Friday, January 31, 2014

Stockholm's Best Kept Secret (Shhhh!!! Don't Tell...)

In case you were wondering how tough it is to survive a Swedish winter, I'm here to tell you, TOUGH! Here we are, a month into "real" winter, that is, temperatures staying below freezing (32 F, or 0 C), and I am nearing my tipping point. I can say however that I am still enjoying wearing my wool socks, sweaters, hats, and gloves. And it is still seems like fun to drink hot cocoa outdoors and feel like a brave Viking, while enduring my eyes tearing up from the icy air blowing not-so-gently into my face. 

Then the thought hits me. There will be at least two more months of this!!! The bravery starts to diminish and the whimpering begins. And even though we really are embracing winter by going XC skiing (cross-country) and anything else we can think of to truly enjoy the Swedish winter, so as not to just sit back and suffer through the dark and cold (but still cozy days), it is starting to get tough.

I start to crave wearing sandals and t-shirts and the feeling of warm sunshine beating down on my brow. Of eating an ice cream cone and not getting goose-bumps while enjoying it. And just about the time I think I can no longer endure it, a couple of friends invite me to join them in a visit to Storkyrkobadet - a sauna and bath house in Gamla Stan. 

Seriously, this is the best kept secret in town! For just 50 Swedish kronor (about 8 US dollars) you can enjoy a cozy hot wood sauna, with a lovely indoor, candlelit pool to cool off in. Yes, real candles light your way as you swim from one end to the next. Completely lovely. In addition, we discovered on our visit that you can also sign up for a 20 minute massage, or skin peel, for only 150 kronor extra. Now granted, the massage and skin peel are more therapeutic than spa-like in reality but when your knots are melting away and your skin is being polished (to a shine), who really cares? You leave feeling refreshed and able to bear the cold once again. 

I was telling a colleague of mine about my visit to Storkyrkobadet and she revealed an interesting bit of history about it. Apparently the bath house has been around for quite a long time. In fact, she told me, since the days that inhabitants of Gamla Stan flocked to the bath house for their daily, weekly (or perhaps monthly?) baths because their apartments had no showers or bathtubs! Can you believe it?! I was completely shocked. 

She also shared with me that her very first apartment as a young adult did not have a bath or shower, but that there was a communal bath house that all of the tenants shared. You had to sign up ahead of time to use it, similar to signing up for the laundry room. She did mention that her apartment had a toilet and a sink. Thank goodness! Okay, this was 30 years ago but still. 

Would you like the idea of a communal bath house? I personally like having my own shower and bath but I think it is an interesting concept.

For those of you who live in the Stockholm area, I can highly recommend a visit to Storkyrkobadet. My entire experience from my walk through the quaint cobblestone streets of the old town area to the relaxing warmth of the bathhouse was refreshing and invigorating. Ladies can visit on Monday and Thursday evenings. 

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