Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nature understood

Something that never seems to bore me is the variety of bathing fashions applied by the globe's population. Some have evolved through the ages, adjusted to fashions and require some forehand knowledge. Others are rather straightforward and seem to ignore standard health issues.

Myself a natural bathing enthusiast if available or possible I tend to adjust if required (though reluctantly) and the experience is always lesser especially if the logic for non-naturalness is far from, well logic itself.

But that's me.

As enthusiastic as I am, note be that bathing in Europe is very different, varying from type of bath to country-wise to local custom, whereas in some cases it's up to the individual him/herself.

And this seems to confuse. Europeans themselves. And non-Euro's. For instance why are beaches in France liberal, but sauna's often not? Why are Greeks prude but their beaches a haven of freedom? Why are Dutch beaches conservative but their wellness sector often freedom loving?
'N'allez surtout pas croire qu'on allait se baigner nu comme des hippies dans des sources chaudes. De toute facon la photo est floue alors y a pas de preuve que c'est nous'.
French surprise at freer Greek (soaking) spirits. Source
So many questions ...

Starting this blog intermezzo off is a report. The icelandweatherreport (Nov. 5). It has an entry on the public institution of Icelandic public and payable hot springs: having to take a public shower, naked, prior to taking the waters (clothed!). 
Note we are talking about gender-segregated showers. So what is the issue?
Apparently Iceland habits require a soaker to be 'clean' before taking the waters. Not so strange. 
And this requires a naked shower. Not so strange.

Unless of course your social setting differs. Excerpt:
'Here in Iceland we are so used to showering naked among strangers at the swimming pool that we think absolutely nothing of it. We’re brought up with it, and most of us have been doing so since before we can remember. And obviously the reasoning behind it is pretty basic – we want our pools, which most of us like to visit regularly, to be clean and to stay clean'.
And the way to ensure this Icelandic basic bathing rule is to have the pool guards check out the showers every now and then to make sure the foreigner adheres! But locals will do the same seemingly making the simple process of showering naked (if already daunting) something to put off the more prudish foreigner. 
The report also refers to a Icelandic language video on the subject which has some interviews with Americans. Quotes on the practice of public gender segregated naked showers: uncomfortable & shocking.

German wholeheartedness at Icelandic natural Hrungalaug hot spring. 
Note that only commercial and more visited (by foreign tourists) hot springs require bathing couture. Source
On the same issue (Icelandic hot spring showers), another take from 4 worn passports (Oct. 25):
'When we walked into the locker room, I tried to stare straight ahead. It was hard to look for a locker because every time you glanced around, gaggles of naked woman would be undressing. We eventually found a clothed lady that was friendly enough to tell us what to do. When we found a locker, we undressed and wrapped our towels around ourselves, unlike everyone else. We then made our way to the open showers. No curtains or closed stalls of any kind. But luckily, there were three stalls, sadly without curtains, that we snagged as opposed to open showering.
You could feel the Icelanders and the other Europeans, who were accustomed to this, entertainingly watching our uncomfortableness. After washing ourselves, we made a mad dash for our swimsuits and slipped them on over our wet bodies. With relief, I realized our traumatic Icelandic locker room experience was over'.
Smariorganics (Nov. 7) chips in on the first:
'Icelanders love swimming. They do a lot of it. If you go and visit Iceland, and if you get to experience life as the locals do for a bit, you’ll likely encounter opportunities to take a dip at a local swimming pool. But do not forget to take a shower beforehand. And we don’t mean that brief rinse-off kind of shower that you Americans do at the swimming pool or beach. No, we don’t mean rinse your toes or twirl once beneath the shower head.  We mean:  fill your palm with soap and lather yourself head to toe.  We mean:  remove your bathing suit.  We mean:  be naked, and scrub the areas of your body that sweat the most and grow hair. We’re serious–look at the sign in the shower and you’ll see:  genitals, arm pits, and scalps must be washed!'

In Hungary things seem to be adjusting to the rise and rise of tourism. And conservatism. Tourist induced conservatism.
From earlier this year is Gellert Spa (Budapest, Hungary) announcement that their famous lack of dress code has changed:
'The Dress Code in Gellert Spa has recently changed when the thermal baths has turned into a mixed spa bath complex on January 01, 2013. Before Jan 2013, men and women had separate thermal pools, so guests were often nude, or just wearing an apron'. 
A step back? Or how to entice more commercialism?

An American in Poland. And a salt cavern. Question mark. 
Well nothing out of the ordinary but the author (Sep. 8) combines this with a visit to Termy Maltanskie.
'For slightly more than $29 I could spend the entire day wandering between the traditional Turkish Bath, rose steam bath, salt-water bath, aromatic steam bath with fragrance oils, dry sauna, stone sauna, a snow cave, and Roman Bath cold plunges, among others. In the dressing room I climbed into my bikini and headed for the first sauna. Just as I was abut to open the door I noted a illustration of a bikini-clad woman with a red circle around it and a slantwise slash through the picture. “Oh, this one must be a nude sauna,” I thought, and moved to the next one. But the same sign was posted at the second door, and the next one.  Puzzled, I looked around and realized that the other customers, both men and women, were clad only in towels.
I headed back to the check-in desk and the attendant confirmed my suspicions – the entire facility was nude and co-ed, except for Mondays, which were reserved for women only. Of course, it was Wednesday. What to do? It only took a split second to decide. “Lord hates a coward.” I returned to the dressing room, shed the bikini, and joined the towel-clad throng. By the time I’d tried out the second sauna the only time I wore the towel was moving between the different rooms'.
So no worries in the end.

Czech freedom tasting in the eaux chaudes of Prats Balaguer, France Source

Meanwhile in Germany. Another spa experience. Au naturel.
Ianandebe (Nov 17) got naked with Germans:
'In general , I love German's ability to strip just about anywhere. They treat the human body as if it were nothing more than what it is - a helpful and sometimes attractive tool to walk the earth. (Versus the American view that our bodies are nasty dirty sin-seekers that must be covered lest we lose our immortal souls AT ALL TIMES.) I may not love walking around nude in unfamiliar situations (hello showing a room full of German patients and doctors my nude bottom-half), but I admire the German stoicism and do my best to mimic it (even when I am dying on the inside).
When we entered the spa complex we had no idea what to expect. We tried some weak water foot massages things and generally wandered around, still in swimsuits with towels. When we saw our first nude hot tub with a saggy full moon being submerged, we realized what was happening here. Ohhhh! This is the nude area.
We didn't plan on sharing our bodies with others for the first time on our anniversary - we aren't that interesting. But when the opportunity arose to do so with little fanfare, I figured public nudity was a way better gift to ourselves than fruit, flower or appliances'.
Fact of the matter Europe sees different attitudes towards bathing and bathing naked. Note the more remote and the more wild the higher acceptability of clothing optional. Payable soaking sites might require clothing but not if there is separate wellness area. 

Also note that what makes travel so rewarding is it's ability to show us that the world is varied and it never seeks to show us that thinking outside of our own box is rewarding. And challenging ...


  1. Thanks so much for the link to my account of going nude at a water park outside of Berlin. I added a link back to your site as you have great listings and now that we are over our stage fright, I'd love to go again!

  2. Great thinking, enjoy. I love Berlin.


Euro soaks visited