Some years ago I ran a workshop in a hotel in rural Germany.  All the participants on the workshop lived locally and went home each evening leaving me to my own devises.  The hotel had a health spa with an exercise room full of treadmills and those bicycles that don’t go anywhere, a swimming pool, steam room and sauna.

On the first evening, after a walk round the village – which appeared to be deserted – I decided to have a swim in the hotel pool.  I was surprised to have it to myself and swam up and down wondering if I was the only person staying in the hotel.  I even started to wonder if I was the only person in the whole of Germany! 

After my lonely swim, I decided to visit to the sauna.  I opened the pine door and stepped inside.  There, to my astonishment, were eight naked women basking in the heat.  A couple of women were sitting, one was standing adding more water to the coals with a long-handled ladle, and the others were spread-eagled on the wooded slats.  The women were different shapes and sizes – most were, shall we say, matronly – and all were very bronzed and well endowed.  Not a bustenhalter in sight!

As I entered the sauna the women glanced at me standing there in my swimming trunks.  They appeared quite unperturbed and made no move to cover themselves. 

My first thought was that I must be in the wrong sauna.  Perhaps I had failed to see a sign on the door saying, ‘Women only’.  My second thought was that, unbeknown to me, the hotel operated some sort of segregation system where women had free run of the sauna for an hour or so before it was the men’s turn.

The women, however, resumed their conversations in German as if nothing untoward had happened.  I sat down, feigning nonchalance, as if being the only man in a sauna full of brazen, utterly naked, women was an everyday occurrence. Not only was I the only man in the sauna, I was also the only person to have anything on! 

I  considered my options.  Should I mutter an apology and leave?  Should I simply sit there pretending not to have noticed that everyone else was naked?  Or should I admit to being improperly dressed and wriggle out of my swimming trunks? 

As I pondered, I realized that it was too late to remove my trunks.  Had I done so immediately I’d entered the sauna, I might, just might, have carried it off, but too much time had elapsed.  A striptease act would seem oddly calculated – a sort of full-monty performance without the drum roll.

So, guess what I did?  Yep, I was a coward; I sat there in my trunks for what I hoped would seem a decent period before leaving. The plunge pool had never been more welcoming.

On subsequent visits to the sauna, I can assure you I was properly dressed!


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