Spa visits are not a luxury but a necessity in Germany. The cornerstone of these visits is getting nude and sweating it And - because this is Germany - there are rules. Follow these guidelines or ready yourself for the wrath of some stern and very nude Germans.
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Bathing suits are not allowed for sanitary reasons. I needed some convincing. It was time to experience a sauna in Germany. But I did it on my terms — in our small hotel in Dresden, over km from Stuttgart, where my chances of running into anyone we knew would be extremely low.
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If you have been to Germany, you know what I mean. Going to sauna means that you are going to see a lot of naked people. The most shocking thing for me at the beginning is: the sauna is mixed gender!
Nothing new about being told off, as even liberal Berlin, to which I recently moved, is full of baffling rules. For the Germans, this is as normal as a trip to the supermarket. As in Scandinavia, saunas are revered here for their relaxing effects, circulatory benefits and power to make you sweat a pint in 10 minutes. They are also mixed-sex, and no bathing suits are allowed. A nude mixed sauna is a shocking proposition to an Anglo-American like me. It is also an intriguing one. The pictures online showed a smart, spa-like space of minimalist wood, turquoise tiles and people in luxuriant robes. I assumed this would be a soft introduction to bare-cheeked baking. I had expected at least the people in reception to be wearing clothes. Instead, standing at the desk is a woman wrapped only in a small white towel.