I cannot make this stuff up…
Ok, first a lesson on European spa etiquette, especially in the Germanic countries. You sit with your clothes off in the sauna. There are no exceptions. It is absolutely sacrosanct.
The fastest way to anger a German is to enter a sauna with your bathing suit on. Most Germans will give you a dirty look even if you enter wrapped in a towel, though always ensure that you are sitting or laying on a towel and place a towel beneath your feet, so as not to drip sweat on the wood.
Saunas in much of Europe are co-ed. And yes, they are filled with naked people. There is nothing sexual about them. They are medicinal.
I remember the first time, almost a decade ago, that I took the “brave step” of actually disrobing and sitting in a sauna naked with perfect strangers for the first time. You don’t look around, you don’t talk beyond a salutary greeting, you don’t stare, you just put in your 15 minutes and get out.
So here’s what happened in the spa of the Park Hyatt Vienna. I was lying down in the sauna, alone and naked. Suddenly, a 7-8 year old kid ran in wearing his swimming trunks, took one look at me, and ran out. Then he ran in and out again several more times, never staying for more than a few seconds.
Great, I thought…horseplay in the sauna. And he was letting cold air in.
But then the boy dragged his father into the sauna, pointed to me, and said, “See, the man has no clothes!”
His father glared at me and angrily exclaimed:
You need to cover up! There are children here! Are you some sort of pervert?
I was speechless for a moment. Did he not see this sign on the door?
Ah, my great opportunity for education. Now I could explain to this man about German spa etiquette. But before I could even do so, the man and his son just walked out. I did not see them again.
In case you’re wondering, the boy and his father appeared to be Americans. The father had no regional dialect, but certainly sounded American.
I have to chuckle at this story. It’s a cultural thing, I know. We Americans don’t like nudity. But come on, the warning was on the door! If your instinct is to abhor the thought of sitting in a sauna with your clothes off, ask yourself why.
> Read More: Park Hyatt Vienna Review (Ambassador Suite)