Saturday, January 28, 2017

Feel free

 thinking about french fries #Iceland #travelgram #vik
Here at the soaking family of blogs we like to keep things natural. 

But all over our planet there are threats to this naturalness. 

If it's not money pouring in to sanitize nature and charge you for the simple enjoyment of what nature's bounty has to offer, it's us humans and our social customs that are a deterrent for a natural enjoyment now and for future generations. 
The threat posed by ourselves is apparent and global. During the past half year I've seen complaints from Mangatatu (New Zealand), T'sek (Canada) and Umpqua (U.S.A.) just to name a few. They all revolve around trash. Where management is minimal, abuse unfortunately seems to be just around the corner.

And with the tourist invasion in full swing in Iceland, it's a no-brainer that those pretty Icelandic hotpots are likewise under threat.

One of the most beautiful and highly visited hot springs is that by the name of Seljavallalaug. Often praised and appreciated here on this site (see f.i. lead photo) the amount of tourists coming to her shores seems overwhelming, but no doubt for those who make the effort, they'll sing her soaking tune of soul saving.
But despite what everybody is taking away from her experience, a lot of the more materialistic culture is being left behind. Now don't get me wrong, if the experience was such that you vow to never ever use that bathing suit (m/f) again, all the more power to you. 
But it seems what's left behind has less to do with empowerment, but simple lame-ass laziness.

It's therefore really positive to see that there are persons out there who are willing to do more than their fare share in assisting in keeping Seljavallaug as natural as the mountains it's lies in, even though it's a man-made swimming bassin. 

The following comes from a simple instagram posting by vorusse and he shares this experience:
'I usually don't post any moral shit here since I usually don't care about the moral shit anyone else is writing - but here I go.....
Today I wanted to spend a few hours at Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest swimming pools of Iceland where I go quite often since I work around the corner. Today I saw the result of unorganised mass tourism... The changing rooms were so dirty and all drainages where clogged, the rooms were 15cm under water... I went back to my workplace, got all I thought I need to clean this shithole, took the tractor and drove back. After two hours I decided to make a picture of one room which is almost cleaned up and then a few afterwards....I found a lot of shit, literally... Diapers, condoms, tampons, piles of shit wrapped in towels (Thanks for that pleasant surprise) and about 15000 ISK [$125+] in coins and a Casio watch - both taken by some asshole who thought these things just lay around there....
There is no road going there, you hike up there for 15 minutes I get it but please take your trash with you... Thanks to the tourists who threw money into the donation box after seeing what horrible things I had to collect there. That one guy was so disgusted he threw 2000 ISK in the box....
Two huge trash bags were filled only with garbage and clothes from around the pool because some super assholes don't have the decency of assholes to throw the clothes in the corner of the changing room.... It took me five hours, just to have it cleaned a bit... Five fucking hours... It got dark already so I couldn't even relax in the pool, I had to go back... I offended the elves running around naked a few weeks ago, so they don't tolerate me anymore after sunset, true story.
Feel free to share with friends going to Iceland... Seljavallalaug is not a single case, other places are suffering too'.
And this is the accompanying photo with before / after pictures:

#Seljavallalaug #iceland #tourism #hotspring #Reykjavik #vík #Hvolsvollur #humantrash #garbage #chatzeaids #shit #shitwrappedintowels #icelandtourism #icelandtours #icelandvisitors #Seljavellir #icelandtour
A depressing note on what we call civilization with a silver lining on those individuals that seek to alter our habits and inspire others to do likewise. 
It would have been obscene not to share this with you. 

When soaking, use your brains: cleansing is for the soul, but nature is to be left pristine. Take out your garbage. Take out that of others. And heed this lesson and act on it everyday you can.

Started my trip with my first onsen and ended it with one. #wanderlust #adventure #offthebeatenpath #mysterious #pieceofheaven #onsen #hotspring #iceland #reykjavik #allgoodthingsmustcometoanend #tonewbeginnings #lifeinthenude

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rising

stajnernina at Grič pri Klevevžu (Slovenia)
What a day!
#travel #travelphotography #travelblogger #travelblog
It's always difficult to get these updates concerning recent publications of Eurosoaking culture underway.  How will I present these? Based on topics? Countries? Do we have a lead article? Should it just be photo's?

Much from the following originates from Iceland, partially due to the language used, partially due to the many tourists vis-à-vis locals as well as (impartially) its' soaking culture and soaking surroundings.

Perhaps the lack of news might allow me to get away with posting more pictures ...

Anyway. Let's start with the quirky. Geothermal food. Thinkgeoenergy (Nov. 25) adds to the list geothermal pizza:
'Reported by Deutsche Welle, a pizzaria in Naples in Sicily/ Italy is maturing its low-yeast pizza dough in caves of tuff for up to 36 hours'.
Click on the article's video link to a short reportage from Deutsche Welle to see the ongoings, but also discover that the same chambers (dating from Greek times) also are used for growing basil.

reesa413 at if I'm correct France's Mont Dore
Natural hot spring pool along side the creek🏞#nature #hotspring #mountains

Pissed
In previous updates I've already reported on Budapest's hot spring parties. The Guardian continues (Jun. 4, 2016) on Budapest's hot spring parties:
'Sparties combine well-known DJs playing electro, trip-hop, hip-hop, funk and trance with light, video and laser visual effects and unlimited alcohol. And thanks to founder Laszlo Laki, whose company Cinetrip began specialising in nightclub silent film projections shortly after the fall of communism, they have been running for almost 20 years. Nowadays, there’s a party almost every Saturday; in the summer at the aforementioned Széchenyi baths (known as “Szecska” to Budapeštas, it’s Europe’s largest thermal baths, with temperatures ranging from 27C to 38C), and at residents’ favourite Lukács in the winter months. There are also two Cinetrip “mega parties” annually: one in August and one pre-New Year’s Eve.
...
We’re not sure what to expect from the Sparty – would it be a crazy continental piss-up, or a “lads on tour” nightmare?
...
As soon as we descend the stairs, we are surrounded by drunk semi-naked people drinking lethally strong mojitos. It’s freezing cold and raining a bit but we’re fine once we’re in the water – which is so hot it creates a cloud of rising steam above everyone’s heads. If it weren’t for the pumping music, the flashing lights and lasers, it would be a bit like having a beer in a hot bath, which is not unpleasant. 
...
We have a good dance but, as the night wears on and the pool becomes even more packed, we decide we’ve had enough. My boyfriend says he senses the atmosphere change as people get more hammered. Certainly on TripAdvisor there are posts mentioning problems with groping, and condoms in the pool. We don’t witness any of that and the organisers take security very seriously, ...'.
It's worth looking at the reviews on Tripadvisor itself to see whether or not it's your (hot) cup of tea.

As a side note there's this list from skyscanner (Apr. 2015) of Budapest's best baths.

Or you could look for the 15 best sauna's of Budapest (Foursquare, Nov. 8).

Or there is this from ruanawayjuno (Dec. 28):
'A Guide to Budapest’s Thermal Baths'. 
Quite thorough guide and list.

Indoor soaking. jurismetums at Vardzia, Aspindzis Raioni, Georgia
Pietiktu veco padomju šķūni aizvietot ar pamatīgāku ēku, un par iespēju plunčāties šajā karstā minerālūdens baseinā varētu prasīt prāvu samaksu, taču būs zudis tas Gruzijas smeķis... Mums bija iespēja divvientulībā baudīt Džavahetijas termālos sērūdeņus par pat ļoti simbolisku maksājumu vīram ar šķūnīša atslēgu (18.09.2016.). #gruzija #gruzijasmirkļi #latvietisgruzijā #kaukāzs #mazaiskaukāzs #samčedžavahetija #džavahetija #baseins #sēravots #karstieavoti #termālieūdeņi #minerālūdens #georgia #georgiacountry #republicofgeorgia #caucasus #caucasia #lessercaucasus #samtshejavakheti #javakheti #thermalwater #thermalsprings #pool #mineralwater #hotsprings #spa
Sunset
The baths of Bagnaccio (Lazio, Italy) are to be managed. Managed differently that is.
Il Messaggero (Jan. 5) reports that as of March this year, it's proposed that associations (private / public?) can bid for management. Standards have been set. 
From the translation of the article it's unclear to me what may now well occur to the currently semi-public run hot spring. Let's hope for either little change or at least adequate public access without paying exorbitant entry fees.

zerbo89 at Bormio's Pozza di Leonardo
#povertàtime #pozza #sorpresa #sistavapeggioquandosistavameglio #ciccionichesbucano #snow #terme #termefaidate #lanatura #altrochebagninuoviovecchi #ghiacciolo #circolazione #solopozza
Australia's thoughts on Germans and their bathing culture? Australia's Travellers.com (Nov. 21):
'But for Olympic levels of nuding up in public, the laurel wreath – or maybe fig leaf – must be presented to the Germans.
...
Though there have been reports in recent years about the decline of nudity in the open air, there's one place that the sun will never set on naked Germany – its public baths'.
What follows is a review of three public sauna's / bathing houses in Hamburg, Köln and München.

 Alhaman de Granada is famous for its hot springs. Perfect for a cool day. Although the Spa is closed until April, we're enjoying the warm mineral waters that flow into pools outside. Free to all. #Andalusia #travelspain #spainiswonderful #hotsprings #spain🇪🇸 #granadaspain #naturalspring #AlhamadeGranada #balneario #warmwater #spaintravel #baños #españa #thermalbaths
Illing
Greece a paradise for soakers? Greek-is.com (Jan.3) believes so:
'With about 800 locations of natural curative resources, most of which are water-related, Greece could be described as a paradise of healing spas. Still, most remain undeveloped: only 34 springs have been officially recognized so far, while recognition of another 60 is pending'.
Who needs official recognition?
Concerning ancient Greece:
'For the Athenians, both hot and cold baths were an indicator of civilization and a part of everyday life.
On the other hand, the Spartans and Macedonians, both fierce warrior tribes, preferred cold waters and avoided the balaneia, where they believed the heat just made one soft. The Spartans made an exception for the pyriaterio, which they used to work up a sweat before diving into the ice-cold waters of the River Eurotas to toughen themselves up'.
el_bennet on Lesbos
#girl #hotsprings #lesvos #island #greece #time
Finally on modernity:
'The Greek spa towns enjoyed one last period of glory in the 1960s and 70s, as the new middle class began to vacation there, taking advantage of their proximity to the sea. Naturally, spas were no longer a high-priority treatment option and were only used incidentally by those preferring cosmopolitan beaches. Thus, they gradually came to be used only by the elderly, and their use came to be associated primarily with cures for illnesses. In this way, spas came to be regarded as destinations for the old and the ill'.
In a further article (Jan. 17) the list of Greek soaks is summoned, some high end, some more rustic.

Tremors
And then it's over to Iceland.

Iceland's love affair with non-natural geothermal heated pools continues as does it tourism influx. Latest entrant is a proposed warm beach in the northeast of the country. Reykjavik Grapevine (Jan. 17):
'RUV reports that the owners of the Blue Lagoon and Jarðböðin í Mývatnssveit, along with eleven shareholders, have committed to investing 280 million ISK to creating a “warm water beach” at Urriðavatn lake, near Egilsstaðir.
...
In implementation, geothermically heated water from a borehole near Urriðavatn will be pumped into the water to provide the sort of warm-water bathing experience '.
Nearly there, except that there's no beach ... heidarlogi 
near the Reykjanes geothermal power station
 A hidden gem where the warm geothermal water runs into the ocean.
📷 @ellithor
A first hand soaking report (where have they gone?) from Gurrity on soaking at Seljavallalaug (Apr. 2016):
'Several times throughout that trip, we all talked about the importance of soaking up every single moment — and as often as we could remember to, we put our phones away and I kept my camera at my side, and we would soak up every sound, every breeze, and every scent. With every blink, every breath, I knew it would be more and more painful to leave.
We hung around the pool waiting for an older couple to leave, and when we finally had the pool to ourselves, we stripped down and got in, because yolo (or, “yoiio,” which we coined for “you’re only in Iceland once,” which obviously did not apply to me). And shortly after, the Santa Barbara grad I mentioned before showed up, and timidly joined us. He was so nervous to have stumbled upon four skinny dippin’ ladies that his hand trembled when we passed him our flask of bourbon. And every time we forced him to be our photographer [see photo above]'.
Take off
What is it with prudists and bathing at the more public (read less natural) hot springs in Iceland? 
Icelandic tradition and (sensible) hygiene decorum means having a naked shower pre-soaking is the only way to go. But it seems that whatever the intentions of this rule are, prudish bathers feel that their civil rights (and tourist rights) are trampled on.  

Tripadvisor has a discussion kicking off on December 23 concerning the Blue Lagoon showers: what do they look like? 
Seems like a very serious question, though hardly relevant. But later on it seems the requester fears his co-trippers. When someone notes that apparently no one had showered naked, it was seen as a sign of disrespect. The whole discussion notches 16 replies.
But not even a month (November 30) before, Tripadvisor has the same kind of question. Naked showering required? This time 32 replies, all quite similar to the first mentioned discussion.

Meanwhile, Iceland itself is more concerned about equal treatment for either gender whilst soaking in a more public setting. And the question is are females allowed the same clothing  freedoms attributed to males?
The Icelandic Monitor reports (Jan. 16):
'A student at the University of Iceland was told to leave the pool in the small town of Akranes on Saturday for swimming without a bikini top'. 
Apparently this was not very (modern?) Icelandic culture.

Þetta instagram censored mál þarf að vera meira umtalað. Þetta er fokking FÁRÁNLEGT.
Later that day, the same source reported from the nation's capital:
'Following news of a woman being shown out of a pool in the small town of Akranes in Iceland, the directors of the City of Reykjavik sports and recreation department (ÍTR) have confirmed that guests of the city's swimming pool are welcome whether they wear a top or not as part of their swimwear ensemble'. 
Surely, equal gender treatment if not universal, should within the same nation have the same standards / requirements. An explanation please!?
 
Finally took my coat off
Beauty
More or less on the same topics as above I came across this recent (Jan. 3) Facebook posting by Caitlin McCormick:
'There's a whole crap-ton of pressure this time of year to get skinnier and/or more jacked, and I'm feeling self-critical and tired. It's easy to feel overindulgent, misshapen, and wrong. So to combat it, for myself and you, I want to share a moment of grace I had this last year.
When I was in Iceland with Chris a couple months ago, one of many awesome things we did was go to a public "pool." Their public pools are fed by hot springs and look like the multi-level lounging kinds of pools they have at Caribbean resorts. They're all over the place, and Reykjavik has a few. They're public meeting spaces and a way to survive, or even enjoy, the long dark days of winter and even the temperate summers. All of them are about 95-110 degrees, so basically giant hot tubs.
Part of the Icelandic pool thing is that everyone must shower first. Totally nude, you have to soap up, hair and body, in a large open communal shower room. I guess some Americans freak out about this. I was a tiny bit nervous, but there are lots of blog posts that give you the whole process in detail, so I felt prepared. We paid our way in (five bucks or so), and I went alone into the women's locker room. Ladies were stripping down. Females of all ages, from infants to the elderly, hovered around in various states of undress. Women were storing their things in lockers and heading to the showers without bothering to hide in a towel or robe. Apparently there are even people at the locker room doors to be sure everyone has showered, but it didn't feel militaristic in any way. It was just... normal.
In the showers themselves, twenty shower heads pointed into one big room with lavender-scented body soap dispensers on the walls. There were some plastic IKEA high chairs for babies and even a couple of low baby tubs for the tiniest ones. We moved about this room, naked as jay birds, lathering and cleaning and actually enjoying the hot water. And there was this feeling that I've never had in American locker rooms: shamelessness. People weren't hiding or even avoiding others. Twelve year old girls giggled together while they washed their hair. A baby in her high chair was washed by her mom. An older woman sang to herself and danced in the spray with her granddaughter. And there were bodies of every size, age, and color. And shape. And hue. And hair color. And boob size. And nipple size/color. And pubic hair decision. And hip. And back fat. And height. And butt cellulite. And eye color. There were punk chicks and there were nerdy girls and there were women whose bellies showed the babies they'd carried. Even though Iceland is very white, there was lots of racial diversity in this social catch-all place. There was a woman with one arm.
Don't think I'm weird for looking. I wasn't studying anyone, we were all just there. Every single female body variant was present, and everyone was comfortable in her skin. We smiled and nodded to each other, strangers chatted, no worry or shyness or shame.
It was so enlightening because it was so obvious to me in that moment that:
1.) we are only given one general body type to consider, as women - in clothing ads, movies, tv shows, everything - as if there's only one body type and it exists everywhere (except, of course, our own) - and that body type (lean, average height, maybe curves but no cellulite, thin hips, flat stomach, modest boob, no defined muscles, no assistive devices, and always a visible bony clavicle) is SO INACCURATE; and
2.) there are a million ways that the female body looks, and it's always beautiful. ALWAYS. That's what I felt in that space. Every body is normal and beautiful and perfect'.
Termes naturals al ríu le tet

Primer contacto con el norte de Cataluña y Francia.
Sentí que el otoño me abrazaba a base de colores, paisajes que conquistan los ojos de cualquiera.
Baños de azufre caliente que te dejan la piel arrugada y nueva
Francesas que te enamoran leyendo poesía..
💕
#termas #naturalezaviva #hotriver #camping #fontpedrouse #naturalspring

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Gimmick


What's claimed to be United Kingdom's only hot spring (see also this list) is located bang in the center of the aptly named Bath in Southwest England. There's of course no guessing from where the namesake of the town comes from, it's too obvious.

Famed for both it's Roman remains situated around the natural spring as well as for the latter Georgian gentrification (lead photo above of the Circus), Bath seems to be top of the list for quite a few tourists to the UK. F.i. Tripadvisor puts Bath in it's top 10 of popular UK destinations with the baths being the most popular destination of Bath. Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

For us soakers there's two significant features in Bath:
* one: of course the Roman Baths
* two: the current day bathing facilities known as Thermae Bath Spa.

A sojourn to Bath is by no means cheap. Rated regularly as one of the most expensive places to stay in the UK (source), the costs of visiting some attractions in the city are not cheap either. Visiting the Roman bath remains will set you back a pound or 15, while a two hour stay at Bath's soaking establishment would set you back from 35-38 pounds; this no peanuts for us cheap skating natural soaking lovers.

But cutting back on costs is well possible if you choose to stay in nearby Bristol, a funky city along the lower Avon with a younger more worldly culture along it's harbour.

We thought that a bike ride from Bristol would be the way to go. To Bath.
There's a cycleway on the former track bed of a Bristol to Bath railway line. However the English (and with them the Tourist) see cycling as a summer activity, there was no way to rent a bike in winter.
Well, that meant a large part of our day was spent in vain in search of bikes; we then jumped on the train instead.

Seeing the prices mentioned, we had opted to make the Bath visit, a visit to just the Roman side of Bath.
Situated in the center of town next to the Abbey, late morning there's a line of visitors snaking it's way outside. That's encouraging! After being allowed in, we discover that there's another line to contend with, we had just be lining up to join the next line! 
Anyway, maybe 10-15 minutes in total we have our tickets and allowed access to the ancient springs themselves.

Someone has certainly gone out of their way to highlight and showcase the site / sights. Take an audio tour, it's an easy way to get more insight. I ended up following the on the hour tour guide who had even more insights, well worth it.


You'll discover a lot about how Roman's bathed, how the actual bathing took place, the wider surroundings of Bath and how the Roman baths were tweaked about becoming what they are today. 
Odd thing is that you can't actually bathe, as if this would be some kind of sacrilege. But maybe due to health issues (original lead piping?).
As said there were plenty of fellow tourists, it means that making the rounds is quite difficult, unless you have extreme patience.

I won't bore my readers with the history of the baths of Bath, there's plenty available on the internet. Check Bath's tourism website or owlcation.



Notable among the history was that in fact there's a pre-Roman history with the springs used by Celts with a deity being worshipped here, Sulis, a fact that even the Romans thought noteworthy hence they called Bath's baths Aquae Sulis
During the Roman times, the bathing establishment was in fact very well-developed, complete with piping and a jacuzzi. 
After the Romans surrendered their reign so did bathing; at least it seems to be the case for a few centuries. What has remained is that usage of the springs has always been an upper class thing, not necessarily for commoners ...


For those seeking a challenge in soaking in England, the Thermae Bath Spa seeks to entice you. Though it has excellent status on Tripadvisor, it's not always the case: overpriced, bad experience, expensive, gimmicky, a 90 minute wait to get in, run down and shabby, too busy are just some of the accolades, though most were very accomadating.
But these are just some of the recent reviews of the 5,000+ listed on Tripadvisor .... One should also note that the bathing etiquette is rather non-European so to speak.

Euro soaks visited