor pool (with water from the hot spring).
As a sidenote here, the outdoor pool I just mentioned is just for the sauna people. It is not the same pool as the main pool. People are swimming naked in this one.
There were also lounge chairs, sofas, and hammocks spread out everywhere outside on the lawn where you could just lay back and look at the amazing view of the mountains. From here you can also look down over the main swimming pool where the non-naked people swim.
If you go upstairs, you will find the most amazing relaxation rooms you’ve ever seen. There are padded loungers for you to lay on that recline all the way down to bed-like positions. And one side of the room has floor to ceiling windows that look out over the lawn area and the mountains.
And then there’s this –
I mean, come on!
This little room is tucked away within the room in the picture above. No one is allowed to talk on this floor, so it is completely quiet. You can just lay here and relax or read or sleep between sauna sessions.
But, you can also relax down on the main floor where the saunas are, too. There are couches and pillows set up absolutely everywhere.
And you have the Aufguss schedule right there in the middle of everything.
Okay, so that’s the sauna area. On the other side of the building, you have the swimming pool that’s filled with the water from the hot spring. It is really neat how they designed it. Half of the pool is inside, and half of the pool is outside. But you have a door in the wall that lets you go from one side to the other without having to get out of the water.
And the outside.
Now, this picture was taken from the upper deck of the sauna area. It’s at such an angle that the people down below can’t really see the people up above. Plus, this particular part of the upper deck is more like the smoking area, and everybody had their towels or robes on anyway. And the outdoor spring for the sauna people, along with the hammock area, is all behind that row of shrubs. So, it is very nicely separated.
Now, connecting these two halves (the swimming pool and the sauna) is the restaurant. But people enter from opposite ends, and everybody wears their towel or robe into the restaurant. They have a full menu, including kids’ meals, appetizers, and alcohol. We ordered chicken nuggets, currywurst, and french fries, and the food was really pretty good. Since you don’t bring money into the restaurant with you, they scan the chip on your bracelet after the food comes. When you leave later on, the ladies back at the main desk will scan your bracelet again, and then you pay whatever balance shows up. Make sure, though, if you want that extra hour, that the waitress scans each person’s armband that eats. Our waitress only scanned my husband’s armband, so when we turned our armbands back in to leave, the computer showed that my husband got an extra hour for free but that I was being charged the additional 5€ for the daily card. The lady at the front desk was nice enough to fix it in the computer for us so that both of us got the extra hour for free (especially since we spent close to 15€ in the restaurant and ordered two meals), but just be careful with that to avoid any hassle.
When you’re ready to leave, you just get changed and head back to the main entrance again. The system to get out was a little confusing, to be honest. There wasn’t a machine to self-pay, and there weren’t really any signs that explained anything. There is a turnstile to get out, but we owed money for our food, so we didn’t know quite what to do. There was a group of people who came out behind us, and they were also confused. We ended up going to the counter to ask for help, and the lady just took care of everything for us right there. Once you get outside, there’s a machine for your parking ticket where you self-pay, and that’s it. You can either head out or hold off on paying, drop off your bags, and walk down to the village.
As I said, we spent three hours there, but we will definitely spend an entire day there next time, and I would recommend anyone interested in going to also buy the day card. You have everything there: saunas, swimming pools, food, drinks, alcohol, and lounging areas. Bring a book or an iPad (with headphones) and make a day of it.
Oh, and throw a massage in there while you’re at it. That’s right. On top of everything else, they also offer a number of different massage packages. Plus, they have sauna events throughout the year. We plan on going back for their next one in December.