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A Day at the Spa - a Lesson on Modesty and Different Cultures

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A Day at the Spa

A Lesson on Modesty and Different Cultures

July 10, 2007: I have always wanted to go to a European spa. Thoughts of Victorian ladies and men, wrapped in mud wraps, cucumbers slices on their eyes, lying beneath breezy white verandas came to mind; pure luxury that only the rich and famous could afford. Not that I have to be rich, but on my list of things to do in life, going to the spa in Europe was somewhere in the middle.

My opportunity came last week when my husband asked me if I would like to accompany him on a business trip to Stutgart, Germany. He was being put up in a world class hotel with a spa and I would have one free entry into the spa, each of the two days we were there. “Sure!” I said.

That had been four days ago, and now as I took the elevator down to the first floor I wondered what it would be like. I wondered too if I was dressed right because I had seen in the lobby display shelves plush white robes and slippers that I knew could be borrowed with a 50.00 Euro deposit.

I looked down at my black and white one piece suit with the black cotton island pants over it and knew I most probably looked very American. My bare feet stood out white against the calf length pants and felt self conscious, wondering if I should have waited the spa to change. Yet I knew from past experience that the changing rooms at German pools were coed and so I had decided to change in my room.

The elevator stopped, the doors sliding open and I stepped out into a short narrow hallway with a door to my left. I pulled on the door and it was locked, when I heard a buzzer and then a click as the door opened. In front of me a young man stood behind the reception desk, his blond hair pointed up in spikes, the white collar of his uniform pulled stiffly up.

“May I help you?” He asked in broken English before I could say anything. Oh yes, I look very American, I thought.

“Yes, I am staying at the hotel and would like to use the spa.”

He nodded taking my room number, handing me a locker key and two green and white striped towels, and pointed me in the direction of the changing room and lockers. I followed his direction and after putting my room key and purse in the locker I stepped out into the spa, passing the shower area on the way.

It was smaller than I imagined, the pool kidney shaped with water flowing over the sides and flowing over the floor and down through a filter system below ground. In this way the water continuously moved with a miniature waterfall above cascading out of a huge dish made of marble. I imagined myself under the waterfall, the water washing down over my hair.

I loved water, the feel of it, the sound of it, even the scent of it. The air was humid, the huge windows around the pool covered in steam. Around the pool were lawn chairs with green pads and on each of these was a thick wool blanket neatly folded, while along one of the walls was a statue of what looked to be an Oriental water goddess with pink orchids around her. Nice, I thought. Kind of like a pictured. Out the steamy window I could just make out dozens of more lawn chairs and some movement. So that is where everyone is.

Looking then straight ahead I saw a round opening and through it I could make out a small Jacuzzi and several small rooms with German names that I did not understand- except one, the sauna. And the restaurant? Surly there was a place to eat. Yes, to my right was a small restaurant open to the pool. Perfect.

I dropped my two towels on one of the lawn chairs and went back into shower off before getting into the pool. As I came out a old man was swimming in the pool and I nodded walking over to the steps leading into the water when I noticed beneath the surface of the water he had nothing on! Now, I have warned that Germans go nude but until I saw it I guess I did not really believe it. Indeed I had been to swimming pools and I was aware that after a certain hour at night some of them undressed, but I was always gone by then. I thought it was accepted, but not the norm.

I quickly looked away and tried to keep my eyes averted as I stepped into the water. Freezing. The water was very cold. I forced myself completely in, thinking I would adjust but it was very cold and so I got out and back in, my body finally adjusting to the temperature. The old man got out, walking slowly towards one of the chairs, and again I looked elsewhere, my eyes grasping hold of the statue and pink flowers. I decided to get out and looking hopefully at the Jacuzzi I saw to my relief no one was in it.

Yes, I stepped gingerly into the warm water and pushed the black button to begin the jet streams. Bubbles poured

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