Station: [9] Bathing Machine

M: Sea bathing – in the old days, that was simply unthinkable! Too dangerous because there might be sea monsters, then there were the all-too-uncertain effects of salt water on the human body! It took until around 1800 before a new attitude gained traction: perhaps sea bathing might be pleasantly refreshing! But at first, people didn’t go swimming from the beach, as we do today. That was just not proper.

F: They rented a bathing machine, essentially a horse-drawn cart with an attendant – and had themselves driven into the sea as they sat inside the machine. Once there, they lowered the awning at the rear of the machine, got undressed, let down a small set of steps and dunked themselves a few times. Entirely without clothing in the early days, mind you! Hence the considerable distance maintained between the ladies' and the gentlemen's bathing areas.
Once the bather had had enough, they climbed back into the cart, put their clothes back on and then hoisted a small red flag on the bathing machine – the signal for the attendant to tow the cart back to shore.

M: In the late 19th century, thalassotherapy established itself as a branch of medicine in Germany. In 1898, the physician Karl Gmelin opened the North Sea Sanatorium on the south beach in Wyk– an imposing Art Nouveau building designed by the celebrated architect August Endell. Here, state-of-the-art therapies were administered: climatic cures, gymnastics and sports games to build muscle!
Carl Häberlin – the founding father of our museum – was a close confidant of Gmelin’s and, thanks to his many research papers, became the most important German thalassotherapist.

Fotos: © Dr.-Carl-Häberlin-Friesen-Museum