Victorian Turkish Baths Picture of the Month for February 2014

Müller's Volksbad, Munich, Germany

Entering one of the hot rooms

The magnificent art nouveau building which houses Munich's People's Bath was donated to the city by Karl Müller and opened in 1901. Though recently restored and modernised, this was done in a way to ensure that most of the original historic details have been preserved. The baths have two swimming pools, the original men's pool which is used for serious swimming and the former (smaller) women's pool used for more leisurely swimming. In both these pools costumes are mandatory.

But the special feature of the Volksbad is the römisch-irische Schwitzbad, or Victorian Turkish bath. This has three hot rooms kept at approximately 115, 140, and 176 degrees Fahrenheit (45, 60, and 80 degrees Celsius). Admittance to this area is by electronic key (definitely not Victorian) and costumes—as is frequently the case (for hygienic reasons) in Germany and The Netherlands—are specifically forbidden. A great pity that the managers of the refurbished London baths at Ironmonger Row and York Hall don't pay a visit and take note.

There are also a number of pools at various temperatures, an ice cold needle shower, a scented steam room, Finnish sauna, and much else besides.

The semicircular needle shower with ten tubes pierced so as to force icy water jets around the body is known locally as the Iron Virgin. This is probably a reference to the Nuremberg torture mechanism of the same name consisting of a solid iron cabinet with a hinged front and spike-covered interior, sufficiently tall to enclose a human being.  Though stories involving such a mechanism became popular during the nineteenth century, any evidence of its actual use is hard to find.

Services provided

This early notice for the baths shows the Victorian Turkish baths as romisch-irisches bad four lines from the bottom.

This page last modified 25 February 2023

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Chris Brady for some of the information which came from his most welcome descriptive email

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