Naked, sweaty and coated in honey? You must be in a German sauna!

A good friend invited my wife and I out to the sauna. In the spirit of ‘When in Rome …’ we both went. On an overcast and chilly day in Duisburg I found myself sitting naked in a dimly-lit hot sauna room with approximately 30 other people. We were all awaiting the sauna attendant to begin the scheduled rounds of adding scented water (green tea followed by honey). The attendant entered, poured scented water on the rocks, and begin to use a wet town and a well practiced technique to powerfully hurl hot air at the guests. The temperature was 95’C, the humidity was increasing, and it smelled like green tea. After a brief respite, the honey round began. What followed was a complete surprise: small ounce sized cups filled with honey were given to every guest. We were instructed that honey has many health benefits to the body, that it was good for the skin, good to eat, and was even an antiseptic. And that is how I found myself in a very hot room, naked, with approximately 30 other sweaty people who were coating themselves in honey. And that is how I found myself nude, sweaty, and covered in honey.

There are saunas in Canada. They are usually in fitness centers and they consist of one room lonely room that gets warm. If no one is watching, you might put some water on the rocks (generally not allowed) and make the room warmer. Oh, and of course, clothing is required. This is not the sauna I found in Germany.

In fact, this was not a sauna, it was a sauna complex. There were perhaps 10 sauna rooms, both outside and inside. There were pools of all varieties of temperatures from just above freezing to hot. There were lounge chairs with infrared lamps. There was even a room that is surrounded in rock salt, the mere presence of which is supposed to have a healthful effect. There was a restaurant, as withstanding the high temperatures is apt to make you hungry.  While most of the facility is co-ed and nude, there are areas that are only for men, for women, and for the clothed.

It became clear to me as we entered that this facility is an institution: they charge by the hour, have a large parking lot, and an outlandishly expensive gift shop at the front. Yes, the sauna had a gift shop. It also became clear to me that this is a community institution: there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes present. There were families, there were elderly people, and there were young people. In short, there was, it seemed, a healthy representation of the community; not a single person of which seemed the least bit concerned that they were nude, nor that anyone else was either.

Though I was a little apprehensive going in, the experience was enjoyable and I would do it again – especially during the long dark days that await me in winter. It’s like being in an exotic tropical getaway without the flight. There are no pictures with this post for obvious reasons … I got honey on my camera. Just kidding – for obvious reasons recording devices are prohibited at the facility.

 

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