I think one of the most completely foreign experiences I’ve ever had in Austria was going to a thermal spa or “therme”. For the first time, I went into a sauna. Not only did I go into a sauna full of naked people I don’t know, I also went in with naked people I DO know. (This sparked an interesting conversation with my partner, because he thought that being there with people I know very well would make me more comfortable, when in fact it was quite the opposite). It was really interesting because…it wasn’t big deal; no one really cared. Coming from somewhere where nudity is so controversial, it was sort of refreshing. Being in the sauna was also a really fun (and sort of humerous) event anyway. You sit in the sauna with a crowd of people, while the “sauna master” whips a towel around to make the room hotter. Then you get out and jump in a pool of freezing water. Once again, you get back into the sauna for round two where the room gets EVEN HOTTER; then at the end you get a schnapps shot to celebrate!
The therme we went to was also really beautiful. It’s called Rogner Bad Blumau which is located in Styria. It’s designed by the Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (the guy who designed the Spittelau Waste Plant and Hundertwasserhaus), so the whole complex consists of mosaic buildings, even floors and lots of trees and plants. Even all of the rooves are covered in grass so if you were to look at it from above, you wouldn’t be able to see the buildings. The therma has saunas (duh.), mineral pools, a wave pool, and tons of spa treatments (massages, a steam rooms, a Turkish bath, etc.). And did I mention…a volcano? A volcano that spits fireworks every evening? If that’s not motivation to visit this place, I don’t know what is!