We’re a couple days into the trip so we’re all ready for a break, and oh, did we get one. We made our way from Basel to Vals, Switzerland to visit Therma Vals by Peter Zumthor. We’ve all seen and dreamt of visit this place before. The lure of massive inhabitable columns full of warm water and flower petals, steam rooms, and cavernous meditation rooms had us sold. We wound our way through the mountains and experienced one of the most beautiful sscenery I’ve ever seen. Steep mountainsides covered in evergreens and the occasional waterfall was a special treat. Once we arrived at the hotel and stepped off the bus, everyone was gushing about the views and just so ready for the day. I’d say the fresh and chilly air just woke everyone up.
Since we’re a large group we had to enter the Therme in groups of 4 or 5, so we did a raffle. I had been hoping to be part of the first group so I could spend as much time as possible bathing and lounging. My group pulled the 6th ticket – second to last. This really ended up being a blessing in disguise because we had time to take a hike up the mountain to see Peter Zumthor’s log cabin in a small town called Leis. The hotel owner told us the whole hike would take about 2 hours, so we had time before our scheduled 2 o’clock entrance time to the baths. We started walking up a paved road that eventually turned into a dirt road that curved up the mountain, it was really a work out. It took us about an hour and half to get all the way up, probably because we kept taking breaks and pictures along the way. Honestly ‘tho’, it felt like we were in the Sound of Music. You know the opening scene where Julie Andrews is singing and prancing about?
The hills are aliiiive with the sound of music…
The air was so fresh, and the sun was incredibly bright, and as we hiked we felt nice and fresh. It was basically amazing. Once we got to Leis, we had an amazing view back to Vals and then down the valley towards what is apparently a huge reservoir, but we couldn’t see that. From Leis, we only had about 45 minutes to get back down but that proved to be easy to meet considering hiking down felt like we were falling down the mountain, haha.
I was so ready to spend the rest of the afternoon at Vals after that hike. My legs were sore and tired from the hike and from walking for 4 days prior to that and I needed some ‘me’ time after being around all these people in a crowded bus. We got our locker keys and head over to the changing rooms. The changing rooms physically served as a barrier between the baths and the entrance, had dimmed lighting, and thick red velvet curtains instead of doors. Once your step out of changing rooms, you’re standing above the main area of the baths. You see the main pool and the ‘columns’ supporting the room above it. A sloped walk down elongated steps, and you’re down on the main level. I was already relaxed from just going down those steps because they force you to slow down and admire the view as you walk down them. Also, we had a nice, warm robe on which helps.
The baths were a full sensory experiences. Visually stunning, with its stacked stone masses, and crevices of light. The varying temperatures of water, and scented spaces made you relax, and let go like nothings else could. There is also a very small room for you to lay down and meditated while listening to an odd mix of stones knocking against each other and vocalizations. (I think this is a CD of it here.) We arrived at 2 and I left at 7:30. I never wanted to leave. One of my favorite spaces was the steam room, a 3-step experience from”steamy” to “OMG I’m dying but it feels really, really good” hot. There were two steam rooms: one that smelled like those peppermint candies that melt in your mouth and a nude steam bath that smelled like citrus. The nude steam room smelled so amazing but once I’d seen enough of two male bathers, I said “hey, that was nice.” and went on my way.
As the sun started to set I made my way into the outdoor pool. The temperature outside was in the mid-60’s at that point but you enter the pool from the inside of the bath’s and then swim under a metal screen to get outside. There was a light steam along the surface of the pool and the scenery was so incredibly beautiful I couldn’t believe it for a little bit. Like really, the way the view was framed through the architecture looked like a little screen and you’re watching a video of a cute mountain side dotted with small cabins and every once in a while you spot a local walking along the road to visit their friend’s cabin. Maybe that’s what was happening, who knows really but it was ‘precious,’ my favorite word.
The shadow of the mountain made its way up until darkness engulfed the valley and the Vals was about the close. I sat in one of these chairs contemplating life and how tomorrow I’ll be walking through Como and not in Vals where I really just wanted to be for the rest of my life. Just lounging and relaxing and thinking about nothing, or the possibilities of living there forever.