It was 25 years ago and I was asked to visit a new customer of my company near Eindhoven in the Netherlands. I flew to Eindhoven late, spent the night in my hotel and then the next day I had a very busy and good day with the customer. That evening after an early dinner I found myself back in the hotel with some time to kill. The hotel didn’t have a thermal suite but it advertised one close by called Sauna Kastelenpleim.
I decided to grab a pair of shorts and get a taxi to the sauna. It was my first visit to any sort of thermal spa and when I went in and paid the entrance fee I was handed a towel, robe and sandals. I was struck by the lovely clean smell of the warm air. It a smell that I still love to experience when I arrive at a thermal spa. I also noticed there was no smell of chlorine as is often the cause in Irish hotel thermal suites which also have a swimming pool.
I went towards the changing area which was not a room but a locker area with curtain partitions. Just as I put down my gear and was about to get changed, I was able to see through the curtain into the spa area which was very busy. My heart actually skipped a huge beat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The spa area was mixed and EVERYONE was naked!!!
While I was still trying to process this shock, a man and woman walked into the changing area where I was. They were wearing robes and proceeded to take off their robes as they chatted and got dressed. What struck me was how normal it seemed to them and how happy and relaxed they were. I got undressed myself and put on the robe and sandals but tellingly I did not put on any shorts. I decided to walk into spa area and see what the facilities were and what was the etiquette. My heart was still racing as I stepped into the spa.
First I saw an area with 2 open showers. No curtain. No partition. Just men and women having a quick shower in between spa areas. Sometimes they had their robes with them and put them back on after their shower. Others didn’t bring robes but just walked over naked to the shower and back to the main spa area after their shower.
As I walked through the spa, I saw multiple saunas with various levels of busyness. There was also a small square pool with a jacuzzi beside it full of people. I told myself there is no way I am going into that!!! I was now feeling very much an intimidated Irish person shy and shocked by these liberal Europeans with their nakedness. But… I didn’t leave, of course. I was hypnotised. Everyone seemed to be smiling and relaxed and enjoying themselves in a very natural way. There was a steam room, a restaurant where people ate and drank in their robes and a massage area.
I walked further and found stairs to a rooftop relaxation area with an outdoor pool and sun loungers. No one was using it as it was a winters evening but I could imagine it being used on a warm summers day. And this thermal spa was located right in the middle of a residential area. How normal is that !!Originalnachricht ausblenden
I decided it was time to try the spa and I went first to the steam room as it was easier to be less conspicuous there because of the steam. I think part of me was expecting some of these Dutch people to realise I was a visiting Irish person and not a legitimate sauna lover. However that of course didn’t happen. Everyone was friendly and would make eye contact as they said ‘Hallo’.
I spent the next 2 hours experiencing this beautiful spa and I was one of the last to leave at closing time. I tried all spa facilities including the now empty jacuzzi before I reluctantly got dressed and left.
But I left a changed person. I was in awe of this beautiful natural experience. Over the next couple of years I went back to Sauna Kastelenplein many more times. It was the highlight of these customer visits.
What’s more, this whet my interest in visiting thermal spas in other European countries and realising how awkward and unnecessary it was to use swimwear when back at pools and saunas in Ireland.
Sadly I think Sauna Kastelenplein is no longer there as I cant find their web site but there are lot of other great thermal spas in the Netherlands to experience naked.