So here’s the thing…
Some things in life are intended to evoke pleasure and relaxation. Vacation for example! Or maybe a day trip to the spa. Or as naturists love to preach, “What’s more amazing than shedding your clothes and all the stress that goes with them by taking a nakation?”
Right with you there, naked friends, but I gotta say… even for a seasoned naturist, baring it all for the first time in a new environment can be anything but relaxing. What if I walk into the wrong changing room? Am I allowed to be naked here… or there? And what do all those red signs in a foreign language say?… Take off your flip flops? Put on your flip flops? Flip flops will get you expelled from the premises?
Amidst random, but persuasive, bouts of total relaxation, this would pretty much summarize my first (but certainly not my last) visit to Thermen Bussloo on the outskirts of Amsterdam. I first learned about the place from our naturist friend Addie (See: Dating for Naturists or Naked in a Rainstorm) who put this on my “you gotta see this place” bucket list after her stay in Amsterdam last summer. Knowing that Addie has a deep affinity for the Therme Erding chain in Germany, I assumed that if she said this place was spectacular, it must be spectacular. And naked! It was both!
I should note, at least for the sake of those unfamiliar with the European spa culture, that there is quite a wide variance in the opinion as what defines a proper and refined spa experience. Some reviewers are appalled by the “mega-spa” places like Therme Erding (You can read my opinions about Erding and a few other places here.) and much prefer the historic edifices where architecture and calmness override amenities and entertainment. To that end, it seems Thermen Bussloo lies somewhere on the middle of the spectrum, as there is no swim-up bar or evening entertainment (that I know of), but the amenities are plentiful and interesting. And is it just me, or are spa-goers in Holland simply more comfortable with naked? But more about that later.
A QUICK GUIDE TO ENCOURAGE A NEWBIE TO GET NAKED AT THERMEN BUSSLOO
First of all, I speak a little German, a bit more French, a few words of Spanish, but absolutely NO Dutch whatsoever! I can’t figure out the vowels or the consonants, whether reading it in a menu or listening to people speak it. Which is generally OK as most everyone from the Netherlands speaks nearly perfect English, including most of the employees at Bussloo Therme. So riddle me this? They only have maps, facility guides, and dining menus printed in Dutch. (There is a German version of the map, which saved the day for me!) All signage is in Dutch. All schedules are in Dutch. Thankfully, the Dutch words for “burger” and “club sandwich” happen to be burger and club sandwich. And of course, I’ve grown accustomed to using that cool app on my iPhone where you hover over text you can’t understand and it translates it into English right there on your phone. That would work here, if you were allowed to use your phone anyplace outside of reception. That makes sense. Lots of naked people around. Put your phones away! From what I could tell, there was 100% compliance with the no device rule, quite unlike some other places we’ve visited, so I would say “don’t even think about it.”
All that said, my friend Addie remarked, “I liked Bussloo since there didn’t seem to be so many implicit rules, especially about where or where you could or could not be naked.” Totally agree on that point, which we have observed at other Dutch spas like Elysium near Rotterdam and Sauna von Egmond in Haarlem. As opposed to Vabali in Düsseldorf or Berlin where there is a (somewhat) clear (but implicit) expectation that once you step out of the water, you’re going to immediately wrap yourself in a towel or bathrobe, this seems not to be the case in Holland. Even in the dead of winter when the weather was near freezing outside, the locals at Bussloo seemed quite happy to wander about the grounds completely naked. Addie tells me that in the summer, the sweet spot is one of the numerous wooden lounge-chairs out in the gardens, where the wait staff will serve food and beverages right to your seat, and as many as not are completely naked. (Clients, not servers, that is.) That makes sense to me.
I might mention that it’s something of a complicated task to blog about Europe’s naked spa culture, as for obvious reasons, I can’t provide my own images from the experience, (And we all know – Images make the blog post!) but everything you can find on line is delightfully crafted to avoid censorship. On that point, I saw exactly ZERO humans wrapping themselves in towels while sweating in the saunas, and as mentioned above, not much concern about covering up while moving about the facility, except in the lounge and the restaurant where there was a clear expectation that you will wear a robe.
A few more tips for your first visit to Bussloo? Here you go…
- They issued me a bracelet at check-in, along with a towel and bathrobe (upon my request) but didn’t even bother to swipe a credit card or take a deposit. “You pay on your way out!” Like most of these establishments, I was able to use the wristband to unlock my locker and pay for anything I needed during my stay. I wondered what would prevent me from just getting dressed and walking out the door at the end of my stay, until they handed me a very specific coin at check-out that would open the gate to the parking lot so I could get out with my car. Clever! Not sure what they do to keep public transportation people honest, but it must not be a problem.
- On that topic, I was only in Amsterdam for a day on a long airport layover. When I worked out the navigation on buses and trains, it was going to be more than two hours from the airport to Bussloo in each direction, so I gave up on that and rented a car. Well worth it as I had little margin to deal with a missed connection. If you’re actually staying a few days in Amsterdam, you can purchase a system-wide transportation ticket for about twenty euros that will get you there and back on trains and buses.
- Once you check in, the changing area is coed (with gender specific toilets). I arrived early, and it was essentially me and a few (partially naked) women. That made me a bit wary as I wasn’t sure if I was in the proper changing room, but it turned out I was in the right place. Later in the day, the changing room was quite crowded with an expected gender mix, all completely oblivious to the various stages of nudity around them.
- Again… all signage is in Dutch, including those warning signs I mentioned that I think were trying to tell me not to slip on the ice or the slippery floor. It’s one of the few places I’ve ever been, including Japan, where at least the most critical signage was not multi-lingual. Not complaining – just thought you should know.
- Unlike most German spas, you are NOT allowed to bring in your day-pack or any other small bag with your day’s provisions. In fact, they give you a smallish semi-transparent plastic bag at check-in for the things you want to keep with you. This always make me nervous when I have a rented towel, a rented bathrobe, and a plastic bag that looks exactly like everybody else’s stuff. You simply have to pay close attention as to where you leave your stuff as you wander about the facility or you’ll never find it again. (I once had to purchase a robe that I misplaced/was taken by mistake at a German spa. Not a good end to the evening.) Bring an empty water bottle with you, as there are plenty of places to fill it during the day, but that’s not so helpful if you didn’t actually bring one.
- On the less pragmatic side, you want to make sure you have allotted enough time to really enjoy the place. The crown attractions seem to be the Hammam pool, the Geyser Sauna, and the salt-water cenote, where you float on your back with ears submerged while Zen music resonates through the water. Absolutely magical! I was also fond of the rest area in the Kelohouse with warmed tiled loungers. Perfect for an early afternoon nap. (Tested and approved!)
- It’s worth noting that there is a hotel connected to the spa. It looks lovely, but I was only there for a day visit. It’s a solid hour by car from central Amsterdam, so it’s not a place to stay if you’re up for sight-seeing, but it looked like they have a clear flight-path set up that would allow you to enjoy the spa without ever putting on real clothing for the duration of your stay. I’m eager to test that theory out.
Final verdict? Addie was right! If you’re looking for a naked escape that is essentially weather-proof from the variable climate of northern Europe, Thermen Bussloo should be on your short list. In fact, I’ve added it to my port of entry destination list – as I think the best way to start any European vacation is with a day of snoozing, soaking, and sweating at the spa. Berlin and Munich have always been good options given their proximity to Vabali and Therme Erding, respectively. I’m most certainly adding Amsterdam and Bussloo to the list.
Images for this post were found by Google search and are believed to be in the public domain. If you find an image that requires attribution, or should be removed, please advise accordingly and I will do so at once.