Every December I return to Chicago to spend the holidays with my family. After all the gifts are exchanged, the ridiculously huge dinners devoured, and only thing remaining in the tins of Christmas cookies are crumbs, I start looking around for new things to do in the Chicagoland area. Several years ago I read an article about Galos Salt Caves, an artificial cave lined with Crimean salt crystals that had opened on the north side of the city. The salt is is produced by allowing water from the Black Sea to flow into special pools, where it is slowly dried in the sun over four to five years. According to the Polish company that builds the caves around the world, the resultant salt crystals are a “delicate pink color like wings of a flamingo or young Cabernet wine. Big salt crystals shimmer like diamonds and have a delicate flowery smell.”
I was intrigued. I had read articles about health benefits derived from being at the seashore, where the crashing of waves on the shore creates a negatively ionized atmosphere thought to have a positive effect against free radicals, increase oxygen intake, elevate mood, and relieve stress. So why not a salt-lined cavern? Each year I vowed to check them out but I just never found the time. And then I was unexpectedly invited to Poznan, Poland. I was flipping through a tourism brochure, trying to decide how to spend in my last two days in Poznan when I spotted an ad for Galos Salt Caves. I’d always assumed the facility was built in Chicago because it is home to the world’s second largest population of Poles. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would travel halfway around the world to visit a salt cave in Poland.
Unable to resist, I headed there first thing the next morning. The attendant instructed me to remove my shoes and handed me a pair of footie socks to put on before entering the psychedelically lit cave. The attendant first instructed us to walk around on the large salt crystals that covered the floor, as they provided a good foot massage. After a minute or so, I settled into one of the chaise lounges set up in a semi-circle, tilted it back, and drew a blanket up to my chin. As the door closed, the lights dimmed and soft music mingled with nature sounds filled the room. Immediately, my feet became blisteringly hot, followed by surges of energy shooting through my body. My arms and legs jerked involuntarily and turned icy cold. When the door opened at the end of the 45-minute session, it seemed as if only ten minutes had passed. I felt completely renewed and refreshed and literally bounced out of the door.
With just one more day remaining, I decided to stay on theme by visiting Termy Maltanskie, the largest indoor water park in Poland, located on the north shore of Malta Lake in Poznan. Though the facility includes an Aquapark with slides, wild rivers, and a wave pool, as well as a series of pools for water sports and professional athlete training, it was Sauna World that had piqued my interest. For slightly more than $29 I could spend the entire day wandering between the traditional Turkish Bath, rose steam bath, salt-water bath, aromatic steam bath with fragrance oils, dry sauna, stone sauna, a snow cave, and Roman Bath cold plunges, among others. In the dressing room I climbed into my bikini and headed for the first sauna. Just as I was abut to open the door I noted a illustration of a bikini-clad woman with a red circle around it and a slantwise slash through the picture. “Oh, this one must be a nude sauna,” I thought, and moved to the next one. But the same sign was posted at the second door, and the next one. Puzzled, I looked around and realized that the other customers, both men and women, were clad only in towels.
I headed back to the check-in desk and the attendant confirmed my suspicions – the entire facility was nude and co-ed, except for Mondays, which were reserved for women only. Of course, it was Wednesday. What to do? It only took a split second to decide. “Lord hates a coward.” I returned to the dressing room, shed the bikini, and joined the towel-clad throng. By the time I’d tried out the second sauna the only time I wore the towel was moving between the different rooms. It was a blissful day, topped off with a long steam in the Turkish Bath, where an attendant poured water on red-hot coals and fanned the scathing hot air at us with an over-sized towel. When I couldn’t take one more second of heat I fled to the cold plunge for a final dip before calling it a day.
I loved seeing the mechanical goats in the Town Hall tower and touring the city with my hosts from the city, and I especially enjoyed my accommodations at Soda Hostel and the great cuisine at various restaurants around town, but my favorite part of the whole trip was being pampered at the spas in Poznan, Poland.
I was a guest of Poznan, Poland during my stay in their fair city. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items or services will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.