The Austrians. What a merry bunch they are! Having recently returned from a trip to the mountains, here are a few observations I feel serve in place of a foreign office travel advisory service should anyone be thinking of visiting. Ever.
The lessons which will haunt my living days from the recent trip revolve around european Sauna Etiquette. Having spent a week with three female friends in a lovely apartment with private use of the adjacent sauna and relaxation area, we thought we had this one DOWN. After a hard days snowsports, we found nothing better than sitting sweating to near death in the sauna in swimsuits, and then, afterwards, lounging in our complementary robes. We enhanced our relaxation with huge quantities of crisps, chilled beers, and an array of quite unrecognisable ‘dips’ which unfortunately turned out to be ludicrously flavoured butters (tuna fish butter anyone?) as the only German speaker amongst us was not present on the trip to the supermarket when stocking up. But still – c’est la vie, or as they probably say in Deutsch, EIN BOCKWURST BITTE.
Horrific taste sensations aside, it was really rather lovely.
On our last night, we branched out and drove to the local leisure centre for a swim. This rather glib sentence belies the UTTER TRIUMPH I felt when we got lost on the way and I successfully asked for (and understood) the directions entirely in GCSE German, which I knew would come in handy one of these days. It was a bit like a dream I once had, also entirely in German, which took up a whole eight hours sleep but with a ‘plot’ consisting of approximately two sentences; I’m that slow. However, I digress. We paid to go in, adding the necessary €9 for additional sauna with our swim.
This, as it turned out, was a colossal mistake.
We changed, and arrived at the sauna door to find the only sign in the building to include an English translation even the most mono-lingual among us could not fail to register said in very large letters:
Now this presented us with something of a dilemma. We are all friends, but also all painfully British and not really in the habit of larding about naked together. On the other hand, nine euros is still nine euros. Not to worry, we thought. What we will do is just push our swimsuit straps down beneath the towels we have wrapped around ourselves and no-one will be any the wiser. Who’s going to check these sorts of things anyway?!
In our haste, what we hadn’t foreseen was that the three entirely naked Austrian men already in the sauna would probably be in a position to notice, but once the first of us had begun to file into what was essentially an extremely small, dark, hot wooden nudity cupboard it seemed too late to turn back.
Being the last in the line, I found myself with a tricky choice. The one empty space next to my friends on the top tier of seats next would provide a superbly hot hot hot experience, but given that the “sauna” was approximately the size of “my wardrobe”, I would have practically been cuddling one of the man-spreading naked strangers. So I chose the empty lower tier.
This, my friends, was also a mistake.
From the lower tier, my eye-level was unfortunately now directly in line with the row of unfamiliar glistening Austrian wang gently resting on the wooden bench. I also registered what I interpreted as mild surprise that these four
idiot English women would choose to come into a space hotter than the actual sun whilst tightly shrouded in a thick absorbent towel, but despite this, we attempted light hearted cheery chat amongst ourselves, being careful not to mention the war, the reserving of sun loungers or anything which could remotely be interpreted as inflammatory, for obvious reasons. I should point out that I registered the surprise in their eyes, not their balls, but I could quite clearly see those too.
It was all going rather well (as far as can be expected) so long as I kept my eyes firmly on the inside of my own eyelids and my mind on happier penis-free times. Then the fourth naked Austrian man came in.
As I explained, there wasn’t really much space left at this point. Luckily, as I steeled myself for full bodily contact, this naked stranger decided to sit on the lower tier opposite me. He also helpfully demonstrated an important part of sauna etiquette which we were up to that point unaware of, which is to say he made a big play of spreading out his towel on the bench he was about to sit on. It took him an age. This was great – we were LEARNING something! Don’t put your balls on the bench!! What wasn’t great was that in bending over to do this, his pale, deviant Austrian arse crack was waving itself jovially mere inches from my face in a manner which has left me with the uncomfortable feeling that I now might know him better than my own husband.
So. All in all, an education.
If any further proof were needed that the Brits as a nation are ferociously uptight, and the Austrians are a bunch of free-swinging lederhosen loving yodellers, I just tried to do a google image search using the term ‘Austrians’ and thanks to what I can only assume is the work of our child-safety internet safe-search managed to get…not. one. single. image. That’s right. Not one. ‘Austria’? Yes, plenty. ‘Austrians’? Nope. The whole page is probably full of smiling sauna shots, but there is not enough mind bleach in the entire world to remedy that.
As you were.
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