Inside the Nude German Sauna

Cooling down near sauna

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The terror begins as soon as you step into the changing room. This one is tiny, with a row of narrow lockers either side and shoes neatly stored underneath. From the number of shoes (all sensible flat boots – this is Germany) I calculate there must be a good 20 people using the sauna inside. No one is in the changing room, which brings a mixture of relief and panic. Relief because I can get undressed in private before working up the courage to join the other crazy nude people, and panic because I do not know the etiquette in German saunas and I could do with someone to copy. Do I just waltz in, naked? Bare boobs and all? Or should I go in my bikini first? Shall I hold my towel, wrap it around me, or drape it over my shoulder cheesy 80s style? I clearly didn’t think this through.

In a desperate search for answers, I peer through the window of the door to the sauna area. I see people! In dressing gowns! And sturdy flip flops!  Oh Scheisse. I didn’t bring either. I always manage to make a British fool out of myself in these German situations. I should have known about the ‘sauna shoes’. Germans are obsessed with wearing shoes inside, as I have learnt from their strict ‘house shoes’ policy. So trust the Germans to still be wearing shoes in the one place where all other clothes are forbidden. To the left I see a group of naked, middle-aged men and women having what looks like a good old natter over each others’ bits and bobs. “This is just too weird” I think, wondering if it’s not too late to chicken out. But I had come too far to do that. Plus I wanted to write about it on my blog.

I strip down to my bikini and wrap my towel firmly around me. If I’m going to get naked with the Germans then I will have to do it slowly.  I hold my head up high (as high as you can at 5ft 2ins) and open the door to the sauna area.

The group of naked natterers turn to stare at me. “Gruss Gott!” they all say in harmony. That’s a typical Bavarian greeting that means “greetings from God”  “Hallo!” I say back, trying not to sound nervous – or even worse – foreign. Then their eyes turn to my bare feet. Their smiles turn to looks of horror. Bare feet! Inside! Now they definitely know I’m not one of them.

I spot a toilet cubicle and make a dash for it. Finally somewhere I can have some privacy. I lock the door behind me and giggle uncontrollably like a schoolgirl. Quietly of course otherwise I could get into trouble. I don’t think Germans appreciate foreigners laughing at their naked sauna antics. I decide I have to get my immature giggles out before I open the door again, so I spend a few minutes whisper laughing while removing my bikini. Towel on, bikini in hand, I compose myself, open the door, and face the naked natterers again. Most of the women natterers are covering their modesty with dressing gowns now. But the men are definitely less shy. I try not to stare or even look in their direction, instead focussing my sight on some pigeon holes where I can leave my now very redundant bikini.

Now. Where to go next. I can feel the naked natterers’ eyes on me, so there’s no time to hesitate and look foreign. There are taps and sinks everywhere. I don’t know what for. Then I finally spot a door with ‘Sauna 1’ written on it. Some instructions I can understand! I’m going in.

There are two older men inside. Maybe in their fifties. Both naked of course. I keep my head down and find a spot in the sauna as far away from them as possible. I take a deep breath, remove my towel (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!) which means I am now naked! In front of strangers! I pretend to be super cool about this and lay my towel down to sit on. From the corner of my eye I can tell one of the men is sitting with his legs apart, letting it all show. The other is on his back. I intend to do neither, and find a sitting position that reveals as least of my naked self as possible. Thankfully I was a contortionist in a previous life.

After ten very long minutes of heat, sweat, palpitations and trying to avoid eye contact with the naked men, I decide my first session is over. Now it’s time to shower. But first I have to get up, grab my towel, wrap it around me and leave. It’s impossible to do this without the two men seeing me naked again. Crap. Moving will also bring attention to myself, so there’s no way I can do this in secret. Maybe they aren’t looking anyway, I tell myself. It’s too hot to stay. I have to leave before I faint while naked and that would be really embarrassing. I get up, grab my towel and attempt to wrap it around myself while hastily leaving the sauna. But major fail. Somehow my towel has folded itself in two, and there isn’t enough material to cover my bits. I end up leaving the room engulfed in a battle with my towel and most definitely naked. How horrifying (for a Brit).

Now, if I thought that bit of the naked German sauna was scary, this part was going to be even worse. The showers. I find them in a large circular room, with no doors, dividers, screens…just the showers. How cosy. The room with no boundaries reminds me of scenes in films where men get raped in prison. Plus I have to leave my towel outside unless I want it to get completely soaked. No hiding this time. This is where people will actually see me properly naked. And wet. A man and woman are using the showers, so again, I find a spot as far away from them as possible, and shower fast, as if I’m paying 20 Euro per drip.

I then find a plastic garden chair to sit on outside the sauna room (not far from the naked natterers, who are still naked and nattering, very quietly of course) where I can close my eyes and try and relax. Because that’s what you come to a sauna for isn’t it? To relax. I was far from relaxed. Us Brits are only used to being naked in front of others for sexual reasons, medical reasons, and for accidental reasons (window cleaners). So being naked in front of complete strangers for none of those reasons, plus being scared of doing something wrong and being shouted at in German, which I don’t understand well, was not a very relaxing experience. “Just go with it,” is some of the advice people have given on using the naked German sauna. Maybe I’m just a pathetic weakling. Sorry, but it’s just the way most of us are brought up in Britain. To be pathetic and weak.

As I contemplate this, a man aged about 70 wearing trunks comes waddling over to a set of scales positioned about three feet away from me. He stands on the scales and drops his Speedos in front of everyone. His hairy, wrinkly little bum thrusts itself in my direction. But as we’re in the naked German sauna, this is completely normal behaviour. I have no place to be offended. To my right there’s a door to an area outside. Despite the snow, there’s a naked man out there too, pacing around, cooling down after his sauna. I’m not sure I can get used to this. How strange would it be if you bumped into your old teacher in one of these things?

After using the sauna and rape shower again, I find a little room where about 10 people are lounging on deck chairs in various states of undress. Most are mature women reading magazines. Yes, sorry guys, no Heidi Klum lookalikes in the naked German sauna. Maybe this is why my Bavarian other-half never goes. It’s eerily quiet, like a library. Except ever so not like a library. I have a little sit down but the other women seem to be giving me weird ‘up and down’ looks as if I have broken some part of the naked dress code. I feel awkward and decide it’s time to leave.

If you’ve read this blog before you may be aware that I once stumbled into a nude German sauna by accident. However, I kept my bikini firmly on, much to the disgust of the other guests. I knew that if I wanted to go for a sauna in Germany again, I’d have to get my kit off. I was pleased that I had finally given it a go. But I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I like to relax in the sauna, and this experience was far from relaxing. The facilities here are great – far superior to what we have back home. But I think I’ll wait until I visit England where it is acceptable to keep your swimwear on and the awkward silences are broken up with pointless conversations about the weather. Plus I won’t have to worry about offending anyone with my towel. Danke!

15 thoughts on “Inside the Nude German Sauna

  1. Would you do it again or is this the last one? My wife and I have gone frequently but she was fluent enough to understand and crap beforehand. We ended up going to one of the bigger sauna parks (Miramar) and while yeah it was WEIRD, WEIRD, WEIRD it quickly did in fact become very relaxing, it just took a bit to get over the “HOLY CRAP WE ARE ALL NAKED” aspect. Anyway really enjoyed, looking forward to more.

    • Servus! Hmmm I don’t think I will be going to one of these small, local saunas again unless it’s women only. They’re just too awkward. But I would like to give one of the larger, more modern places a try, like the one you went too. We did go to Therme Erding but we stayed in the clothed part. Boring I know but I couldn’t convince my Bavarian to come through with me to the ‘naked’ bit. Since writing this post my neighbour has invited me to use her sauna in her garden with her ‘when her husband is away’. So that should be interesting! I loved your post about F’ ing February. At least it is March now.

    • I hope it’s still OK to comment here. My GF and I are mid-thirties now, and absolutely love the German sauna / therme. Our introduction to the therme was in Baden-Baden at both Bad Friedrichsbad and Caracalla. We were both German sauna rookies then, and we were told by an elderly lady who owned our bed & breakfast to just do it. That to miss the experience would be a huge shame, and that she still goes twice a week. I’m so happy we listened to her. It was a great experience, although much much larger than what you experienced here. American’s here btw. It was a little weird in the changing rooms, considering the sheer volume of people attending the facilities. We must have been two in a hundred. Now Bad Friedrichsbad is laid out so that you experience each treatment in a certain order, which was great because we were completely new to the idea!! We started with a shower, then went to room two, three, four, etc. There were SO many people in each area that you didn’t feel judged. No one person looked us up and down, or if they did they were lost in the shamble of naked flesh everywhere. The interesting part is, my GF and I like to say we’re fairly attractive people. We’re both in tip top physical shape and fairly easy on the eyes. While the people in these rooms ranged from really young to really old, and the best part was that none of them cared. The majority at least, I mean we did meet one creeper in the facility. The only time we felt shy or modest was in the locker rooms (anxiety), and then around all the young and incredibly gorgeous people that attend the facilities (feeling of being inferior may be?). Now the thing is, that modesty faded away real quick. By room two or three we felt no apprehension being naked. Many of the folks were younger and prettier, and many were older and not so much. It was a sea of naked bodies and we felt like we were wearing the best camouflage.

      Oh, and one last thing. After Bad Friedrichsbad, we felt comfortable attending the German saunas everywhere we went. If we had time, a hangover, or exhausted muscles from doing lord knows what. We would go try the local sauna as a cure. The majority of the saunas were filled with old friends, which was fine with us. We just grabbed a spot and relaxed. The modesty issue became moot, because we realized that we could either fight it or just go with it. It’s a part of their culture that we respect now. When in Rome I guess.

  2. Loved this funny post – particularly the bit about bumping into an old teacher. This is EXACTLY why naked saunas are such a bad idea! 🙂

    • Imagine the horror. My father-in-law also uses these things and I really don’t want to see him naked. Glad you liked it:)

    • I ran into a former pupil in a hammam – I didn’t recognise her at first. This was in France so I was wearing a swimsuit and she was in a tiny bikini. I was single (in my early 40s, she was early 20s) at the time and to be frank I did eye her up – until she raised her head, saw me and said: “Oh hello, M. **** !”. So I had some nice company for the rest of the evening !

  3. […] sure won’t see any Germans writing blog posts about how uncomfortable they are with stripping down and doing the sauna thing (even though the SEOs on those posts would jumpstart their blogs). You […]

  4. […] UPDATE: I did it. Read all about it here. […]

  5. […] you just exchanged niceties with over the chest press machine? The one thing that got me through going naked in a German sauna once before was the fact I wouldn’t see any of the other people in it ever again. It’s […]

  6. Haha, this is really a funny post again!

    Being German, being naked in the Sauna never struck me as something strange. Actually this is the way it was supposed to be when Sauna was invented by the Greeks / Romans!

    But let me top your story:
    On an offsite event once I was sitting in a Sauna with my boss! Guess that would never happen in the UK, would it ?!

    One comment though:
    It IS considered rude and bad style to look at other guest’s private parts in a sauna. So actually you should not pay them to much attention. And in a more upscale Sauna, other guest will do likewise.

    Btw. Erding is just too crowded and certainly not a top location in respect of discretion.
    Try this one at Lake Schliersee, it is my absolute favorite. Very stylish, not crowded, calm and a fantastic view over the lakes and mountains. Plus excellent food (bathing gown obligatory in the restaurant though 😉 ).


    • What? You have to wear clothes in the restaurant? haha, that looks great, hopefully I can give it a try sometime. Yes I didn’t think Erding was the most exclusive place. But fun. Don’t worry, I haven’t been looking at other people’s privates in the sauna. I try REALLY hard not to. But sometimes it’s hard when people are right there in your face. I think the best sauna experience is the naked one. However us Brits would rather die than go naked in front of our boss. It’s just too weird. Thanks for stopping by again, always appreciate the local’s view.

  7. […] print.  We haven’t even talked about FKK (Nudist) groups yet, Saunas (Had a Few Beers and Brit in Bavaria’s favorite!), or the fact that toplessness is allowed at pretty much all swimming pools and […]

  8. I wish you could take me to one of those saunas, because I’m too nervous going by myself. I actually think it would be nice to try being all naked in front of strangers, but I’m not as brave as you are. I guess I have a secret dream of trying it. Maybe some day I might go to one of the more stylish places.

    • It is a scary experience. I don’t blame you for not wanting to go alone! It took me a while to warm up to the idea and I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, but it was kind of refreshing. Give it a go otherwise you’ll regret not trying!

  9. I would like to say that I find your assumptions that all British people are a scared and prudish about nudaty as you are almost offensive I am borne and bread British and proud to be so however I have never had a problem with public nudaty (in an applicable location and situation) if I was to see an old teacher or my boss who cares we are both naked so no problem we all have naked body’s under our clothes and we have all seen it be for there is no reason to associate nudaty with sex. I would not go nude in a British spa as it is sadly not the done thing (our loss if you ask me) but as they say when in Rome or Berlin do as the Romans or Berliners do if your not comfortable then don’t go but don’t go saying things like the naked nutters as I guarantee they were looking at you thinking look at the silly English person Sat in a sauna swetting all over there self because the swet can get away

    Anyway rant over

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