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A comprehensive How-To guide for navigating naked saunas and therme culture in Austria - brought to you by a bonafide fan of this relaxing cultural tradition. By faaarrrr the question I get asked the most by newly arrived immigrants and horrified Aussie mates when we start talking about the Austrian therme culture and how amazing it is, is ' What about the whole nude sauna thing? We have a helluva lot of hangups about our bodies and can barely allow women to show a bit of nipple when literally feeding their offspring for a short time in a park or cafe.
The idea of sitting calmly naked, surrounded by wrinkly, saggy, sporty, hairy, fit, everyday bodies of strangers is certainly a confronting one to most folks not familiar with sauna culture. Learning the nude sauna etiquette will make it much easier to embrace the experience in a mixed sauna. For any cultural experience though, you need a few guidelines and explanations, to ease your way into things.
So if austria nude are sitting there stressing, then you are absolutely missing the best part! So what qualifies me to dole out advice on navigating mixed saunas and spas in Austria?
I, in my ever enthusiastic embrace of challenging experiences at age 27, was like 'Sure! No problem! No big deal! This is fine! We ran into his uncle within 5 minutes of arriving at the Ellmau Therme nude sauna area. When we entered the open nude zone, literal tables full of naked oldies were sitting back with a bottle of champagne on a Sunday evening, gossiping, laughing, relaxing together, seemingly without a care in the world.
It was a sudden and complete immersion into a cultural habit that Austrians hold very austria nude. Thankfully for our relationship, instead of running screaming for the hills, I took off my swimmers and embraced the hilarious, liberating joy of it all. Since then, Stefan and I have visited therme's or 'wellness spas' if you prefer as regularly as possible, with Therme Wien being one of our favourite mid-winter escapes within the city to really unwind and relax. A short trip there can feel like a mini holiday, if you let yourself embrace and explore all the wonderful features of a well-equipped Therme.
But lets back things up and get a few definitions right, so we all know what we're talking about when I say Therme, spa and sauna. Therme spas and resorts are abundant in Austria, with many naturally occurring hot springs, particularly in the gorgeous Steiermark regionmaking it very easy to visit and rejuvenate yourself in naturally occurring hot springs. These therme are austria nude known for their healing qualities, particularly for people suffering from arthritis, rheumatism, aching ts and, for us the most important - skin conditions. Stefan has suffered from chronic atopic dermatitis atopic eczema his entire life, making every day a unique and ever changing kind of hell, not knowing what state his skin is going to be in.
For us, a therme can be a great opportunity to heal and treat his skin and offer some relief from the constant pain and itching. There are of course, huge industries setup around therme and this kind of tourism and wellness.
Many of the naturally occurring hot springs in Austria are now home to mega resorts, such as Loipersdorf Resort in Styria. You can typically visit these resorts either with a day pass or overnight, then hop between multiple pools, hotsprings, get massages and spa treatments, enjoy delicious food options and completely relax and indulge.
Similarly at Therme Wien, the huge centre for spa and wellness in Vienna, you pay entry for a day pass or an evening pass after work. This will grant you access and you can use the huge array of swimming pools, indoor and outdoor hot springs, waterslides, diving boards, kids pools and the adults only huge sauna and spa pool area, which has mixed nude saunas but also a section divided into men and women's only zone.
There is so so much to do at a therme in Austria, you will easily spend hours relaxing, swimming, eating, napping, reading and enjoying the calm nature surrounding the Therme itself, as most are in very tranquil locations. So a therme is basically a hot springs resort - but the key difference I've found in Austria is, these places aren't elite, high end 'day spa' expensive resorts like you would find back home. Therme are for the locals, for everyonefor families and friends to hang out, for couples to austria nude getaway weekends, for pensioners to enjoy, for visitors to experience.
Because they are so integrated in Austrian culture, visiting one isn't just for beauty or wellness treatments, or girls weekends though they can be! Which makes them much more accessible and interesting for first timers and visitors - way less intimidating than thinking you would sit in a private spa resort with a supermodel beside you.
Therme's seem to be for the people, used and enjoyed by folks from all walks of life. To keep the definitions rolling, once you are inside a therme, you will come across the following language to be familiar with. Humidity in the sauna rooms is low, more of a dry heat to get you sweating.
The sauna rooms in Austrian therme are normally wooden, with levels of bank wooden benches that you can either sit or lie on. These are normally naked sauna rooms, sometimes small wooden huts outdoors, or sometimes integrated within the sauna area. The idea is to sit there for minutes, sweating to relax muscles and release toxins. In therme I have visited, the austria nude rooms normally have a lovely herb scents and 'flavour' infusions in different rooms. So one might be eucalyptus scented, another might be honey scented. In these rooms austria nude are normally tile, or marble-like seating areas, they tend to be smaller, and you have to hose down the seating before you sit there.
These are, yes, also naked, though because of the steaminess and low lighting it can be slightly less confronting than a naked sauna! It's a very different kind of heat to a sauna, and probably a good place to start for first timers.
You don't bring your towel into these rooms though, unless you want it sopping wet and ruined. In a steam room you can normally stay minutes to open out your pores, inhale the healing air and relax your breathing in an ambient atmosphere. Aufguss is essentially a performative, useful, ritual-like distribution of heat done by a qualified 'Aufgussmeister' at scheduled times in a sauna.
There are championships for Aufgussmeisterswho can best perform the ritual, whooshing their towel and distributing the essential oils, heat and air exchange within an extremely hot sauna, in front of the austria nude sitting and sweating it out on the wooden sauna banks. There are different levels of expertise for an aufgussmeister, but in my experience, a hot guy wrapped in a towel does an Aufguss session, where he stands at the foot of the sauna room and is in control of adding more heat to the sauna oven.
In doing so, he creates steam that he then 'whooshes' around with a towel, using certain 'moves' to distribute the heat and essential oils amongst the sauna. If you are sitting in the sauna, its like a wave of extra heat when he whooshes the towel in your direction, intensifying the experience momentarily.
Good aufgussmeisters perform a little for the crowd, and often people will austria nude out in applause. It's a whole thing that's hard to describe until you've seen it, and I'm sure I've offended many people by calling an Aufgussmeister the 'whooshy whooshy guy' but that's how I remember it! Definitely worth trying out if you are game for a total Sauna experience. If you want to book a massage, facial or special service that the therme may offer. Jacuzzi's and hot tubs tend to be integrated into the general pool and baths area, with no dedicated area for them in most cases.
What actually happens in a Therme? It's surprisingly simple, and is only as terrifying as you build it up in your mind. To ease you in, here's a walk through of the process, step by step, so you don't feel lost or confused if you are heading there for the first time. For all you lovely Austrians reading this out of morbid curiosity, I'm sure there are a hundred different ways to austria nude naked sauna time, but these are my personal steps, happy to hear your suggestions in the comments!
This is used to access storage lockers in the change rooms where you can put your handbag, change of clothes etc. Very handy system if you spend a day at a therme! Once you have your wristband, head to the changing room area of your therme to austria nude into your bathers and ideally, some ' badeschuh ' or crocs-like shoes appropriate for walking around swimming pools.
You can BYO towels and robe if you want to as well, though most sauna areas have towels available. I'd also reccommend at this point removing any jewellery, especially necklaces, as they can get super hot in a sauna and burn your skin. I normally leave my small wedding ring on but everything else I remove and lock in the lockers. Once you are in your swimmers with your wristband, you can head on out to the bathing area of your therme. Stefan and I normally bring a little bag to put our austria nude, water bottles, little snacks and phones into while we're in the Therme, similar to how you pack a little beach bag for a trip to the beach!
In other smaller therme, normally the countryside or ski town ones, I have had it happen where you wander through the entrance from the change rooms and its just Either way, entering into the swimming or sauna area in your bathers is totally fine when you first arrive, so don't panic that you have to get naked in the sauna immediately. Best approach is to take your time, stroll around a little bit to get your bearings, if you want to find yourself a lounger to put your towel and little bag down then you can do that first.
Decide whether you are going to chill by the pools and baths first, staying in your swimmers, or if you'd rather head into the sauna zone. Keep in mind many of the sauna zones have pools that you can swim in nude, as part of the 'after treatment' of a sauna. It is fine to enter a sauna zone with your swimmers on, though you will see once you enter that most people are wandering around either naked, or wrapped in a towel, or wearing a robe with nothing underneath. So know that once you do enter a sauna area, that there are nudie rudies ahead!
It's all very normal though, no one is being creepy, no one flashes you on arrival, its just people being super comfortable in their bodies - refreshing, no? Once you have your bearings a little and put your stuff down, t he most important thing you have to do before swimming, before naked sauna exploration, is shower off.
This is the rules at any Austrian swimming pool, and is just good hygeine practise anyway. So you will see people rinsing off, then towel drying themselves first before they enter a pool and especially before entering into the saunas or steam rooms. What you do first in a sauna area is of course your choice, but Stefan has from the very beginning taught me to start my sauna sessions with the 'Kniepp Walk' through knee deep water, alternating between hot and cold water.
The idea is that by first walking through super cold water up to your knees then much hotter water, you encourage circulation and get your blood moving. It's based on the teachings of a Bavarian monk, Sebastian Kniepp, who was a forefather of hydrotherapy. You can spot the section for doing this pretty easily as they are normally near the entrance, and have two, longer, skinny shallow pools side by side, or sometimes a round pool with alternating hot and cold bits.
Once your toes are tingly and you're feeling ready to head into a sauna room, take your pick between a dry heat sauna room, or the steam room dampfbad. Normally, on the outside wall beside the entrance door to the sauna or steam room, there will be a little indicating the temperature inside, any aromatics for the austria nude and other useful information. You can normally also see inside without opening the door to check how crowded it is.
To start with, especially if you haven't been to a naked sauna before, I'd recommend a lower temperature sauna or the steam room. For both types of rooms, you will have to get your kit off - wearing your bathers into a sauna destroys the natural wood and can cost thousands for the sauna owners to replace.
Aside from the fact its bad austria nude and will show you as a foreigner immediately, refusing to take your swimmers off actively destroys the sauna materials, so if you are going to go to a sauna, you have to do so naked. No one will police you covering up a little, but they will definitely call you out for entering with bathers on!
My first few times in a nude, mixed sauna I wrapped myself up tight in my towel, until I realised it was ridiculous to bring my western body hangups into an Austrian sauna, and decided to get over myself more on austria nude below! So Step 6 is - take off your swimmers, wrap yourself in a towel, and enter the sauna! Dun dun dunnnnn! You did it! When entering, be sure to open and close the door as quickly as possible. People already in there obviously don't want the heat to escape, so don't dilly dally in the doorway! You will also maybe be greeted with a quiet ' Gruss gott' from others in the sauna, similar to people greeting you when you get on an elevator in Austria.
Don't be alarmed, it's just polite sauna etiquette. When you enter the sauna room, you will austria nude levels of wooden bank seating, where you can choose to sit or lie down. In general, leave the top levels to the professionals - its always hottest up there because heat rises, and you will have an equally good experience on the lower levels - no shame!
You should also see on the wall beside the entrance once you are inside austria nude sauna, a little hourglass timer thing that you can rotate to start timing how long you are inside the sauna room. The recommended time is 15 minutes, but depending on how hot it is and your comfort levels, minutes is perfectly fine. You basically just want to get your sweat on and let your muscles relax. You should feel comfortably warm and sweaty, breathing slow.
I'm a bit claustrophobic and also have an Australian fear of high heat in enclosed spaces probably from reading way too much about bushfires for years so I always seat myself on the lower levels with a view out the door of the sauna so I can see outside, and not feel 'trapped'. It might just be my personal hangup, but it helps me relax and calm down when I can 'see' the outside world.
Most sauna rooms have glass doors to do so. Once you have spent the time you want in the nude sauna, make sure you slowly sit up for the last 2 minutes before leaving the sauna room, to give your body and blood-rush time to adjust. You don't want to be standing up too quickly and getting a hepin. When you leave the sauna room, head immediately to one of the nearby showers to rinse off. If the sauna room is an outdoor hut, you can also stand in the cold fresh air for a bit first, inhaling the cold air to get more oxygen in after the sauna.
Best practise is to have your post-sauna shower ice cold, but I chicken out a little and add some warm water - just don't tell the traditionalists! Its worth trying the cold water thing once though - in some Therme, they have outdoor pools right outside the sauna room so you can take a Nordic style ice-dip immediately after the heated sauna and it is so so invigorating.
Always worth a try if you're game - after all, you've done the hard part! After you've sweated in the sauna, rinsed off in the icy shower, now you get to the best part You can return to that sun lounger you found before and lay down to let your body decompress and relax, maybe even have a small nap. You'll be feeling like melted candle wax anyway, so austria nude will come naturally. Essentially the rest of your day in the therme and sauna you can can rinse and repeat the above at your own pace.
This little corner at Kaiserbad Ellmau would be my go-to! Most people reccommend you don't go into the high heat sauna rooms more that 3 times and always always leave plenty of time between sessions - its not meant to be torturous.Austria nude
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