Thirdly, if you do try to wear a swimsuit in the sauna brace yourself for disapproving looks or 'tuts'. Share Mail Tweet Pinterest. While the Swedes may appear to be carefree and laissez faire in their approach, there are rules to be observed. So, to carry out my long overdue emancipation I decided to travel from Copenhagen to the waterside city of Malmo.
Avoid these rookie errors and you'll be fine — I certainly got into the swing of things pretty quickly. Which brings me to an unwritten rule — try to keep your eyes at eye level.
Plus, from my limited experience of walking past nudist beaches, the people you see naked are usually the ones you don't want to. It's hot. Walking into the weather-beaten wooden structure I note separate sections for men and women, both of which offer direct access to the surrounding ocean. Both in Sweden and Scandinavia as a whole, the sauna isn't just a pastime, it's a way of life. Despite the nudity, decorum is key in a sauna.
I opt for the latter and enter. My heart pumping, I emerge from the water and involuntarily beam. Paul Ewart Ribersborg bath house.
What better place to break my naked sauna virginity? Feeling happy, squeaky clean, refreshed and re-energised. After poaching myself to the point of fainting, I stumble out onto the open deck and walk towards the end of the deck where the grey, ocean laps ominously. I walk away a new man.
Almost in chorus, the eight or so men in the room exhale deeply as they too battle with the heat. Finally, the sauna is traditionally a quiet zone.
First impressions? Major faux pas. Perving is a big no-no. It was on a train journey through Sweden with a friend that I decided to take the plunge into Scandi culture by shedding my inhibitions — and my clothes. No one bats an eyelid.
Nobody wants to see your sweaty bum print ingrained on the wooden bench after you leave. Revered for their relaxing effects and circulatory benefits, whether private or public, gender-segregated or mixed, the principle remains the same: a long, indulgent session in a baking-hot sauna with an ice-cold dip or shower afterwards.
Holding my towel over my nether regions I walk towards the saunas. However, this being Sweden, the genetically blessed locals boast more eye candy than you might find at your average sauna and I'm soon ed by an impossibly good looking tall, blonde, blue eyed hunk, who could have easily just stepped off the set of "Vikings" or the s of "GQ.
The complex contains four of them — two on the women's side, two on the men's, one steam and one wood-fired. Sweden's third-largest city, Malmo is home to Scandinavia's tallest building, beautiful parks, edgy contemporary museums, and what is renowned as one of the finest 'kallbadhus' bath houses in the country.
The soaring temperature begins to make me feel woozy and the smell of the fire permeates my nostrils.
I've baked in the buff and bared my bum to the world…and I like it. Wood crackles as it burns in the small furnace opposite me, small rivers of sweat run down my brow, pooling in my eyes causing them to blink. I realise at that moment that being naked in public in Sweden really isn't a big deal because, well, everyone else is starkers. Talking is allowed, but it's done quietly and kept to a minimum, so save those loud, animated convos with your mate for later.
Growing up in a naked house where the bathroom door was perpetually open, regardless of what my parents were doing within its four walls, I rebelled by ceremoniously locking the door. Welcome to the world of naked saunas.
It's only the protestations of boredom from my friend that drag me away. As a precursor, I should mention that despite not having lived in the land of perennial cups of tea for more than a decade, I still haven't quite managed to ditch my inner prudish Brit. My companions are men of all shapes and sizes.
The euphoria sees me linger for more than two hours, though I could have easily spent most of the day there — sauna-ing, swimming, sunbathing and taking in the epic view of the Oeresund sea. Battling trepidation, I head into the changing rooms where I coyly shed my clothes. Travelling between Copenhagen, Malmo, Kalgan and Stockholm is quick and easy with Rail Europe offering regularly connections between the cities.
Image: Paul Ewart.
Admittedly in this sauna it's a mixed bag with more than a few bums and bellies that have seen better days. Enter this writer. Like fika the coffee breaksweating away stress is part and parcel of the Swedish experience. Heading back into the sauna afterwards I ponder at how completely unremarkable the actual difference is — a pair of speedos or swimming shorts — yet how liberating it feels. Everyone looks completely comfortable and relaxed and I soon follow suit.
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You see, I'm stark naked, as is the stranger to my immediate left and right. While being naked isn't strictly enforced, it is expected and wearing clothing in the sauna is considered unhygienic. Feeling daring, I take my place between two men and lay down my towel, exposing my front to the assembled sweaty Swedes.
This feels GOOD! But aside from its postcard-perfect situation, there's something else that's unusual about this particular hot box. Hesitating for a few seconds before throwing myself into the open sea where I instantly feel a surge of adrenaline.
Disrobing is standard
Located at the end of a long wooden pier which goes out to the surrounding sea from the beach, the outdoor Ribersborg was built inmaking it one of the oldest in Scandinavia, and also one of the most beautiful. It's cold. Swedes like their saunas firmly on the side of searing. Secondly, always bring two towels — one for sitting on inside and the other for drying afterwards. I'm in a sauna perched atop a wooden pier in the middle of the sea.
Many readers may find their thoughts turn to quickly to titillation when the subject of naked saunas arises, but in reality, letting it all hang out is far from a sexual experience. But for foreign visitors who aren't used to baring all in front of complete strangers, it can be a little awkward.