• Sharon Mackay

Love Yourself, Just As You Are?!

Travel musings; little stories about life while traveling...

Sauna is an interesting concept and one we aren't all that up on in Australia, or America for that matter.

On a chilly, damp Austrian Sunday, with clouds hanging around eye level, a bit of inner warmth sounded like a good alternative to clambering over glaciers. We had been travelling for a couple of months and, quite frankly, couldn’t face another ancient church or temple, so downhill my husband and I ambled toward the public pool. We find a surprisingly rowdy crowd gathered out the front, I thought Austrians must get excited by saunas and swims. Alas, the only water here is frozen solid in the form of an ice hockey rink. Familiar sounds of sticks on pucks, skates on ice and the low hooter marking the end of the third period fill the cold air. An ice rink at the pool?? Yep, just on the other side of the glass is the much more appealing, lovely warm swim centre.

I’m excited as we walk into the steamy pool area with slippery dips, kids squealing and I scope out a banana chair I plan to lounge on after my dip to read and lol away the afternoon. But first, we’ll check out the Sauna World, after all we paid 6 Euros, we might as well use it. A swipe of our Sauna World special bracelet, through the automatic, mysteriously frosted doors and low and behold another world awaits. A much better world, of the House and Garden best spa of the year variety. The squeals of children and faintly chlorine pedestrian nature of the lowly public pool becomes a distant memory, that banana chair is promptly forgotten, the pale timber, tinkling ‘spa soundtrack’, the very lovely modern garden take hold, I love it here, I am not leaving, cancel our flights, hell, it even smells like a slightly herby heaven.

But then I see them. Men. Old men. Old naked men. Some lounging in various saunas, in steam rooms, in the open showers, some even doing calisthenics in the courtyard. More dicks than you could poke a pole at....

Oh shivers, advert the eyes, look straight ahead, you’re a big girl, this is Europe, this is what they do...

Then I see the sign. The one stating ‘no swimwear/clothes in sauna world allowed, must sit on a towel, do not sweat on wood...’

I tell you, my puritanical Boston upbringing came into question at this point. My husband was out of his budgie smugglers before you could say ‘add another cock to the show’ but me? Naked? Fark!

I wrap the rented towel around me, and not so delicately wriggle out of my new, favourite, swimmers, the ones I was recently reunited with when my luggage returned after its solo holiday to god only knows where. I hang my swimmers on a hook outside a tucked away, back alley sauna, open the door and hope for the best...

I thank my lucky stars there is only a 70’s ish, sturdy looking, buck naked Helga type lady I am sharing my sauna with. I take off said towel, spread it out as directed and lay down quick smart. Not so bad, this is quite good. I am feeling comfortable, who cares right? I learn quickly the sauna protocol, no pleasantries, no guten morgan, no eye contact, just mind your P’s and Q’s (or T and A’s?) and get on with your own sweating. Not a problem...

Then, in a cool rush of air, the door opens and in walks Adonis, vailed in a puff of dramatic steam, beautifully sculpted, gorgeously tanned and toned, and… totally naked. This is a big sauna, we can all have our own private spot...I can handle this. But no, he climbs straight over my naked self, actually straddles me, on the way up and positions his Adonis self on the shelf above me, so close I could feel his lovely breath on my naked neck while I held my own breath for I don’t know how long. FARK! Keep eyes adverted, stay calm, act cool....

Helga’s naked self doesn’t seem to notice, she is an Austrian sauna world pro, laying there in her sturdiness sweating away. We stay in our positions for what seems an eternity, Adonis’s breath on my neck, me wondering if you can actually die of heat exhaustion in these things when he swings his leg over me again, stands on my shelf above me for what seems an even longer eternity, hops down and is gone just like that.

I don’t move or breath for a minute or so then sit up slowly. Sturdy Helga catches my eye, gives me a quick raise of her well-endowed, bushy eyebrow and says with her heavy Austrian accent, ‘not bad, eh?’

Not bad at all. I may embrace the nudist lifestyle yet!

Sharon and Rod visited Zell am See is an Austrian town on Lake Zell, south of the city of Salzburg in October 2018. It's beautiful clear blue lake sits at the base of the trails and lifts leading to the ski slopes of Schmittenhöhe Mountain. The quaint market town is nestled on the shores of the lake is a pure delight with its gingerbread chalets, hearty Austrian food and drink, high end shops and a couple of very swank traditional guests hotels. Green hills and warm sunshine to hike and mountain bike in summer and ski lifts right from town to the top of the snowy mountain in winter. Oh and a swim centre to die for...

Zell am See, Austria

47° 19' 24.6756'' N and 12° 47' 48.6600'' E.


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We acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and their continuing connections to country and community. We pay our respect to their cultures, elders past, present and emerging.