That title sounds like some twisted Nordic kids book. Alternative post title would be "My first brush with public nudity".
Readers may or may not be aware that the regions north of say, France, have this whole cultural sauna fetish going on. As it's now getting chilly in the afternoon, and raining every five minutes, I can actually start to see why. So, dear friends I'm going to let you in on a little secret from the frozen north about all those cliches of red-faced men and large-hipped women running from sauna to the snow, and the birch branches and all. IT'S ALL TRUE.
I haven't seen any birch-whipping yet but I bet they do it after the winter solstice. So on Tuesday night, after the last evening belly dance session before Miss K, Aussie dancing diva went home, I took her up on an invite to the sauna. I'd actually heard of the one she'd chosen - it is in a former squat and known for its mosaics and veggie cafe.
As we pulled our bikes up to one of those arty-farty courtyards (you know them, fruit trees and hand-made furniture) , I felt inclined to stage whisper "This is one of those places where you go nude isn't it?" and she answers "I don't really know, but I've brought my towel." Now I've been to the Korean baths in Sydney, and was feeling fairly confident about the whole thing - yeh, I'm cool, no problem. Of course nudism is never actually that sexy - it's just a bunch of regular bumpy lumpy people walking around without their togs.
But my lord its' funny. From the moment we walked in it was a delightful montage of saggy bums, greasy dreadlocks and droopy willies galore! Of course there was only one change room, and of course the guy running the place would give us a guided tour, when we were ready and in our towels - including the screened outdoor bit with the giant cold water shower for after you've been sauna-ing for a while. Oh yeah, did I mention it was about 12 degrees and raining on Tuesday night and it's not even winter yet?
And then in that Dutchy way I'm coming to know and love, there was the middle aged gentleman who pointed out to us that we didn't actually take the towels to sit on in the steam room, but wiped the seat with the squeegee, otherwise the towels would just get soaked. They are so practical! So we of course hung the towels outside and did the right thing, in the very close proximity of 3 naked guys and another chick - all very disconcerting.
And a couple of people commented on how healthy it was for your skin, and the guy with dreds well past his nipples said I had cool tattoos (I do), but true to form this stuff just isn't erotic, and they do talk to your face, and you get the feeling any kind of chat up would be the height of rudeness. But to top it all off, was the cafe area where people gravitated to after their sauna/plunge pool/ foot soak for a nudie latte! I'm not kidding. There were really people starkers having tea and veggie treats and helping themselves to famous dutch licorice from the bar. There was even a chess game going on. Oh yeah, and on Tuesday and Wednesday it's okay to skin up a joint. But not other days. Amsterdam. Bless.
And the best bit? This is not some one-off naturist cult. These things are all over the city. Well maybe not the cafe and the grass. But the rest, for sure. Even most of the regular public pools have designated nude swim times. For anyone visiting from Oz from now on the sauna is going to be a compulsory visit.