Let’s go to the sauna, she said. It’ll be fun, she said. No swimsuit? No problem! Austrian sauna etiquette is you go in starkers.It’s healthy!
So there I was, standing outside the door of the sauna sans attire and clutching a not very capacious towel around my somewhat capacious person. And that’s when I saw the fellow walking in front of us. The naked fellow. As in jaybird.
(Query? Why are jaybirds considered particularly nude and not, say, naked mole rats? After all they are covered in plumage, and fine feathers at that. The internets give us a variety of quite probably fallacious explanations; I’m going with the one where in olden days jailbirds, aka j-birds, were denuded of their clothes after being checked in and had to walk the length of the prison before picking up their prison duds.)
But I digress. At the time etymology was not my chief concern.
“Wait!” I squeaked. “These saunas are naked and co-ed?”
I could feel my companion squinting with the effort of not rolling her eyes. “You don’t have to go in if you don’t want to,” she said patiently.
A brief moment of panic ensued.
And then I figured, what the heck. When in Austria do as the Austrians, etc., etc.
Keeping a firm grip on my towel I edged into the (blessedly empty) sauna and made for one of the wooden benches. Here another dilemma presented itself. The wooden slats were hot, hot, hot, which meant that unless one felt like emulating poor grilled St. Lawrence the thing to do was to lie on top of the towel. That, of course, left one with no towel for clutching purposes. I came up with a compromise of lying mostly on the towel with one corner left for strategic flipping.
I eased myself into a prone position; I felt the dry heat creep over my skin. And then a very strange thing happened. I relaxed.
Turns out sauna advocates are on to something. It really does feel fantastic to lie quietly in a hot room and feel your tension seep away. A couple of other people did filter in, but, to be honest, I paid them no more attention than they did me.
My verdict: Saunas are good, clean fun.