It’s been ten years since my first visit to a German sauna world, or Saunawelt as they would say auf deutsch. An internet blogger friend pointed me in the direction of the newly expanded Therme Erding conveniently situated between Munich and the nearby international airport. As a seasoned naturist, I will remember that initial sauna adventure for all of my days. That moment you walk into the co-ed changing rooms, trying to look unfazed by your inability to open your locker, inconveniently located in awkward proximity to a middle-aged couple removing their clothes. Meanwhile, preoccupied as to whether you’re about to offend more people by being naked or by wrapping yourself in a towel. Informative directives were posted everywhere, which would have been ever so helpful had I paid more attention during that one semester of college German.
It’s not especially helpful that there are approximately a bazillion sauna and “therme” (thermal pool) centers dotting the map of Germany, not to mention those to be found in Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands – each of which have a unique set of customs and rules that may or may not be posted – in German – on a wall, leaflet, or countertop. Doesn’t matter really though; there’s clearly something in the DNA of central Europeans that allows them to decode the unspoken rules of social nudity. It’s no secret the Germans are thought leaders in social-nudity, but still… how do they always seem to know what’s going on?
Before going into my detailed guide for naked spa rookies, I should encourage those who worry about the communal nudity thing to read any number of TripAdvisor reviews written by prudish Americans who uniformly confirm that non-sexual nakedness in a social environment only feels awkward for about five minutes, until you realize that clothing actually does very little to help us obscure the things that make us feel most awkward or inadequate about our bodies. This is not a post about the perils or merits of social nudity, but instead, a guide for the person who says, “I’m over it. A bazillion Germans seem to think it’s fun! I’m gonna shed my inhibitions and sweat it out with a bunch of strangers, and I’m gonna like it!“
Until you’ve sweated it out in a full-on German sauna, you can’t really claim to be a proper sauna aficionado. Happily it’s an experience I can now tick off my bucket list, courtesy of a free morning while on a work trip to Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony.
Wolfsburg is of course the home of Volkswagen, and the famous VW logo is everywhere in this city. A little research identified BadeLand (www.badeland-wolfsburg.de), a waterpark with separate adjoining sauna area as a suitable facility. Located on the River Aller, it’s within walking distance (25-30 minutes) of the iconic Volkswagen factory with its four chimney stacks dating back to 1938, as well as Volkswagen’s Autostadt museum and customer centre which is well worth a visit. The Courtyard by Marriott hotel is located next door to BadeLand for anyone looking for a convenient place to stay.
The fact that BadeLand’s website is in German only caused a few reservations about whether I would have problems finding my way around, but the helpful lady at the desk explained in perfect English that a half day entry fee of €16.20 would allow unlimited access to both the pool area and the sauna area. If you need towels, they are €2 each, and flip-flops are also recommended – I brought my own. You do need to have swimwear to use the pool side, whereas the sauna area is textile free.
At check-in you are given a wristwatch type sensor that allows access to the various areas, as well as locking your chosen locker and recording any drinks or other items you purchase in the bar area.
Changing facilities for the sauna area are unisex, though there is also a dedicated female changing area. So it was off with the clothes, and with a towel wrapped around me, into the fray. Continued…Read full original article…
Wood crackles as it burns in the small furnace opposite me, small rivers of sweat run down my brow, pooling in my eyes causing them to blink.
The soaring temperature begins to make me feel woozy and the smell of the fire permeates my nostrils. Almost in chorus, the eight or so men in the room exhale deeply as they too battle with the heat.
I’m in a sauna perched atop a wooden pier in the middle of the sea. But aside from its postcard-perfect situation, there’s something else that’s unusual about this particular hot box. You see, I’m stark naked, as is the stranger to my immediate left and right. Welcome to the world of naked saunas.
It was on a train journey through Sweden with a friend that I decided to take the plunge into Scandi culture by shedding my inhibitions — and my clothes. Both in Sweden and Scandinavia as a whole, the sauna isn’t just a pastime, it’s a way of life. Like fika (the coffee break), sweating away stress is part and parcel of the Swedish experience. Continued…Read full original article…
As we gathered at Dublin Airport on a cold damp, dark morning I found it hard to envisage that within a few short hours we would be sampling the delights of Europe’s largest spa, Therme Erding.
Stepping off the plane at Munich Airport we were immediately taken aback by the sharp drop in temperature. The snow began to fall as we took the last leg of the journey via taxi. Looking out at the snow-covered landscape it was hard to believe we were only minutes away from a Bavarian paradise. On arriving at Theme Erding I was struck by the pure scale of the dome like structure, and hundreds or cars in what seemed to be a completely full car park. Surely this could not be on a normal working day? Continued…Read full original article…
My first time : the Finnish sauna When I was at school we had a foreign exchange cultural holiday, writes guest columnist Deborah, when a class from Finland came to our school for a week and, later, we returned to stay with them for a week. We’d put up a student at home when they were here in England, and we’d stay with their families when we got back to [I’ve opted to omit the name of the place : Ella] their home town.
I’d made friends with Katja, we’re still friends even now, and have each attended the other’s wedding.
Our class were all 17 turning 18 at the time and we were farmed out to the various families after the first day sitting in classes with our chosen partner.
We arrived on a Monday, and the week progressed as normal until Friday night when Katja’s Mum announced it was sauna night in the household. I looked through the window to see Katja’s Dad and brother firing up the sauna at the bottom of their garden, and the water of the lake at the bottom of the garden shimmering beyond.
‘Oh’, I blurted out. ‘We weren’t advised to bring swimming costumes with us’.
Katja and her Mum exchanged glances. ‘There is no need. We go naked in the sauna’
Everyone? Even in the course of the five days so far I’d fallen a little bit in love with Katja’s gorgeous looking, tall, lean brother. And he was going to go naked in the sauna???? Continued…Read full original article…
My naked sauna in Berlin In Berlin, the saunas are nude — and mixed-sex. Gulp. Will Zoe Strimpel dare to bare all in front of the boys?
“Excuse me,” says a tall, paunchy man. “But I noticed your feet weren’t on a towel when you sat down before…”
I’m in a German sauna for the first time, and I’m being told off.
Nothing new about being told off, as even liberal Berlin, to which I recently moved, is full of baffling rules. I’ve been told by a museum guard to keep my handbag tucked under my arm, and, in the foyer of a public library, to keep my talking to a whisper. Now I’m being warned not to let my flesh sully the benches of a scorching wood cabin.
What is new is that I can see this man’s penis, as well as those of the 10 or so other men of various ages and shapes milling around, not to mention a few Brazilian waxes and nipple piercings.
For the Germans, this is as normal as a trip to the supermarket. As in Scandinavia, saunas are revered here for their relaxing effects, circulatory benefits and power to make you sweat a pint in 10 minutes. They are also mixed-sex, and no bathing suits are allowed. Cont…Read full original article…