When you’re on an heirloom rocking horse the craftsmanship is undeniable, stands alone, and is as much of a Gesamtkunstwerk as any mobile operating system might aspire to be. When you want to replace your mobile addiction with rustic simplicity, it couldn’t hurt to have a subtle logic conducting the unplugging. Breitenbush accounts for all the details through what is clearly decades of commune homesteading. They know its not just about the baths. That’s why once you’ve paid your entry fee, despite all a full agenda of meals, yoga and piano performances, there is no one to pay, and no commerce in which to be engaged. Unburdened from consumer choice, you become aware of the water in which you were a fish.
“What should we get for lunch?” is not a question you have to concern yourself with (or breakfast and dinner for that matter). At Breitenbush they serve a nutritious buffet a few notches above co-op slop. It’s not foodie-good, but simple and vegetarian and vegan. You’d have to be pretty picky not be delighted with every visit to the dining hall, and because of that Breitenbush has engineered another decision out of your day.
Breitenbush is child-positive without being Disneyland. The beauty of the balance they strike is that it’s not pandering to children, nor are they unwelcome bathing pariahs. For instance in front of the main hall there is a grassy field with hula-hoops laying about. In the library there are children’s books and games. But if Breitenbush were to only have monkey bars and Dr. Seuss available in corners, they wouldn’t have achieved what they did. It is the very fact that they eschew the default boundary between child/adult things that makes Breitenbush feel more than child-accommodating, but family-friendly.
Library and Activities
During a bathing excursion, the fact is that sometimes you can’t always be in the water. Breitenbush recognizes this and has you covered in a choice of group or individual “activities”. Our favourite amenity was the dedicated library room. Harbin too had this (RIP) but the shelves and chairs had more pretense imbued in their interior design. The medium-sized collection was good enough to produce a current Economist, a few nat-geos, and some paperbacks, which perfectly fit unwinding the mind after dinner. Exiting the library you can find a sign-board which will alert you to the organized going-ons. When we were there this included a yoga class in the evening, and a stargazing session. But more over, our most enjoyable time came when a cheerful staff member sat down at the upright piano in the hallway. Appreciating live piano on an impromptu spur was a resetting mindshift as enjoyable as the wet ones on offer.
But what about the actual baths? There are many, and each designed to be a backdrop more than a centerpiece. They baths are separated into two areas, upper and lower. The upper baths are a sophisticated smooth rock each for about 10 people, and overlook the river. They feel as if they were crafted by someone who also throws ceramic pots. And you’ll probably find a potter of the sort in there. The lower and older set are tiled and arranged in ascending heat order topping out at about 44⁰C. The vibe here is more a utilitarian, pore-cleansing hot-cold dip-cycling. The sauna is a steamy wooden cabin of precise woodworking, which is everything a sauna needs to be and nothing more. By paring down options in baths and bath extravagance, Breitenbush reduces your cognitive load in yet another dimension.
The essence of Breitenbush is that it is complete and minimal without being spartan. Enjoy choicelessness and live off the simple offerings. Eat but don’t fuss over eating, smile and twirl a hula-hoop with those around you, read what’s on the shelf. Let the baths get out the way, so the reasons that you’re there can be focused on: to warm your muscles, to be outside and quiet, to metabolise your life-events with a close friend, or to meet a new one.