Sunday, 3 October 2010

A relaxing Saturday evening at the sauna

Yesterday was Saturday. I woke up around 10, went to the library to return my books and read Newsweek magazine. I went to H&M and spent 64 Euros, which I told myself was more than justified as some of it was workwear. Then I walked home.

When I got home my flatmate said she and my other flatmate were thinking of going to a sauna at the swimming baths on the number 50 bus route, would I like to come along? I said yes, my skin would enjoy the experience. Did I have a swimsuit? Yes I did, so that wasn't an issue either.

At 7pm sharp we left the flat, my flatmates with their rucksacks, me with my H&M carrier (I don't have a rucksack), containing swimsuits and towels. It felt like we were going on a school trip. Noone had packed any sandwiches. We were at the bus stop 10 minutes early (it was closer than we had expected) and then got on the bus towards Rebstockbad. We went past the Messe and out of town.

We got to the swimming baths and I realised I had not brought my student ID, meaning I lost out on a saving of 2 EUR. We got the complicated directions of how to go through the turnstiles and through another turnstile to the saunas.

In the changing rooms we were greeted by several naked Germans (pretty standard fare at a German swimming baths) and did our best to protect our modesty as we got changed. We went towards the saunas in our swimsuits and a towel-clad German lady told us it was 'ohne Bikini' (without swimsuits). We tried to explain we thought we would be ok in swimsuits but thanks for the advice.

So we went through and sat in the first sauna room (65 degrees). As we sat, a member of staff entered. We thought maybe she was doing maintenance or doing something to the heater or whatever. Then she said,
"I can see the looks on your faces, you know what I'm, going to say."
We had no idea what she was going to say.
"In this sauna we practise FKK."
Oh. FKK stands for 'Freie Körper Kulture', free body culture, or, more simply, nakedness. We asked why and she told us some Scheisse about sweat and bacteria and swimsuits and the wooden banches which sounded totally made up.

Also, my flatmates needed Badeschlappen (bathing shoes). I had flip flops already.

So we went back to the changing rooms and changed into our towels (which were allowed.) and my flatmates paid 2,50 EUR each for some lovely white plastic sandals to walk around the complex in. There were 11 rooms including 2 steam rooms, saunas at heats from 65-100 degrees Celsius and a 'snow room'. We tried out most of the rooms and tried to choose the ones containing the fewest naked Germans at any one time. In the 100 degrees sauna a Ukrainian engineer asked us if we were from the US and what did we think of Frankfurt and as we left the steam room (which was very full of middle aged naked German men) my flatmate heard one of them saying something about British girls. She wasn't too happy: she's Finnish.

We decided againt the cool dip in our birthday suits so perhaps we did not get the full benefit of the sauna experience. Though the snow room was a fair enough alternative. And after about an hour we decided to have a drink from the bar/cafe in the middle of the complex to cool down a little. My flatmates had shandy, I had an Apfelshorle.

After some more experience of the steam room, snow room and the 100 degrees sauna we decided to make a move. And time was ticking on, we only had a 2 hour ticket. So we got showered and changed and then got to the bus stop with 5 minutes to spare. We got home and watched 'The Longest Yard'.

Next time we might just go swimming instead.


  1. Free body culture – Well, that is one way of putting it. But do not be embarrassed if you opted to be modest. For first timers, being naked in sauna baths can be unnerving but there are modern saunas now that doesn’t follow such rules. I, too, had my share of such experience. Good thing my wife and I decided to get a home sauna to save us from some uncomfortable situations.

  2. Sauna is a place for relaxation and not a place to stress you out. People have different preferences, and it's okay if you choose to wear clothes. It's just that you were with a Finnish, and it's normal for them to do it naked. Just understand that it's a part of their culture to do it that way. Just take her words as advice or suggestion. I hope what happened will not stop you from going to saunas.