Recently we ran a story on Austria’s mixed nudist spas, yes, that’s right, the Austrian’s like to go bare in their saunas and steam rooms. And as Terry explains he’s something of a fan of the whole mixed nudist spas thing, but I have to confess – it’s just not for me.
I’m a textile. Until recently I didn’t know I was. Or indeed had I even heard of the term, but apparently it refers to people who wear clothes as opposed to walking around naked. It’s an interesting phrase for something so everyday – well for me at least.
When we arranged our trip to Austria or indeed until half-way through our stay I didn’t know about it’s mixed nudist spas. But all that changed in Alpbach when we decided to use the Romantik Boglerhof hotel’s spa.
I was delighted to see my fellow, stiff-upper-lip and keep-everything-under-wraps Brits in their swimwear
That day the rain came down and we thought better of our planned hike. This, I thought, was my chance to have a little me time and relax with a swim and steam.
Changing in our hotel room I put on my bikini, buried myself in a fluffy white dressing gown and made my way to the spa beyond the impressive indoor swimming pool with an underwater connection to the outdoor pool. Heading into the spa area ready for some rest and relaxation I was brought to an abrupt halt by the following notice: No bathing costumes allowed.
I’m a pretty worldly sort – I’ll try most things once and certainly don’t consider myself a prude, but I was surprised. Taking a deep breath I rounded the door and saw men and women wandering between saunas and stream rooms completely naked. I am used to single sex nude spas and have used them in Hungary and Turkey at a Turkish bath but having men in there was a completely different situation.
There were bits and bobs of bodies jiggling all over the place. I didn’t know where to look – so tried my best just kept eye contact. In truth I found the whole experience a little embarrassing.
After a few minutes a British couple came in and I was delighted to see my fellow, stiff-upper-lip and keep-everything-under-wraps Brits in their swimwear. Suddenly I could relax – there was no need to feel awkward about not being naked.
Heading into the dimly-lit steam room with more confidence, the heavy steam cloaked my view. But as it receded, I was confronted by a man standing there letting it all hang out. I tried to grin and bear it, but it was so hot in there – not from the steam this time – but from the prickly heat of my embarrassment. I made for the door.
The next day we moved onto Saalbach and the Theresiagarten Hotel – a lovely hotel with a very modern spa. As we entered the spa area we were the only ones there so I could use the facilitates in peace without any naked shenanigans. But when an Austrian couple came in and stripped off, I beat a retreat and made for the pool.
I was racked by that strange inward embarrassment you feel when you find yourself fully-clothed on a nudist beach
My third mixed nudist spas experience was at the Tauern Spa, in Kaprun, close to Zell-am-See. It had a number of indoor and outdoor swimming pools in the most gorgeous setting with a back drop of towering mountains and lush green countryside. And though it had an extensive collection of saunas and steam rooms among its mixed nudist spas, it also catered for us more demure bathers with a ‘textile-only’ area. I was thrilled not to have to put up with all the nudity of the main spa and happily sat in the heat of a steam room with a male spa-goer for a good 15 minutes. As we sat there I couldn’t help wondering – would I have been comfortable if we were naked? A resounding ‘no’ rang in my head.
But after taking in the textile steam, bio-sauna and Finnish sauna I was a little bored. The textile area of the spa at this luxury spa hotel was very quiet and there were just three rooms for those of us wearing clothes compared to the seven for my naturist friends.
Wrapped in just my bath robe I took a stroll into the naturist area willing myself to give it a go but was racked by that strange inward embarrassment you feel when you find yourself fully-clothed on a nudist beach.
In one of the saunas a naked man swung a towel around his head to intensify the heat, like a cowboy trying to lasso a steer. In another a couple had fallen asleep on each other – it was an intimate scene, clothed or not, and I just couldn’t disturb them.
After only a couple of minutes I made my way back to the swimming pools defeated. It was obvious many people enjoyed the mixed nudists spas but it just isn’t for me – it was just too intimate a situation to enjoy with a group of strangers.
Want to see more of Austria’s spa treatments? Watch us, well Terry, go naked in a beer bath, aided and abetted by our friend Kirsten.
Have you ever tried mixed nudist spas? Could you go bare with a mixed group of strangers? Let us know your thoughts below…
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lila fox says
Had my first all-nude spa experience last Fall in Germany at Friedrichsbad, a healing spa. It was mixed – both male & female – and I’ve got to say I was terrified at first but got used to it real quick. I just zoned everyone else out and did my own thing. I’d do it again in a heartbeat! My husband on the other hand couldn’t bring himself to do it ;)
Sarah Lee says
Well done Lila, you’re a better woman than I am.
It was the reverse for us, I wasn’t so keen while my husband was more relaxed and would do it again.
In european countries nudity is far more accepted,the uk still has this ridiculous thing that nudity is sumthing sexual wen clearly it isnt. u only need go to the many naturist places both here in the uk and abroad to realise that. steve
Terry Lee says
Yes, it is interesting how different cultures on the same continent view nudity so very differently.
We have been to Bad Schwalbach in Austria yesterday. We met only one textile couple in sauna area and they looked really weird there. You can use towel or blanket if you are shy. You can get use to to be naked, no one cares about you.
It was our first time and very relaxing. We will go there soon again.
Sarah Lee says
After my last trip to Austria a few weeks ago, I’ve become just a little braver. Have ditched the swimwear in favour of a towel, but I’m still not sure I’ll ever be completely au fait with it all. Glad you enjoyed the spa experience though, Tom.
Too bad you didn’t really give it a chance. Perhaps if you’d just sat down in a pool and closed your eyes for awhile you could have calmed down enough to get used to. Fear of being naked is something society has to drum into people – they are not born that way. Little children have no such hangup.
Face your fear and it will disapear or exposure therapy as psychiatrist call it. Please do give it another try.
You just might like it.
Interesting views and perfectly understandable.However people need to be aware that most German and Austrian hotels and “wellness” centres are very strict about all users of the facility being naked. People are often asked to leave if they insist on wearing a costume and if the staff don’t do this then local users will often do so on their behalf. I guess this was originally done to put everybody on the same footing and deter pure voyeurs. Like most Brits my wife and I were very reluctant to strip off but now have no problem with it. In fact my wife is convinced that the Sauna is more effective when the perspiration isn’t trapped in by a costume or towel ( though sitting on a towel is the second cardinal rule of German and Austrian saunas). We have used them many times and have never witnessed any unsettling or inappropriate behaviour. Perhaps also calling them “nudist” is a bit too far. Most people are, like us, stripped off for the sauna and not as a reflection of a wider lifestyle choice.
Relax and Enjoy !
Why are some people so scared of the bodies we all have? And what possible benefit are you going to get from a sauna anyway in swimwear? It is like taking a bath with swimwear on. Very unhygienic and counter productive. Living in the Uk as I do, I am so envious of our more enlightened European neigbours who can go to a spa and experience it as it should be all the time. A spa is about relaxation, and freedom from any constriction, or should be. Let go of your pointless and irrational hang ups and don’t think that everybody in a spa is thinking about you. I venture to suggest that there is just a hint of sexism here about worrying about men being naked as opposed to just women. A proper spa is non sexual,and people are…people.
David Brittain says
The only way to properly sauna is to sauna nude, but I realise its not for everyone, especially Brits, where its very much not part of the culture. I too live in the UK and am envious of places like Holland, Germany and Austria where people go to the spas and saunas to relax and they are not seen as a little dodgy, as they can be in the UK. Its a cultural thing and hang up about getting naked are just that – hang ups, as nobody cares when you are all in the buff together. But it can make people not used to it uncomfortable at first and for some its just never going to feel right.
M in Rome says
Vote 1 Roger, and then some. Sarah, you’re writing for a travel site; you need to learn to travel. Not just take holidays within your comfort zone. I don’t agree with others who find your approach understandable. I get that a lot of people are trapped in their fears and that body image ranks pretty high among them, and I understand that they struggle to come to terms with it. But when you publish those fears and tell people it’s ok to hang on to them you become part of the moronic self-righteousness that keeps their minds closed.
If you want to call yourself a traveller stop applying your own preconceptions. Go places, open your mind and try the things the people there do. Austrian saunas are only sexual/uncomfortable because people like you, and unfortunately now a bunch of your readers, bring sex and judgment into them.
Bobby C. says
My wife is from Europe and I am from the US. When we first met she was here working. We dated a couple of years before our first visit to Germany. Now for the first time she suggested we go to sauna I assumed we would have bathing suits on. We got to the spa and paid for our visit. Then we went to the changing room. I was very nervous, there I stood in shock. There were men, women and children in various states of undress. She grabbed my arm and walked me to our locker. Very quietly she explained how things are there. After that first experience I said I will never do that again. It has been several years since that happened and I have mellowed out. When we visit her family, her mom teaches me German in the sauna. So being naked with her mom, sisters and good friends it’s no different than with clothes on. Never did I imagine I could even have such a thought. One of the best things we did was build a sauna at our house. I enjoy it with my lovely wife, the kids, some not so uptight friends or the best is alone, perfect for forgetting all of life’s stresses. Everyone needs a sauna.