Saturday, February 10, 2007

Peter Zumthor's Therme at Vals

Peter Zumthor's Therme in Vals, Switzerland is the most worthwhile thing I've done in Europe. It was an experience almost beyond words, so I snuck my camera in during "Hotel only" swim and took some photos. Brief intro: Peter Zumthor built the baths in 1996, in Vals, a town that might not even be on a map without them. It's beautiful and in a valley in the Alps. The baths are open to hotel guests most hours, and open for free to residents of the town after 11 am. We arrived Thursday night, in time for the thrice-weekly night swim, completely in silence.The baths are set up so that there are different rooms with different "experiences." Everything is in grey slate, arranged in thin horizontal bands. Rather than a room with a pool, the rooms are the pools. The above picture is the only interior "pool" in the traditional sense; it was the largest one, in the center of the baths. For the rest, you walk down stairs and wade through chest-high water to enter the rooms,which have no windows and are only lit from under the water. One bath has yellow rose petals in the water, one is extremely hot, one extremely cold (14 degrees Celsius - I didn't make it in above my knees), one really creepy that I didn't stay in very long,and one that was actually a water corridor to a heated outdoor pool. It is so surreal to swim outside in Switzerland in February. Note the mountains in the background.This morning, before public swim opened, I swam laps in the outside pool, and it was wonderful.
We got gas around the Swiss border on the way home today, and saw these two guys hitching:
(Ein foto, bitte? Sprechen sie English?)
They were Danish carpenters, hitching to Italy (our van was full or we would've offered) in what they said was "traditional clothing," though we couldn't figure out if it was traditionally Danish or traditionally carpenter. Either way it was a pretty sweet outfit.

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