By Steven Beardsley

Stars and Stripes

We all need an occasional break from the winter doldrums that descend this time of year, when slate-gray skies and low temperatures make for a depressing season, if not seasonal depression.

Where to go without breaking the bank? Americans in the Grafenwöhr, Germany, area have an excellent option in the Weidener Thermenwelt, an oasis of heated pools, saunas and steam baths open to the public and located a mere 20 minutes from post.

Opened in 1992 next to an ice skating rink, the sprawling facility does double-duty as an affordable spa for adults and a large pool area for children and adults.

“It’s a great way to get the kids’ energy out before they go home and crash, and it’s very affordable,” said Roxanne Salazar, who lives in Grafenwöhr and recently visited with her two children, Serena, 3, and Gabriel, 7.

At the center of the Thermenwelt is a pair of pools, one indoor and one outdoor, heated to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Both pools are large — the indoor is 3,500 square feet; the outdoor is more than 2,200 square feet — and relatively shallow at just over 4 feet deep.

Tropical decor and a high, vaulted ceiling with glass panels add light and warmth to the room. Beach chairs line part of the perimeter. A kiddie pool and two hot tubs are nearby, as is a large, enclosed water slide that dumps into the outdoor pool.

During our first visit, on a U.S. holiday, my wife and I found the pool area relaxing and rather quiet. Several American parents swam with children in one corner of the indoor pool as an adult class performed water aerobics in another corner. We found larger crowds during a second visit, on a weekend.

Attractions aimed at adults radiate from the pool area. The most popular is “Sauna World,” a collection of indoor and outdoor saunas ranging in temperature from 140 to 212 F, with varying degrees of humidity. The extreme temperatures of a sauna are intended to increase circulation through moderate exposure. Nearby lounging areas, showers and a pool allow visitors to cool off between sessions.

The squeamish take note: Casual nudity prevails throughout the sauna facilities, although regulars rarely bat an eye. While a few in the sauna may wear bathing suits, they are the exception.

Other options near the central pools include the saltwater grotto, a small, dark room with a noticeably briny taste in the air and supposed health benefits for those fighting sickness; the “salina,” a brighter, somewhat cooler take on the grotto, intended to mimic an ocean climate; and the nearby steam bath, with its 100 percent humidity.

For those interested in more pampering, the Thermenwelt’s Wellness Oasis offers massages and scented baths at various prices, for both individuals and couples. Among the offerings are chocolate massages and beer baths.

Other attractions include a tanning bed, sun lamps, a diving pool and swimming lanes. During one of our visits, I was fighting a cold that I hoped to keep from moving to my chest. Maybe it was the saltwater grotto, maybe the steam bath or maybe the cough expectorant I began taking that day, but I felt better after our visit.

Thermal pools and saunas are common in cities of Weiden’s size, including Amberg, also near the Grafenwöhr post. Wherever one goes, the rules are likely the same — bring a towel and some flip-flops and set aside reservations about casual nudity.

Those who can do so will likely emerge feeling refreshed and not that much lighter in the wallet. That’s a pretty good answer to an otherwise crummy time of year.


Address: Raiffeisenstraße 7, 92637 Weiden.

From Grafenwöhr, take B470 into Weiden and take a left at Nikolaistrasse. Follow Nikolaistrasse about three-quarters of a mile before coming to Thermenwelt on the left.

From Vilseck, take highway 2166 (Staatsstrasse 2166) out to B299, turn left and then take the next major right to get back onto St. 2166 toward Weiden. Take this road into Weiden, until it ends at Bahnhofstrasse. Take a left onto Bahnhofstrasse, which turns into Nikolaistrasse, and follow until you reach Thermenwelt (about a mile).


Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Last entry on each day is 45 minutes before closing time. Pools close 15 minutes before closing time.


1½ hours: 3.50 euros for adults, 2 euros for children; 3 hours: 5.50 euros for adults, 3 for children; 5 hours: 7.50 euros for adults, 4 for children; all-day pass: 9 euros for adults; 5 for children. Sauna World is fixed at 3.60 euros for adults and 2.30 for children. Prices at the Wellness Oasis vary according to the treatment.

Changing rooms are widely available, and locker use is included in the admission price.


A bistro is open daily offering food and beverages, including beer.


Consult the Thermenwelt’s excellent website, An English option is available.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now