Sunday, November 17, 2013

Berlin's Tropical Island & Getting Naked with Germans

German indoor waterpark resort

We first heard about the Tropical Island south of Berlin driving down to the Spreewald. Like an enormous metallic pimple, it stood out against northern Germany's flat terrain.
What is that?!

Some kind of indoor water resort. I think it may have been where they made zeppelins or something.
Intrigued by this bizarre structure and explanation, I snooped it out online. It is indeed an indoor water park - one of the largest of its kind - and it didn't actually house zeppelins (though that is a persistent rumor).

And it is large at 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and a 107 metres high. That means that it is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty standing up, the Eiffel Tower lying down, or all of Potsdamer Platz including skyscrapers. Damn Tropical Island - you big!

Despite it sounding family-style cheesy, we enjoyed our last water park adventure and a lot of people have made the trek and lived to write about it.

With these assurances, Berlin's impending winter weather and our 4th wedding anniversary looming, we decided to go and turn the sad, frozen expats on the left into Tropical Island pros on the right.

Guide to getting naked in German sauna
 Berlin Ian ebe winter fun

Another deciding factor in our visit was a discount I found online at the Toytown forum. Along with debating the merits of the attraction, someone helpfully submitted a 2-for-1 deal. Thanks expats! 

After confirming the deal by phone, shaving our most socially unacceptable hairy parts and finding our swimsuits - we were off!

Trains run straight from Alexanderplatz to Brand, the closest stop to Tropical Island. From there, a free shuttle bus picks you up and drops visitors off at the campgrounds, outdoor attraction center and finally....

Hello Tropical Island!

German water park

Despite the pics & posts, we still weren't entirely sure what we would find. And after experiencing it, it's still hard to describe the place. It looks a bit like this:

palm trees at indoor water park in Germany

Dome water park Germany

indoor water park in Germany

Indoor German waterpark

flamingos at German water park

Indoor water park in Germany

Practicalities of Visiting Tropical Island

Once you enter the dome, you are immediately enveloped in mildly tropic temperatures. There are copious amounts of skylights which can make "standing in the sun" satisfactory for sun-seekers and supposedly even result in a tan in the summer months. However, Berlin's frigid outside temperature can permeate the dome so bring a cover-up.

Tropical Island Prices:

There are two basic packages available - one for the water park (Tropical World) and one for the saunas. The smart deal is the package that allows you to visit both (and the package you have to chose if you are using the deal).
German water park  
  • Tropical World OR Sauna & Spa Complex - adult 34.50; child* 27.00
  • Kombi-Ticket - adult 39.50; child 27.00
  • Extras - Unfortunately, things like the slides, rides, and balloon rides all cost more money. I hate being nickle & dimed (unlike EuropaPark or Disneyland Paris) so this was irksome. However, with just a one-day visit we actually found there was plenty to do without the extras so maybe it's a draw.
  • Discounts - Note that there are other discounts for students and senors, but the price remains the same throughout the year.
  • Accommodations - There are tents (pictured above), rooms within all of the themed structures and camp spots available. As the ride from Berlin was only about an hour in total, it was easy for us to just go home to the city when we had enough. Overnight Info

*Children under 5 years old are free; Adult prices begin at 14

Tropical Island Wristband

German sauna rules
Tropical Island Wristband

Guard your wristband with your life! Ok - not really, but it is pretty important. The Tropical Island people have figured out that you're more likely to spend money in your swimsuit if you have a credit card strapped to your arm. You can buy food, drinks, extras like the slides & rides and activate your locker with your magical, magnetic wrist band.

I actually lost my wristband when I was being drowned beneath a waterfall and we were dreading having to interact with German customer service reps. However, the information counter surprised us by getting the number from me, making a few calls and immeaditly directing us to a lifeguard. It had been found right next to the pool and turned in! The good of the Germans.

Speaking of lockers, they are actually included in the admission price. And there are a lot of them. Your handy bracelet indicates which locker is yours and once you track it down among the acres of lockers you can use your arm candy to open & close as many times as you like.

Helpful note - look for the numbers at the bottom as it took us ages to figure this out and find our own.

Guide to getting nude at German sauna

Getting Naked in a German Spa

Even though I didn't plan on getting naked, I was aware that the Germans nudity is kinda a thang. Our only other spa experience in Iceland had us securely clothed. But again, this is well-tread blogger territory.
i steam, you steam, we all steam for ice and steam
In general , I love German's ability to strip just about anywhere. They treat the human body as if it were nothing more than what it is: a helpful and sometimes attractive tool to walk the earth. (Versus the American view that our bodies are nasty dirty sin-seekers that must be covered lest we lose our immortal souls AT ALL TIMES.) I may not love walking around nude in unfamiliar situations (hello showing a room full of German patients and doctors my nude bottom-half), but I admire the German stoicism and do my best to mimic it (even when I am dying on the inside).

When we entered the spa complex we had no idea what to do. We tried some weak water foot massages and generally wandered around, still in swimsuits with towels. When we saw our first nude hot tub with a saggy full moon being submerged, we realized what was happening here. Ohhhh! This is the nude area.

We didn't plan on sharing our bodies with others for the first time on our anniversary - we aren't that interesting. But when the opportunity arose to do so with little fanfare, I figured public nudity was a way better gift to ourselves than fruit, flower or appliances.

Going Nude for the First Time at Berlin's Tropical Island

I won't be sharing any nudey pics with you (which I am sure you are thankful for) and this topic has obviously been well-covered, but a little overview with specifics of going nude for the first time at Berlin's Tropical Island.

Germans are serious about the nudity and have SCIENCE (or something) to back it up:
In the heat of the sauna, you need to be able to sweat freely. As the moisture evaporates from your skin, it cools you down – otherwise you would not be able to stand the temperatures of 60-100°C. This means that you need to be naked or just wear a towel. Wearing a bathing costume would be very uncomfortable, as well as unhygienic.

You will look like a weirdo if you try to go in the sauna in a swimsuit. Germans will probably tell you so. If you wanna sauna, buck up cuz you are going to have to get naked.

It is perfectly okay to enter the open-air sauna complex in your suit or wrapped in a towel. There are bathrooms by the main entrance that offer the perfect place to use the restroom, take off your suit, rinse in the showers and store your suit/sandals/etc in the open storage racks. Remember to take your towel to dry off, and it is best to have a separate small towel to sit on. From here, you can walk around nude (although this only seemed to be embraced by the old German guys) or wrap in your towel and go pick the sauna best for you.

Types of Saunas at Tropical Island

There are Native American style cedar sweat lodges to Angkor Wat Temple Stone Sauna to the Guruwari Blossom Steam Bath. After the initial jitters, I found the experience of the steam bath such as the Guruwari Blossom to be extremely pleasant. Each person had their own stone seat and the air was so dense and moist that occasional droplets would fall from the ceiling and give you a cooling chill. Also helpful for the shy, the droplets in the air made it difficult to see from one end to the other so there was a greater degree of privacy.

Another shy sauna tip: You can also note how many shoes are piled outside the door. If you want to start slow, look for the door with the fewest shoes.

Remember to stay hydrated, but try as many as you can. Spa & Sauna offerings:

Entering a German Sauna

Okay - you have your two towels, you've showered and picked your first sauna. Are you excited? You should be excited (but not too excited gentlemen). This is going to be fun. Really!

If you need to rinse off, there are usually showers outside of every sauna. Be brave and hang up your towel on the exterior rack. Shower. You did it! You are now actively being nude in public. Look around - is anyone looking at you? Probably - they are German. But it's no big deal, a passing glance here and there gives you the right to do the same. Check out those wangs! Weird, right?

Now you are clean and can enter the sauna. Get in quickly as no one likes the guy who stands in the door letting the heat escape as they decide whether or not to come in. Once you're closed the door, look around and pick a seat. Remember that seats higher to the ceiling are usually the hottest. It is not cool to sit right next to someone if the sauna is empty, but if the only available seats are next to someone, just sit there.

Before you sit your bare behind, put down your trusty little towel. Though I am dubious about how this actually makes everything more hygienic, just go with it as it makes everyone feel much better. It is expected that you stay for about 15-20 minutes, but stay for as long as you feel comfortable. If you are dying at 10 minutes - get out! Fainting will be a lot more awkward than leaving "early".

Again, different saunas and showers require different after-treatments but in general a bracingly cold shower is the norm for after-treatment. You can also book massages and treatments in advance (additional charges), attempt to fit in the busy hot tubs, or just chill in the many lounge chairs and air dry.

After our foray into the nude, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We allowed our pulses to return to normal, then put our suits back on to indulge in some night swimming.

German water park beach

winter German water park dome

Lately, almost nothing is turning out like I expected. That now includes our plans for this anniversary. But I'd like to think I am getting better at rolling with the punches. I think I am going to be happy to look back and remember that our 4th anniversary was the one where we showed our private parts to a room full of strangers.

Tropical Island Details

Transport Info:
Overnight Info:

Hours: Open 24 hours (charges for overnight stay if you stay past 3:00)
Address: Tropical-Islands-Allee 1, 15910
Phone: 035477 605050

Have you been to the Tropical Island or have advice on getting nude? OR
Go au natural somewhere else in Europe:


I went to a spa again and managed to continue to embarrass myself. Well done me. Full story on 3 Ways I Embarrassed Myself at the German Sauna on the German-Way.


Holly Hollyson @ Full of Beans and Sausages said...

When I went on a horse riding trip in Iceland there were plenty of German and other Europeans who were very happy about being naked!! I just had to embrace it by the end. To begin with, it made me feel very awkward - especially when an elderly german nurse decided to give me a back rub after a full day's ride wearing a very tiny bikini. But you know what - when I got over the shock, it wasn't that weird at all!

Unknown said...

Holly - So jealous you went on a horse riding trip in Iceland! Although the following rub-down does indeed sound awkward.

Tropical Life Style said...

This is what they called a super exciting tropical vacation in Berlin! My friend have been here before and excitingly told us what Berlin made brilliant ideas about summer. Thanks for sharing; I think I have to try first the German Sauna!

Sebastian Chuter

aroundthe said...

I learned that setting down the towel isn't for the sauna customer's protection; it's actually to protect the wood of the sauna (I'm not surprised, I guess). I saw people laying out the towel so that no part of their skin touched the seat/where their feet would go.

Unknown said...

I can completely see that German logic. Thanks for sharing the tip @aroundthe!

Natalia said...

It is totally worth visiting, I am for sure going to tropical Islands next summer..

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008