**For reasons that will become apparent below, I did not take any pictures in the Liquidrom spa. I have found some YouTube videos to make up for this. To be clear: neither of them are mine.**
After a hectic week attending the ITB travel show in Berlin, I decided to have a relaxing Saturday morning. Nothing chills me out more than a few hours at a spa. I did a bit of research, asked around and Liquidrom seemed to be one of the first suggestions on everyone’s lips. I checked out the website, which has a really cool vibe, and decided to go for it.
I got up early to get there as close to opening time as possible and I’m glad I did. Getting there just after the spa opens means you enjoy the facilities – two pools (one indoors and one outdoors), a plunge pool, three saunas and a steam room – with a handful of other people. It really does feel like a treat when you have a whole sauna pretty much to yourself! As I entered the building, I was greeted by a lady who patiently listened as I explained in German that I wanted a four-hour session and I needed to rent everything. (There wasn’t enough room in my suitcase for a bathrobe or sauna towels, you see, and I couldn’t even steal the former from my hotel as I was staying in a rather basic establishment.) She handed me a chip and explained that the Liquidrom sauna is cashless, you use this chip to “pay” for any food or drink consumed within the spa facilities and settle your bill on the way out. Once in the changing room, you slot the chip into a locker key. You can then strap the cumbersome key strap around your wrist or tuck it away in your bath robe pocket.
After showering before entering the facilities (a prerequisite for hygienic reasons), I decided to place my towel in one of the many cubby holes and explore my surroundings. After getting my bearings, I decided to start my experience with a trip to the pool. Stepping into the warm salt-water pool was pure bliss. I felt the weight lifting from my shoulders even before I was fully immersed. The point of this pool is not to swim lengths or get exercise, it’s to grab a couple of foam noodles and float weightlessly. Just close your eyes, lean back and listen to the soothing music or relax and watch the calming lights.
Emerging from the pool, I decided to check out the saunas. My first choice was the Kelo panorama sauna, from which you could see the bar, outdoor pool and other facilities. I noticed the sign saying “Lay towels underneath you, no sweat on wood” and quickly dashed back to get mine. I made myself comfortable and started to relax. After a few minutes, I heard footsteps coming towards me. I wondered whether somebody was coming to join me and secretly hoped that they weren’t. How wrong I was with that assumption! The man turned out to be a member of staff who came to politely inform me, in German, that bikinis aren’t allowed in the sauna, subtly pointing to the oh-so-obvious-once-it’s-pointed-out “No swimwear” signs that adorn every sauna and steam room door. I had clearly missed this glaring instruction and I would have to use another towel if I wanted to cover my modesty. Having spent a lot of time in Germany throughout the years, I knew that the Germans love to enjoy their saunas in the buff – swimwear is apparently unhygienic as bikinis and trunks are great at collecting sweat – but there is no explicit mention of this on the Liquidrom website. It did suddenly dawn on me, though, that this may be the reason why the website lacks pictures of the saunas.
This slight setback didn’t put me off, even if I did find myself loaded like a carthorse at times, with two sauna towels, a bathrobe and slippers to lug around every time I fancied a change of scenery. In my continued exploration of the saunas, I managed to end up in the Finnish sauna just before 10am, ready for the first infusion of the day. Have you ever experienced an infusion in a sauna? I hadn’t… until now. The man opened the door wide, rolled up a towel and started swinging it like a fan to waft cool air into the wooden room. He then walked around the sauna swinging the towel in the same fan-like motion above his head. After closing the door, he explained the procedure in soothing tones: three rounds of infusions where he pours scented water over hot coals. After each round he’ll come around with the towel, not just swinging it above our heads but sharply wafting it in our faces. After this, we were advised to go outside and take in plenty of oxygen, drink lots of water and take a dip in the ice-cold plunge pool. This infusion was a fruity one, and if I understood correctly it was a mixture of mandarin and grapefruit. It smelled divine, but it got hot in there. I noticed the heat rising as we were listening to our instructions and the temperature rose further with every douse of water on the hot coals. If you get too hot, you have two choices: sit on a lower level or leave. After the second round, I bumped myself down to the lower bench and just about managed to make it through, despite the entire bucket of water being dumped on the coals in the last round!
After the infusion, I grabbed my bath robe and swiftly headed outside. My heart was pounding and it took a good 10 minutes to recover, but I loved the experience. As my heart rate returned to normal, I remembered that the man recommended a dip in the plunge pool. Boy is it cold in there! I was way too chicken to jump in, gingerly making my way down the steps and forcing myself to momentarily dip my head underwater. I then made my way to the bar, which was deserted. “Strange,” I thought to myself, “how are we supposed to keep hydrated if there’s nowhere to get water?” I clearly wasn’t alone in this thought and I spied other people milling around the bar, clearly looking out for an available member of staff.
I then stopped off in the only sauna I had left to explore, the Himalaya salt sauna, which wasn’t nearly as hot as the other two, and then had another session drifting in the pool, careful to stay out of the way of all of the loved-up couples who had appeared out of nowhere. I was suddenly aware of my rumbling stomach and decided to grab a bite to eat, hoping to actually spot a member of staff at the bar this time. Liquidrom offer a range of bagels and other light snacks at fairly decent prices. I opted for the avocado bagel and a tea and placed my order. Note that when you order food and drink, you hand over your key strap with the chip pre-inserted. Don’t try and unhook the chip like I did. My order was prepared pretty promptly and I plopped myself down on one of the loungers to tuck in.
It was now nearing 12 o’clock and it was time for another infusion. This time it was a meditative session called the “singing bowl treatment”. It was very similar to the three-round set-up of the morning infusion, but this time the infusion was minty and we were sworn to silence during the session. This automatically put me on edge, even though I didn’t mutter a word in the last infusion, and I started to feel a giggle coming on. Especially at the end of each round, when the man walked around the sauna, serious expression on his face, sounding a gong over and over. I underestimated how much the first infusion took it out of me and didn’t make it to the end of this one.
I headed outside to catch my breath and slow my heart rate and was suddenly aware of the time. I had booked four hours and my time was almost up. I didn’t want to suddenly feel stressed about being charged extra, so I decided to slowly make my way back to the changing rooms. Spotting a member of staff on my way out, I asked what to do with my rented garb. “Put it in the brown bins in reception, you can’t miss them.” As I headed out into reception to settle my bill and leave, I went to the industrial-sized brown bins and dumped my stuff in there. Big. Mistake. The receptionist demanded that I fish everything out, which was impossible as I was too short to lean over and pick everything out. In my absent-mindedness, I tossed my slippers in as well. Apparently this was completely wrong due to hygiene reasons, and I should have either kept them or thrown them out. It was at this point that I noticed the dwarf of a plastic general-waste bin hiding away next to the giant brown towel bin. Oops! After settling my bill, I left slightly rattled by the scary receptionist but a darn sight more chilled than when I went in.
Liquidrom is definitely worth a visit if you’re a spa lover in Berlin. Just bear in mind the hygienic aspects or risk making a faux pas, as I did on several occasions!
Have you been to Liquidrom before? Did you have a different experience than me? Leave a comment below!