Saturday 20 April 2013

Naked encounter - 7

My sweat-filled eyes focused hazily on the two naked young Finns opposite me; I marvelled at how I had come to be in this situation. They had befriended me at Helsinki railway station less than three hours ago as I had gotten off the
Moscow train.
Nordic Sauna
     During our conversation, I had casually asked them the way to the youth hostel, they had told me that they were waiting for a train to take them to their family forest retreat for the weekend. They asked if I would like to join them, as they needed to practise their English.
    I have always subscribed to the premise that Life is made up of a road lined with a series of doors through which lay opportunities – one can either pass by, or push them open to enter.

Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

      As I have never knowingly turned down the opportunity of a new experience, I therefore readily agreed to join them. Why not? It was winter, it was cold; twenty centimetres of snow blanketed the city and I had just arrived from a journey of thirteen bathless days on the Trans-Siberian railway I had travelled from Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan, by way of Lake Baikal, to Helsinki on the Baltic Sea.
     My newfound friends took me off on a twenty-minute train journey north followed by a quarter of an hour trek through deep forest snow, We arrived at a charming, but mystical log cabin on the edge of a frozen lake. A fire was quickly built in a wood burner and we warmed ourselves with mugs of hot chocolate laced with vodka.
     I was acutely aware of my need for a bath, so I asked if there was hot water available. They said: ‘We can do better than that. Outside, we have a cabin with a traditional Finnish sauna; it’s already heating up and just about ready for use. Let’s strip! Let’s go!’ 

Naked and Melting   

     I'm certainly no prude and definitely enjoy new experiences, but I soon had doubts whether agreeing to a sauna-bath had been such a good idea.
     I had just been cooked, oxygen-starved, beaten raw with vihta birch twigs, had my nose and lungs purged with searing steam and then recooked again. I was feeling like a splodge of soggy steamed pudding; juices oozed from every pore as I slowly melted into a puddle of my former self.                                           
Painful bliss.
     Suddenly, Oskar leapt to his feet, pushed open the cabin door and rushed out into the snow.  Anneka, paused momentarily, flashed her ice-blue eyes at me and said: ‘Come! This is the best part.' She too disappeared, her short blonde hair bouncing in rhythm with her naked buttocks.
     I needed little encouragement to slide off the wooden seat and stagger to the doorway. I stood there, gasping and gulping in lungs of ice-cold air. I was as naked as a newborn babe, a gossamer cloak of body-steam engulfed me, it rose and mingled with snowflakes drifting in the raw winter air.
     Giant Nordic pines with snow-laden limbs towered above me. All I could hear in the muffled silence were distant shrieks of my new friends egging me on with, 'Come! Come! It is so good.’

The Pink Panther on the prowl

     I followed their footprints to the lakeside jetty - like a prudish ‘Pink Panther’ on the prowl. My overcooked senses were insensitive to the temperature of snow melting beneath my bare feet.
A puddle of my former self.
     Around me, lay a gentle Christmas scene of white-capped trees and a frozen lake, but I was in no state to enjoy it. What concerned me was the black forbidding pool of arctic water where Oskar and Annika were splashing playfully amid broken chunks of floating ice.
     'Come.' Anneka beamed. ‘We are doing this every day.’
     No wonder you have ice-blonde hair, I thought. Such monumental madness after a sauna would make anyone's hair turn white.

Bathing around the World

     I thought back to my time in Japan and my almost daily hedonistic visits to the local Ofuro public bathhouse. There, in its noisy, steamy atmosphere, bathing is a community event, a place to exchange gossip with naked neighbours who, while sitting on low wooden stools, soap themselves and scrub each others backs.
     Only when thoroughly clean and rinsed off would we then go into the main Ofuro bath-hall, to soak away the world's worries and meditate for an hour in the large hot communal pools. 
     It was a very enjoyable and civilised two-hour process, one which required no birch beating or suffocation, nor any bizarre ritual of plunging naked into frozen lakes in mixed company.
     Bathing is the first human function we are introduced to at birth and the last act we are subjected to after death. And, because we do it at least 20,000 times during our lifetime, it is probably one of mankind's most familiar of functions – for most people it is an act of pleasure that comes second only to food or making whoopee.
     Why then do different nationals choose to perform this simple act so differently?

Each to their own

It's snow time to hesitate.
     In Thailand for instance, they wrap themselves in a lungi and douse themselves with cold water scooped from giant earthenware pots, whilst in Indonesia they do something similar, but they store their water in a large concrete mandi in which they also keep goldfish.
      In the Australian outback bush-camps, I had stood for as short a time as possible under a large perforated tin can whilst feeding it alternately with hot and cold water. In Britain, we sit in large, elongated plastic containers to wash ourselves, then continue to lay in our own dirty water until it becomes cold. bizarre to say the least.
     Each to their own I say.
     But for now I was being implored by a blonde naked nymph with large t-t-tantalising eyes to jump into an ice-covered lake...? 
      I took a deep breath, and with a cry of  'Geronimo!' Leaped in.
      Why not?
Written by Roy Romsey
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  1. My Partner And I not too long ago built a steam shower unit, the
    best thing we've purchased for some time, children and family think
    it's great, can't see everyone heading back to conventional showers ever


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