Spa Check: Watzmann Therme Berchtesgaden
It is a gloomy day. The clouds have been distributing snow and rain alternating over the past few days, the tops of the mountains can only be guessed from way below in the valley.
Cold wind rushes around corners and I pull my woollen hat further down. This is no day one wishes to be out and about, so what better plan than hitting the hot springs?
The white gold of Berchtesgaden
I am headed to the town of Berchtesgaden, located about 30 km from Salzburg/Austria and about 180 km from Munich/Germany, that was first mentioned in historical notes from 12th century because of its rich salt deposits. Much of the town’s wealth has been gained from salt mines, which started operations in early 16th century.
And it is exactly this ‘white gold’ I am after today!
Carla Tinagli explains the benefits of salt in external use in her article ‘Salt as a treatment and source of well-being’.
The Watzmann Therme has its name from the famous mountainous mass Watzmann in the Bavarian Alps (very well know in the rock climbing scene), just south of the famous town Berchtesgaden. The Watzmann lies in the Berchtesgaden National Parc and is the third highest mountain in Germany with its middle peak reaching 2.713 m.
My ‘salt lake’ day
At the hot springs Watzmann Therme I have booked the half day package “salt lake day” which includes access to all areas in this thermal spa as well as a massage and salt body scrub treatments.
My first impression: this place is very busy!
It is a regular school / work day in the middle of the week around midday, and I have to queue for check in. Not only because big groups of children seem to be leaving the facility and each paying their few Euros individually, but also because check in and check out are performed by the same cashier, which causes counter traffic. Not an ideal process.
I am eventually checked in (payment upfront), however miss a very friendly attitude. I am not asked if I have visited the facility before, am not provided with a floor plan or any other information other than that I have to report to the Sauna Bar a couple of minutes prior to my treatment appointment (which I had made the day before by email).
I am provided with two pretty new and large white towels, a nice bathrobe, and the cheapest disposable frottee slippers I have ever seen (they got soaking wet within a few minutes of walking around the pool areas and were torn shortly after… so best to bring your own flip-flops!).
A wristband serves me as locker key and cashless payment option throughout my visit.
I first familiarise myself by walking around and inspecting all areas: there is a dedicated area for small children, a very nice lap pool for more serious swimmers, a large indoor pool with water features, a smaller and round indoor pool with massage jets, and a small outdoor pool with water features such as fountains, underwater massage jets, jaccuzzi lounger etc., relax areas, and the nude area with a variety of Sauna rooms.
Social life Bavarian style
What catches the attention right away when entering the Sauna (nude) area is the spacious bar area that serves as central socialising point. I see two female friends having a chat over a coffee, a couple enjoying a salad for lunch, a family with children having a refreshing drink, individuals reading a newspaper…
There is a variety of indoor and outdoor heat experiences, with a schedule for infusions provided by a Sauna master; and a cold outdoor plunge pool. The handful of relax beds positioned along the big panorama window are unfortunately not nearly enough to accommodate all visitors. You have certainly heard of this unpleasant habit of us Germans, reserving their sun beds with a towel all day…
All in all, this is a lively and busy area, which people happily chatting away and enjoying their day in the spa.
At the agreed time, I am being picked up by my therapist who escorts me to the only and large treatment cubicle. I am provided with the massage first, followed by the honey and salt scrub. Reason for this order being the lack of a shower in the treatment cubicle.
My therapist is technically skilled, has good knowledge of anatomy and applies good pressure. She uses a variety of techniques for the massage, which I find quiet enjoyable.
I am rather disappointed about the salt scrub though. The product (self made) is very gooey and sticky, a proper ‘scrub’ is not possible. My therapist has to apply pressure and some force to spread the product over my skin. She leaves out areas that could potentially benefit most from the scrub: hands and feet, elbows and knees…
Although friendly and trying to make conversation, my therapist has little soft skills, she unfortunately seems to not have been well trained in customer service.
I enjoyed swimming in all of the pools. I was surprised that the big hall where the largest indoor pool, the restaurant and other facilities are located, did not have the unpleasant noise level that one typically finds in these kind of places. I particularly cherished the fact, that there were plenty of water features such as underwater jets ( my favourite!!!) available, no fighting for access.
what I did not need:
- not enough sun/relax chairs
- no quiet room in the Sauna/nude area
- children are allowed in the Sauna/nude area
- the restaurant right beside the indoor pool
- I visited in winter, and can hence not talk from own experience about the outdoor areas, however it looked to me that there was little space for spreading one’s towel in the sun on the grass…
what made my day:
- plenty of underwater massage jet outlets and other features
- water quality
- lap pool for serious swimming
- cleanliness and presence of spa attendants
- 4 different salt-themed hot rooms in the (textile) pool area
- price packages and offers, value for money
My overall impression of the Watzmann Therme Berchtesgaden: lively and low budget, ideal for families!