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Sauna Zen

Right. I shall now proceed to tell you why my cottage country is THE MOST FABULOUS PLACE [for rest and relaxation] in all of Iceland.

It’s because of this:

Seen from another angle…:

And another…:

[No, I do not know that man. No, it is not EPI.]

Can you guess what it is??

Well I shall keep you in suspense no longer: this is a real, bona fide, genuine article, true-blue Geothermal Sauna.

What is a Geothermal Sauna, you ask?

It is, of course, a sauna that is built over a real live hot spring. And it is THE MOST ECSTATIC of all possible sauna experiences.

You see that little shack there? It was built around 1930. [Although that ugly siding on the second pic was put on more recently. The one on the first pic is the traditional corrugagted-iron type of siding on Icelandic timber houses and this one even has “art” on it, which you may be able to see if you enlarge it].

Now, inside the sauna are wooden boards on the floor and benches along the walls. Underneath the floorboards, the hot spring bubbles and gushes and splashes [although not so much that it comes up through the boards, otherwise you’d be in serious trouble] and the steam rises up all around you and, well, words can hardly do justice to the wellbeing that permeates the YT metabolism on such occasions. And this bona fide experience is worlds removed from any sort of artificial steam baths which are ubiquitous in Iceland [and which in and of themselves are perfectly acceptable as such, just… not… half as good as this].

So anyway, you pick the side that suits you better [which side is hotter varies according to how active the hot spring happens to be on that particular day] and then you sit there and get thoroughly steamed and if you’re like YT you’ll enter a perfect state of serene contemplation. You’ll levitate in there until you’re so hot that you can no longer stand it, and then you’ll find your way outside, walk a few steps, and jump in the lake…:

[That man I do know. Yes, it is EPI].

… Which is often quite warm near the shore [on account of the geothermal heat] but which as you walk a bit further gets absolutely freezing cold. Yet One being thoroughly steamed One will not experience this as a Bad Thing. [Hint: if you enlarge the pic and look real close behind EPI you can see a little mat type thing that someone has put in the water so you don’t slip on the rocks and fall. Aw.] You then return to the shack and rinse off in a [warm] outdoor shower, after which you go back inside the sauna and repeat.

As it happens, on the first day we were there the place was filled with a bunch of young Brits who had arrived in a bus painted with psychadelic colours and decorated with peace signs. Yet despite their purported hippiedom they absolutely refused to get naked, much to the annoyance of our YT, not least because they insisted on monopolizing the only existing bathroom in the women’s changerooms, for putting on their clothes. [Hint: in Iceland, bathrooms are for serving the call of nature, not for getting dressed, ‘kay?]. So YT had to use the bathroom outside, which is generally reserved for menfolk and which happened to have an Icelandic man standing just inside the partly-closed door taking a leak as YT entered. Great. But I digress.

Have I mentioned that this is this is the next best thing to sitting on a mountaintop in Tibet* and meditating for ten years for getting one’s equilibrium in balance? Have I mentioned that it’s actually on the Golden Circle tour but hardly anybody ever stops there because they’re in such a hurry to get to boring old Geysir? [OK, granted, it’s only boring if you’ve seen it a hundrebilliontimes].

Now, sadly – yes, there’s a sadly here. Sadly they’re making “development plans”. Meaning that in September of next year they plan to tear down the charmingly rustic old building that houses the changing rooms, this one here [note the pretty little rustic barrels with the flowers in them]:

… and replacing it with a new super-touristy, hoity-toity Spa, with five different types of saunas, massage, mud baths, hot pots, Jacuzzis, blahblahblah. And it will be run by the Blue Lagoon people. Not that I have anything against the Blue Lagoon, mind, it’s just that the main charm, the main attraction of our little steam bath is its primitiveness, its rustic feel. I fear it will be turned into yet another flashy tourist trap. In fact, I’m sure of it. And now I have gone on about this long enough and must go to see if I still have a life around here somewhere.

MEANWHILE THE WEATHER
Is starting to get a bit oppressive, what with all this rain day after day. Everybody’s talking about it; everybody’s in a gloomy mood. So: another rainy day, overcast with showers and a slight wind. Mild, though, for us, with highs of 18°C in the east. The sun came up at 03.29 and will set at 23.35. [Incidentally, was happy to note that it was a beautiful day in London today.]

* My father called while I was writing this. He’s off on a tour of China and Tibet tomorrow. But not to sit on a mountain.

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