Toskana Thermal Springs Temple

Toskana ThermeAn architectural masterpiece completed just in time for the millennium, the Toskana Therme takes spa-going to new heights. Located in an old spa town near Weimar, the complex includes the Hotel an der Therme, a wellness clinic, and a training school for spa therapists. Both a day spa and a destination spa, this high-tech therme makes taking the waters a unique experience.

Star Trek comes to mind as you approach the domed Toskana Therme. Spanning an entire hillside, the glass-walled structure is a work of art that combines water therapies with music and underwater sound. With six interconnected pools, the main hall is flooded with light, colors, and music. At night, it turns into an aquatic opera house, with dance and band concerts. The audience often gets into the act, floating along rivers of light to the bottom-level swimming pool.

Set amid verdant hills of Thuringia, an area often called the Tuscany of the East, Bad Sulza has been a healing center for more than a century. The saline waters rise from an ancient seabed at 92 degrees Fahrenheit (32-34 degrees Celsius) right under Toskana Therme, constantly circulating fresh, warm mineral water in the pools and baths. Spa-goers can arrange treatments or simply relax. There are saunas, some with panoramic views, and lounges on balconies overlook the pools. Massages and beauty and kur treatments are available in a wellness center staffed by professionals. Meals and snacks are available on the garden level, where Ristorante il Toskana provides pasta inspired by the chef’s homeland.

Orchestrating the various elements of this extraordinary new pleasure palace is a husband-wife team, Klaus Boehm and Marion Schneider. Their arts events turned Bad Sulza from a sleepy East German backwater into a center for integrative art. Close to the fountainhead of German modern design, the original Bauhaus University in Weimar, the area, with its nature-oriented buildings and festivals, attracts lovers of the avant-garde. Performances in the new Toskana Therme have included a water ballet and live concerts of electronic music as well as works by Bach and Handel’s Water Music.

The ultimate experience comes in the domed Liquid Sound Temple. Multimedia artist Micky Reimann worked with the architects on an integrated system of underwater sound and projected images that fill the dome. A session of aqua wellness in the hands of a trained therapist leaves you floating in a sea of color, your body gently moving and vibrating to the rhythms of underwater music. Special evenings are devoted to both live and electronic concerts.

The three-day relaxation program includes accommodations at Hotel an der Therme, a holdover from the days when Bad Sulza served the medical needs of the East German government. This is without a doubt a wellness water-park for the twenty-first century.

Accommodations: Eighty modern rooms with private bath in Hotel an der Therme have direct access to the spa. Simply furnished, rooms are air-conditioned, have woodland view. Some are equipped for people who are physically challenged; some have four beds. All with TV, phone. Some two bedroom apartments; sixty room annex.

Meals: The spa cafeteria features Italian specialties from Tuscany, pasta, pizza, and veal. Hotel guests are served breakfast and dinner in a private dining room. Produce from organic farms is used for vegetarian dishes. Seasonal specialties include venison, fish, and modified regional specialties that are low in fat, salt, and sugar.

Facilities: Thermal water pools (four indoor, two outdoor), hydrotherapy baths, fango, foot- and armbaths, exercise studio, saunas, steam bath, medical clinic, and beauty salon.

Services & Special Programs: Aqua Wellness (floating water movement and massage); Liquid Sound sessions. Massages, body wrap, mud packs, Kneipp herbal and water therapies; medical consultation. Stress management kur.

Best Spa Package: Health & Happiness, includes classic fifty-minute massage, fango mud pack, foot reflexology ($90). Available only with three-night stay at Hotel an der Therme.

Getting There: From Frankfurt, by car on Autobahn A-4 to Apolda exit, Route B-87 to Bad Suiza turnoff (three hours). From Berlin by train (three hours) via Naumberg.

What’s Nearby: Weimar (Goethe house, Bauhaus University), Dresden , Nuremberg, Hanover, Berlin, Leipzig.