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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Naked Sauna

“This is a nudist area” says the battle axe in front of me. “Strip down.”

Well, one thing is for certain, I took a wrong turn in this fitness club. I can be a bit oblivious at times. Wandering around thinking about this and that, and unless something happens to startle me out of my internal daydream, then I can miss what’s happening around me. Right or wrong, it’s part of my “thing.”

So now I am startled. There are naked people everywhere, and am not only clothed, I have a big huge bathrobe on top too. But this woman is firm. And to be honest, I am a bit stressed about how to get out of the place. She hands me a towel, I strip as discretely as possible and duck into the nearest sauna with the towel wrapped around me. The sauna I selected was about 4000 degrees and had about six naked men sprawled out in it.

I am so far gone out of my comfort zone that I promise myself that I will never daydream a moment more in life. Carefully I make my way to the furthest, highest corner in the sweltering room. (Which also happens to be the hottest of course). Towel wrapped around I pretend that I am in my happy place and hope that no one notices me.

That was until the battle axe returned. She throws open the sauna door and says “English girl, towel is for your feet!”

Seriously? Who ever heard of such a thing! My towel was needed more for my feet than the rest of body. My invisible cloak had entirely crumbled as now people were asking me where I was from and so on. A part inside my mind is pushed so far beyond my comfort zone that I nearly convince myself that this is not happening. It’s all likely a dream that was probably brought on by some nightmare inducing kaesspaetzle eaten the night before. Now I am explaining to what can only be described as nakedness, that I am from Vancouver. Another mistake, they want to talk Olympics now.

I notice with envy everyone is drinking water. Not me. I am not supposed to be here so I am totally unprepared. One moment wandering aimlessly, and the next I am living my worst nightmare. A glance out the sauna window tells me that this is rush hour in nudist town. I vow to stay in my corner. Slowly the men leave, for that sauna was brutally hot. I want to leave too, but I am now filled with fear of getting stuck out in the naked sea of bodies out the window. I’d rather die in the sauna than go out there. Everyone is chatting away like this is normal everyday behaviour. By this time I am so parched I don’t even think I could talk if I wanted.

In the end, I stayed in that 4000 degree sauna until virtually every person had departed and was delirious from the heat and dehydration. But like I said, I was prepared to die in that corner. I’ve never been so happy to see a bathrobe in my life.

That’s one big cultural difference. Nudity. It’s not really a big deal here. I think it’s pretty cool that they can be so open and relaxed about the whole thing. However, at the end of the day, I am a Canadian. We feel really uncomfortable when some guy goes running down the beach in a banana hammock, never mind nudist saunas. Maybe it’s because of our long cold winters and our love of bundling up, I don’t know. What I do know, is that I won’t be venturing into that area again.

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