For years I’ve asserted that Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport was in a league of its own because it offered grimy passengers a hot shower and a place to brush the socks off their teeth. (You know that feeling when you haven’t brushed your chompers for a few hours and they feel fuzzy? Tooth socks, a la my flatmate Laura.) There’s also a casino for inveterate gamblers, and more than a few tulip shops with flappy wire butterflies.
Fraport, despite sounding more like a Starbucks beverage than an airport, just gave Schipol a massive one-up.
Frankfurt Airport’s Best Kept Secret
I arrived at Frankfurt shortly after 5:30 in the morning with 9 hours between me and my flight back to Cairo, and I wanted one thing: a shower. And some quiet rest. So two things.
My first plan was to check out the on-site Sheraton, which offers day rooms much like Schipol’s Mercure. I knew the Sheraton was near Terminal One, but having walked for about fifteen minutes already, I thought it best to inquire. I asked a woman wearing an official-looking suit where I might find the hotel.
“It is outside,” she replied, scrutinizing me. “But do you have a German visa?”
“No…I don’t think I need one…” I think for a second. I am sure I don’t. I was just here a year ago.
“Yes, you need a German visa to get back in the airport.”
“But I’m American. I was just here.”
“I think you should ask the police.”
Two tired-looking police officers confirmed that I did NOT need a visa and pointed me in the direction of the Sheraton. A half a mile and six escalators later, I found myself in a spacious lobby whose domed ceilings reminded me of both a cathedral and the Bat Cave.
A smiling receptionist told me that the cheapest day room was 130 euro, a price that, shamefully, I was considering. (I was tired. And slimy.) I sat down to check my bank account to see if I should shell out the cash – Fraport offers a pretty reliable WiFi connection, free – but found that the Sheraton, of course, had its own WiFi. I returned to the smiling woman and asked for the password.
“You can get it in the business center,” she directed. “With charge.”
“Are there showers in the airport?”
“In the airport?” she scrunched her face. “No, there are no showers in the airport.”
Unwilling to pay $150 for a room that did not include WiFi, I trekked back to the airport, determined to find a shower. Matthias, my handy German friend, had Googled lounge information for me prior to my trip and had sent me a link to a payable access lounge that he claimed had showers. Without WiFi, I couldn’t locate it, so I instead followed the signs labeled “Douchen” with sketches of sprinkling shower heads on them.
Eventually, I found myself in a public restroom with four toilet stalls and a larger stall at the end marked “douchen.” The thought of standing barefoot in a public restroom felt repulsive (I could feel myself becoming even more physically unclean just thinking about it), so I promptly turned and exited in search of an information desk. Surely airport information could verify Matthias’ mysterious lounge claim.
One Does Not Simply Walk Into LuxxLounge
At the information desk, the woman apologized for not having any LuxxLounge flyers, but gave me what information she could.
“There is only one lounge that you are allowed to enter without elite status,” said the woman at the computer. “It is 30 euro to enter…and there are no showers inside. There are only showers in the Lufthansa lounges.”
“There are no showers in the 30 euro lounge?”
“And I can’t access the Lufthansa lounges?”
“Are you Lufthansa elite?”
“Then, no. LuxxLounge opens at 7 and is upstairs.”
“But no showers.”
“The only showers are the public showers.”
It was half past six, so I returned to the public toilet and stared at the stall, debating how badly I needed to clean myself and whether I’d possibly get dirtier just by taking my clothes off in the bathroom. And where would I put my suitcase and Moustafa’s painting? In a nearby stall? How would I dry myself? Deciding I smelled bad enough to be desperate, I grabbed a roll of toilet paper from a bathroom stall in lieu of a towel and turned the handle.
The shower was locked.
Irritated, I made my way back to the lobby and pulled up Matthias’ message. It advertised the mythical LuxxLounge, but contrary to the Information attendant, claimed the lounge opened at 6am and had showers. Incredulous – was this an old website? – I asked an attendant how to find this place and made my way down the C corridor and up an escalator where a heavy wooden door claimed to be the gateway to LuxxLounge.
A posh affair, I had to ring a bell to enter – and then I was in another world.
Two very pleasant women at the desk greeted me warmly and brightly informed me that I could pay to enter the lounge and have a shower. For 30 euro, I could spend 3 hours in the lounge and indulge myself in all it had to offer: clean shower, breakfast buffet, bar (mimosas? yes please), business room, and reclining sofas. For 50 euro, I could spend as much time as I liked.
It is pleasant and calm in here with plush leather sofas and a grumbling cappuccino machine. I am squeaky clean and happily blogging away.
Still, I can’t help but marvel at the inexplicable misinformation on the part of the airport employees. The only plausible explanation is that they are sworn to guard the lounge’s secrecy with thinly veiled lies and a lack of flyers.
Which makes the lounge even cooler.
Fraport – 1.5, Schipol – .5
Matthias – 10