In Germany, to unwind is to undress. And beer helps, too. Within minutes of my arrival in Cologne, I had managed to track down the latter. Kölsch, as they call the local brew, is served in long, thin glasses rather than steins, and at the Kölsch Brewery, overlooking a flower-filled square near the city center, I indulged in the perfect post-flight pint. But Kölsch, of course, is the quick fix. Real healing, as any German will tell you, can’t be consumed – not, anyway, with all of your clothes on. It’s a full-body experience and a time-taking process, and it’s best not to rush things.
Although Cologne, Germany’s fourth largest city, is better known for its massive medieval cathedral – at almost 625 feet, the twin-spired Kölner dome is the second tallest in the world – I found another sort of sanctuary on the other side of town. Leaving the elegant Hotel Ernst, one of the Leading Hotels of the World, I hopped on the über clean u-bahn, Cologne’s spiffy subway, and headed uptown to the Neptunplatz, home of the Neptunbad Health Club and Spa. Housed in a century-old building – one of the few to survive the air raids of the second world war – the Neptunbad is as stately a spa as one is likely to find, a beautifully (and recently) renovated relic of Germany’s past. During the lebensreformbewegung (life reform movement) of the late 1800s, many Germans, fed up with ineffective medicines of the day, began to seek out alternatives in the healing powers of nudity and sunlight and hot and cold baths. A return to one’s natural state, they held, was essential to healthy living. The Neptunbad is a testament to that belief.
My day began with Daggi Meis, the Neptunbad’s resident Woyo instructor and a career triathlete. Short for “workout yoga,” Woyo, Daggi explained, is sort of like yoga with training wheels.
“Ve make zee poses,” she said in heavily accented English, “but ve have props to help zee muscles.”
For a guy shaped like a brick and about as flexible as one, the props — a belt to stabilize the legs or arms, a Pilates ball and foam blocks — were critical. Not on my most limber of days would my lower back agree to a pose like, say, the downward-facing dog. But a simple cinching up of the belt allowed me to push my limits — little by little — in a way I couldn’t have accomplished on my own.
Woyo isn’t just for the flexibility-challenged, though. The room was full of young, fit, Spandex-clad men and women who wanted their strength training and their spiritual healing in one. (German efficiency extends to exercise, too). And Daggi delivered. After an intensive set of lifting — foam blocks pinched between the elbows and raised above the head — we finished with a meditative breathing exercise that rendered me refreshed and ready for the next stage.
Or so I thought.
At this point, I had assumed, men and women would go their separate ways. But, oh how naive — how very American of me.
“You don’t have this over there, do you,” Neptunbad manager Cornelius Rheim asked as he handed me my robe. “You can wear this, but not in the sauna.”
I happen to condone coeducational nudity, but I’ll admit, it takes some getting used to. In an effort to ease into the situation, I opted first for the emperor’s bath in the dimly lighted Roman-Irish sauna. Cloaked in candlelight with soft instrumental music piped through underwater speakers, it’s fit for even the most demanding Caesar, the picture of peace and tranquility. Indeed, the only thing that could have roused me from that warm water was news that it was 4 p.m. and, more important, that it was time for my honey wrap followed by a half-hour in the Japanese sauna. The wrap, in which my body was coated in pure honey then swathed in steaming towels, is a divine treatment and good for the skin.
With six different pools of varying temperatures, a garden and a bar, the Neptunbad’s Japanese courtyard, spread out on a spacious slate-floored rooftop and surrounded by teakwood saunas, is a warm-weather treat. I was glad I’d come in early September. The nights were cool, but the days just right for laying out, sipping a Kölsch and thumbing through a menu of massage treatments. If there was a hard part to any of this, I didn’t encounter it. Still, deciding which of the many massages is best for you can be a bit of a challenge. How to know, for instance, whether the strong and intensive ottomanische technique is superior to the hot stone therapy or the Ayurvedic? Such are the quandaries of supreme pampering I faced. But I didn’t face them alone. At the Neptunbad, an expert and very amiable English-speaking staff is always at the ready.
For comparison’s sake, and because Cornelius recommended it, I spent my final day in Cologne at what is in many ways the Neptunbad’s opposite and, depending on your taste, its equal. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Mediterana Spa — a Mediterranean-themed pleasure palace with its own restaurant (robes required), indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, steam rooms and wide green lawn — lacks the convenience of its in-town counterpart, but it makes up for it in the vast expanse of its domain, a veritable campus of comfort.
If the Neptunbad is Old World elegance, the Mediterana is decidedly new, a bright and colorful space with all of the pastel charm of a beach resort. On weekends, it fills up with middle-aged couples and, occasionally, their kids. That can mean long lines for the treatment of your choice. (Nationally recognized masseur Ali Kahraman and his 14-member team are typically in high demand). But the wait is worth it. After all, “waiting” in the sauna or the bath, the steam room or the pool is precisely what the spa experience is all about.
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
Southwest Airlines is adding new flights to, from and within Hawai’i, beginning mid-January 2020. The airline will add a new daily service between Sacramento International Airport and Honolulu (HON), plus new non-stop flights between Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC) and both Kauai (LIH) and the Island of Hawai’i (KOA).
The Luxury Collection welcomes its eighth property in China with the opening of Na Lotus Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nanning. The property is situated in the capital of the Guangxi Province, in a high-rise landmark building in the business district.
TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020, a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.
WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics to determine the best destinations for an upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. The brand’s study found the estimated cost for an American to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is $5,000. Munich boasts a $1.43 billion annual economic impact on Munich. During Oktoberfest, nearly 2 million gallons of beer are consumed and more than 510,000 whole roast chickens eaten.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.