Gross Barmen

There’s something about Gross Barmen


Text & Photographs Charene Labuschangne

From the Winter 2022 issue

Seemingly out of nowhere, against a field of low shrubs, the occasional camel thorn and rolling hills, the horizon becomes dotted with the sprawling tops of palm trees. Growing up in arid Namibia, palm trees (much like in the Sahara) mean refuge, solace and ultimately, water. A mere hop, skip and jump from the capital, just before Okahandja, a left turn takes you to Gross Barmen via the D1972. The palm trees weren’t a gimmick, it is in fact an oasis. 

I don’t know what exactly I was expecting on my first visit, but certainly not this. 

The gates seem to disappear among the sheer size of a brutalist, elaborate rammed earth wall, also known as the entrance. It feels like we have taken the wrong exit, got into a time machine and somehow landed on the set in a dystopian, sci-fi blockbuster movie. 

My mother and I check in, pay our dues of N$200 per person for a day visit, and head over to the restaurant to make a lunch reservation. The movie continues as we drive around the property, finally parking in the shade of a palm, and venturing towards the wellness centre. Once inside, exposed concrete echoes the trickle of water in the distance. As we move closer to where that tranquil burble is coming from, a courtyard with copper beams for a roof, a cement walkway, a pond and a palm reiterate the air of Zen. 

While some of the amenities are currently not available, the heated pool, jacuzzi, spa treatments and steam room are at our disposal. What more do we really need?

We are fans of warm water, my mum and I. But then again, who really needs much convincing to spend copious amounts of time floating in 40° Celsius, in water from a naturally occurring spring, I might add. The mineral-rich hot spring has a temperature of 65 at its origin and is cooled down for the indoor pool. As a concept, this place already ticked all my boxes long before coming here, but there is something else about Gross Barmen and I am still trying to put my finger on it. 

While Mum gets a back and neck massage in one of the unique pod-like treatment rooms, I dip in and out of the large, sparkling pool warmer than my bath water and try to finish my book. But my attention keeps drifting away from the words of Paulo Coelho and turns to the work of Wasserfall and Munting architects. In some strange way the masterminds behind the design of this space managed to merge two completely juxtaposing ideas into one unified piece of art. Hardcore minimalism meets Zen. Bold and sharp lines to contrast the flowing nature of water. If the apocalypse were to come, I volunteer as tribute to hide at Gross Barmen. 

One last dip and we stroll to the waterfront deck that extends from the restaurant. Between the wellness centre and the dining space, not one, but two bright blue pools glisten under the midday sun. Kids and adults alike spend the public holiday lazing by the water. I can imagine lying down on one of those white loungers, looking up from under a hat at the towering palm trees, the sounds of splashing and laughter completing that vacation feeling.

I must be horrible company today. Just as we sit down and order a glass of Chenin, I am up again with my camera. So much to capture, so little time! Maybe we should have booked one of the chalets… they are across the pond, and from what I’ve heard reiterate the beauty, luxury and scale of the main building

But the beauty of Gross Barmen (other than its architectural splendour) is the fact that it is not only for the summer sunshine months like most other resorts. I can’t think of anything better to do during our cold, dry winters than laze in a healing hot spring’s pool.


More to explore

Read full issue online