Last month I made a trip to meet one of my old friends in Cologne (Köln) Germany. Now, most of my friends think that Germany is very boring and why would anyone go anywhere near that place, but fpr some twisted reason I like it. There are cheap flights from Tampere, Finland (Ryanair) year round, to Bremen and Frankfurt Hahn. We took the inexpensive ones to Hahn and then we had to suffer from the almost 3 hours bus trip to Cologne, but that went well. Except it was Friday night and there was very noisy teenagers on the same bus. Very drunk ones as well.
The local transportation (tram, bus, train) in German towns and around regions is efficient and cheap, the most you´ll get from it when you can buy a group ticket for 4 (a 24 hours ticket) and it costs the same as for one person in Finland! Great value for family travel, yet another thing why to choose Germany.
This time I mostly enjoyed the spring breakfast on balcony in +20 degrees and of course my traditional trip to German sauna but disliked again the nearly non existing Wi-fi.
The lack of wi-fi can be a huge problem or disadvantage to a person who is traveling in Germany. The reason why, it is so difficult to find, is the law issues. In Germany the law is kind of strict and my friend explained it like this; " If your car, for example, is stolen in Germany, you yourself will get the penalty because you made it available to be stolen. So, it is your own fault." According to this, if I was to put up a free wi-fi zone somewhere in Germany, I did not really want the change to get arrested just because someone used my internet connection to do some illegal stuff... So, here we go. Since I come from Finland and I an spoiled with fast wi-fi almost everywhere, this can be a downer. The best suggestion I have, is to have a smart phone/tablet and get a prepaid SIM-card for the data traffic. There are other ways though, and after some time in the internet, the best page to help was this http://www.hotspot-locations.com/ I am not sure how updated the list was and there was not a map (Found one map of Hotspots from Hamburg!), and since I did not test it on our way, I am not sure how well it will serve a person who is in need of Wi-fi, but it is worth trying anyways, and it gives more places than the normal McDonalds or Starbucks. In this search you have to give the German name of the city, as Köln instead or Cologne, and if you do not have "Umlaut", try Koeln. One disadvantage is also, that the internet tends to be quite slow (compared to Finland anyway). Be patient!
~ ~ ~
The German sauna experience is a little different from the one you get back in Finland. The saunas are more like a spa; a wellness oasis where you enter with books and fluffy bath robes to spend longer time. There are lots of activities to choose from. From massages to refreshments (restaurants and cafes) and sauna shows to swimming and gym. You will get a wristband from the counter and you will pay when exit, based on what you have consumed during the hours and by the hours you spend in the spa. The treatments need to be reserved beforehand. There are some sauna places where you need to be a member to get in, but also free ones. In Cologne I have visited 2, Neptun Bad (for several times actually, an it is a very nice quiet one with a big sauna area) and Claudius Therme (more commercial, but also nice with bigger swimming area than the previous). When I go to Berlin for the next time, I definitely want to go to Tropical Islands!
For a Finn there is a thrill. First, you are not allowed to enter the sauna area with your swimsuit on. My first time was a shock, I admit, but soon I got used to nudes around me (Trivia! Former East Germany had a big nudist scene) and today it is less and less an issue. Of course, if you are a very conservative person or from a "double standard"- country or might find this discusting, I would suggest you do not go, or at least you could stay on the area (in some places the swim area is like this, only "Sauna Bereich" is nude) with swimsuits can be used to avoid seeing tits and penises. The sauna in Germany is not anything like a sex or porn scene even though you have to go there nude. It is a casual place, where people wander around with towels and bath robes on, but take them off when going to a pool or sit on towels in sauna.
In Neptun Bad the whole pool and sauna area is nude appearance only. The saunas are spread in several places around the building. There is a Turkish steam bath with small pool and a underwater music pool where you can float your ears under the water. Then there is a tranquil Japanese influenced sauna area outside on the roof of the building with pools and different saunas to choose from and a zen-garden where you can rest in between, read a book or to sip a cup of tea.
There are sauna shows or "sauna rituals"almost every hour! In the shows a sauna-host (Bademeister) will show how to behave (yes!) and is the only one who is allowed to put water on the stove. Therefore the saunas I have tried are mainly quite dry and the experience is not very "traditional", even though there are "Finnish Saunas" as well. During the shows the temperature in the sauna is raised and the host is moving the hot air with a towel (...crazy, I know) and people are let outside for fresh up in between. There is normally salt, sugar or honey available to scrub your skin inside the sauna and a bucket of ice outside for cooling down. Some saunas have aromatic smell inside. The showers are also outside and the floor of the saunas gets VERY hot, it is a good idea to bring flip-flops. On this page I found something similar, but more in detail; http://www.visitsauna.fi/en/sauna/sauna-culture/visiting-a-german-sauna
~ ~ ~
Because this blog is also about diving, I have to make a short note on that too. I have never been diving in Germany, but I want to, just this time I did not have time and gear with me. There is one interesting place in Germany Ruhr-area in Duisburg, north from Köln. For those who does not know, Ruhr-area is a huge industrial area in Germany where several industrial towns and cities have spread out to form a metropolitan area for more than five million inhabitants and there is no countryside between the cities, just one big industrial region.
photo © J. Dickmann - lights © Jonathan Park
The old gasometer has been transformed to a diving facility with gear rentals, showers and cafe. The gasometer is filled with water and there are several attractions as well as permanent lighting inside the gas tank. I am highly interested to know more about this place, and if you go, please send me a note! the diving operator is Tauch Revier and unfortunately (as Germany is not very English speaking) the pages are only in German. For people, who are interested (note, info from May 2013) , the opening hours depend on the season. Tuesday is closed and there are diving courses on every weekday during 12-18.00. Weekends are free for diving, but you have to make a reservation first. Price for a certified diver is 26€ per day, and you can dive whole day. Shower and dressing room is included in the price. Gear rental is 38€ per day for full equipment. The water temperature also depends on the season, winter +7 to summer +26 degrees of celsius. Under the contact infromation, and if you are nearby in a business trip for example, go there!
Auf dem Besucherparkplatz des Landschaftsparks
Telefon: +49 203 4105353
Telefon: +49 203 4105353
Telefax: +49 203 4105835