Taking the cure….Taking the Waters….Taking time for Ones self….Taking it easy….Taking 10. These are all euphemisms and turns of phrases for what this Puss Cat did over the Christmas holiday. I checked out, checked my 3 bags (in business class one can take 3 and not just 2!) and checked myself in for a short and much needed “cure” at the fabled sanitarium in Baden Baden, Germany. This kitten was sufficiently cooked to well done on both sides that it was time for some serious care. If it came from the attentions of a licensed member of the medical community or was as simple as a few forced dunks in an ice-cold thermal bath, then so be it.
Baden Baden, a lovely historic city in southern central Germany is the home of a fabled spa. The thermal baths and mineral rich waters are the main attraction. It was the destination of many of Europe’s aristocracy and plenty of American social climbers at the turn of the century. If you need to know more, then Google it. I’m not here to educate but to elucidate. Suffice it to say it’s a rest stop on life’s highway. I needed a rest so I pulled over.
The curative properties of natures’ thermal pools are something out of science fiction. Arriving like a cat in a sack: all claws born out one moment were eventually withdrawn the next. The spa was nothing but beauty, comfort, quiet restraint and a delightful regimen of exercise. Delicious breakfasts, lots of hot cups of mineral water and forced marches through glorious woods was the order of most days. Massages, plenty of moisturizing and non- stop napping brought me back from the precipice. Some unconventional therapies were offered of which I hungrily partook: Pilates: fabulous for regaining core strength, yoga which put the yin back in my yang and Chanting. I could swear we were all droning,”OBAMA OBAMA OBAMA” but I was so blissed out I couldn’t say for sure.
The activity that was most restorative, relaxing, and addictive was the sauna. This was no steam bath a la Jack La Lane, New York Sports Cub or even that pretentious steamy den of iniquity at the University Club. This was a world-class sauna complete with a conductor! Everyone, both men and women,(NAKED) sat together on tiered wooden benches as the maestro worked his magic. He carried a wooden bucket with a liquid called Acacia, of which he poured copious amounts onto the piping hot rocks. This liquid produced a steam similar to the scent of eucalyptus. Similar, I say but very different. This was like a gas that was simultaneously pore opening, sinus searing, and brain numbing BLISS. One felt as though one was being turned inside out. It produced such heat and an atmosphere of menthol that you just felt unable to put up any resistance. Next thing I knew the conductor starts swing a wet towel in a circular motion over his head, which gets the air whipping around and around. At this point he’s yelling “Jawohl”(YA-VOLL) and the hot air, now moving around the room like a tornado, made me feel like I was going to incinerate. Everyone starts moaning, screaming and gasping, but he doesn’t stop. This Kitten was howling and praying, but twas such sweet torture I dared not ask for emergency assistance. When he finished we all clapped and cheered. This was by far the most incredible CPR for the body and soul.
Now the men and women naked together in the sauna and hot thermal pools thing was NOT something I was prepared for. The dressing area was my first hint that something was amiss, but I just played along and tried to avert my eyes. Luscious robes and comfortable slippers were all we were given. Little did I know that this was a co-ed experience. It was a bit disconcerting to be honest. I’m not used to sitting with nowhere to look but at some woman’s unclothed body or vice versa. It didn’t help that I was “different” from everyone there: an oddity, the only minority. Some people enjoy being stared at. They find it food for the ego. I don’t. It makes me feel like I did growing up. Other children pointing or teasing me or talking about me so that I could hear. This was purely a case of being considered exotic but it took some getting used to. I must admit that some pleasure was gleaned from being an object of curiosity. It gave me the chance to ogle some rather extraordinary specimens . This mixing of the sexes was also important to the overall experience. It was a humanizing setting where everyone was on equal footing. Politeness, mutual respect and a focus on doing good things for ones body created an environment for healing.
The days flew by and so went many of my cares. In the final hours of my stay I started to get that feeling of anxiety and fear that filled my bags coming over. The thought of New York, the business, the Fall Collections just around the corner…all these thoughts started to take the place of my feelings of refreshment and renewal. It seemed like a dream and a waste to so quickly forget this little rest; this kleine pause. I can see the real work ahead is to live in the moment. There is no changing what is without, only what’s within. That alone is a herculean task, but one I’m ready to tackle today.
Tomorrow is just that…. tomorrow.
On the Street…The Fortezza, Florence
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