Magazine article The Spectator

Spa'd for Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Spa'd for Life

Article excerpt

It's not often that you come across a living god while hovering outside your hotel idly wondering -- why the red carpet? But there we were, on the steps of the historic Nassauer Hof, Wiesbaden when, sirens blaring, a convoy of people-carriers with blacked-out windows swept up. It was led by armed police motorcyclists, and followed by an ominous, anonymous black truck -- the mobile surgery which is always there in case the great and good are gunned down or blown up during an official visit.

Out shuffled His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on a full-blown tour of Germany.

(The highlight was -- to the fury of the Chinese dictatorship -- to be an official visit to Chancellor Merkel. ) Surprisingly, perhaps, the Dalai Lama is a regular guest at the luxury hotel. He beamed round vaguely through thick glasses, and stopped to bless a small group of German followers. Then he stroked and, I presume, bestowed his blessing upon a very small white dog. I considered reminding him that we had met, albeit briefly, a quarter of a century ago, at his modest and mildly chaotic Himalayan residence in Dharamsala, north India. Instead I noted that -- in addition to his robes, of course -- he sported rather scruffy, ill-polished brown shoes, and wellworn red socks which drooped over his ankles. Beijing sneeringly describes him as 'Gucci-shoed'.

More 'Just William' style, I'd say.

He smiled in my direction and brought his hands together to make the Namaste, so I, too, consider myself blessed.

Many other important visitors have stayed at the Nassauer, because it was built to allow our betters access to curative waters discovered by the Romans.

Modernised, it boasts an Estée Lauder spa, and a roof terrace with a swimming-pool filled with thick, warm, slightly sulpherous water from the hotel's own spring. Within walking distance are massive bathing complexes, including the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme. A batty architectural wonder, it stands on Roman remains, and contains assorted Roman, Turkish and Swedish pools and saunas. Then there is a contemporary centre where you can besport yourself stark naked. And don't miss the stunning Bauhaus-style open-air swimming-pool -- the Opelbad, opened in 1934 -- on top of the nearby Neroberg mountain (take the 100-year-old cable car). Throughout the city we found steaming ornamental fountains, and bubbling Roman wells at which you can help yourself to cups of what looks and tastes like hot, dirty bath water. …

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