36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 140: Skiing; Elisabeth; naked men in a sauna


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 140 — Skiing, Elisabeth, naked men in a sauna
20-December-1971 (Mon.)

Meet Elisabeth


Problem. Woke up and it was raining pretty hard. So I decided to go skiing anyway.

At Seegrube, it was snowing pretty hard. Well, there was wet powder [wet snow]. So, I learned that I had to wax my skis.

For the lesson, I was doing paralleling and I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I think I’m doing ok.

The one Austrian girl (really good looking, a good skier, and reminds me a little of Mom), Elisabeth, was probably the best skier. So I later talked to her and invited her for a drink.

* By the way, on the previous day, I took the “right side” down to the bottom of Seegrube. The girl [Elisabeth] said it was easy, but it was rough. I was sure that I would never make it alive. I kept on falling so much, getting more and more tired, not knowing where I was, getting dark. Finally, I made it. It was quite an experience, quite difficult.

I figured that I better start seeing other places, so I decided to go to Mutters; but it was too late when I got to the train. That’s less skiing than I’ve been hoping to do.

I went to my
first Finnish sauna. It was great. After going through the whole thing, I felt great. It sort of reminded me of a series of torture tests. After you clean yourself with a shower, you do these procedures:

• Sauna. Hot room where you sit. Guy in charge puts water on hot rocks and that makes heat. He also starts to swirl a towel around and it [the heat] hits you in the face with that hot, hot air. The funny part is that everyone claps. It reminded me of the Romans. I even asked what I should do, and they were good-naturedly laughing at how I took it. Boy, do you sweat.

• Next was the cold room,
outside. First, you jump into and dunk yourself into this ice cold water, and then you wait in this room. When you get cold, you leave.

• Next comes the foot baths. Hot and cold baths, and are they extreme. I don’t know if it’s good, but it’s certainly torture. It’s supposed to help the circulation.

• You also do this with the large pools [of hot and cold] for your whole body.

• Then you rest.

• Then you repeat the process.

The end result was that, for me, I felt really clean and relaxed.

Later, I went out with Elisabeth. Had a drink and talked (only in German, of course), and it was a good time. A real nice girl, really good looking, and very smart. Will be seeing her again.


Today is an incredible day.

Clouds cover the valley and Innsbruck
Rain & snow. Although it’s raining hard in the city of Innsbruck, I go to Seegrube to ski. There, it is snowing. Thank goodness I didn’t cancel the skiing and sit in a hotel room all day. For all of you kids, the science lesson of the day is that elevation makes a difference. Rain in the lower-elevation city often means snow in the higher-elevation mountains. The photo left shows the city of Innsbruck and the valley being covered by clouds while the skiers have a beautiful sunny day and blue skies. I am uncertain of the exact location of both slides.

Ski class. I’m in the ski class again and I’m doing well at paralleling. I’m enjoying these lessons, the skiing, and the outdoors.

[My whole life I have been at the same level of skiing. A regret of mine has been that of not skiing “a lot more” throughout my life. For many years as an adult, I didn’t ski much at all. Work, money, time are the always-present curses of enjoying life to its fullest. My advice: cast off the work-money-time chains and enjoy your life—all the time. After a long hiatus, I did get to go skiing in Utah for one week a few years ago. That was also incredible.]

Meet Elisabeth, the girl from yesterday. The one Austrian in our ski class is Elisabeth (opening photo). I mentioned her yesterday and also refer to today’s journal posting. Well, it seems that I asked Elisabeth about skiing down the Seegrube mountain at the end of the day, after our ski class. She tells me the “right” side is “easy.” Well folks, there’s “easy” and “Austrian-easy.” As you can tell from today’s post, it was not easy. It was John-is-an-intermediate-who-can’t-parallel-on-steep-or-icy-ski-slopes “difficult.” Of course, I am alone, going down the mountain by myself, falling, and it is getting dark. There is some lesson here. Let me know what it is. Well, I survived and probably laughed about it later.

I want to go to other skiing venues in Innsbruck; another ski area is Mutters. By the time I get to the train to go to the other mountain, it is too late to go. Elisabeth had told me about a community health spa or club in Innsbruck. I decide to go there.

Austrian health clubs are #1. I remember this community health spa, or club, to this day. It was a large public, community spa, and had all types of hot-cold baths, saunas, a swimming pool (I think) and other things. I remember thinking, why doesn’t anyone make health spas (that are affordable) like this in the United States? To this day, I still have never seen a health-spa, club, or resort that can compare to the few that I have seen during my stay in Austria in 1971, and again in my visit to Switzerland in 2004. It’s a shame. Women spend a zillion dollars on cosmetics to keep their skin healthy and good looking. Well, nothing would beat the hot-cold experiences of saunas and baths to keep your skin much more healthy and good looking. Let alone really give you good circulation. You should head on over to Austria right now. Check with your doctor first.

Naked men in the sauna. Another first. This was my first time in a sauna. After showering, you get a towel, you are naked but can wrap the towel around you or just sit on it. I didn’t know what to do. I remember seeing all of these men go into this small room. It was a real Finnish sauna with a large rock thingy. I followed them in, placed the towel on the sauna bench, and sat down. The room was packed. Most of the men were older—my impression, more so, because I was young, I suppose. Today, I would be the old guy. Well, we sat there. I’m thinking, what is going to happen? Then a man walks into the room. He pumps some water onto the sauna rocks, the heat comes streaming out. Then, amazingly, he takes a towel and starts swirling it around over his head. The heat was hot, and it would hit your face as he swirled the towel. The sweat was like a river. This man was “like a musical conductor.” He was the maestro of the sauna. Then, after he was done, everyone applauded, just like it was a concert. It was incredible. Wow, I’m smiling just thinking about it.

I’m thinking, what’s next?

Cold bath—outside. Next, all the men get up and start leaving the sauna. I’m asking them what I should be doing and they politely laugh a bit. So, when in Rome do as the Romans do. I follow them. They leave the sauna and head to some room. There is a line that forms, leading to a door, and I get in that line. We’re naked holding the towels in our hand, I think. What’s going on? The line inches forward and finally, I get to the door. I open the door and step through. I’m “outside.” Holy cow. It’s probably 10-20 degrees in the winter night, we’re on a balcony, sweating, standing in the night air’s freezing temperatures, and we’re naked. What next? The line continues forward. The men jump into a small-square pool of water in the floor (4’ x 4’ ?). It’s my turn. I jump in up to my neck and submerge. The water is ice-cold freezing. Wow, talk about shock. SHOCK! Hot-cold? It was exhilarating! Remember my posting on life’s opposites in Hot-cold, Ying-Yang on Day 057? This is a real-life version of that philosophy.

After sitting a bit in the cold room, we all file back into the sauna and repeat the procedure.

Why do the Europeans do this? Hot and cold stimulates the body’s circulation, opens up the body’s pores, and generally makes your skin feel smooth and great.

What else can be hot & cold in this spa?

Hot & cold baths. Next, I go to the locker room, put on a bathing suit, and head out to the baths. I remember that I was amazed with these baths. Now, we’re in a public space and a mixed co-ed environment—hence the bathing suits. Picture a large swimming pool, except that it is divided by tiled wall-barriers. The first two are foot-baths with maybe a foot of water in them. You first walk in the bath that is hot, followed by the foot-bath that is cold. Do this a few times. Then, go to the next two lanes which are the same idea but with maybe four feet of water. One lane is hot water. The second lane is cold water. When you walk or move through the lanes with alternating hot & cold water, your circulation is pumping. Hot-cold, Ying-Yang; see Day 057. Life is full of opposites. Sometimes, opposites are good.

Of course, check with your doctor first before doing any such exercises.

How do I feel? After this was over, I felt energized, clean, and relaxed; my skin felt incredibly smooth. Forget Noxema, ladies, head on over to Europe. Of course, this was 36 years ago. I have no idea if the spas or public community centers are still this way. I would love to know. Each spa may also be different. On our visit to Switzerland in 2004, we went to a couple of swim clubs and we were swimming in “hot thermal” water (from the earth, mind you) while being outside in moderately cold weather. It was also incredible. These Swiss clubs had multiple swimming pools and saunas. One club had an amazing collection of saunas (at least 10; outside and inside), a small cold-water swimming pool outside (same concept as Innsbruck), multiple swimming pools, kid slides, steam rooms with aroma therapy, an exercise area, and a small restaurant. For health reasons, I would love to move to Europe. Why don’t they do these things in the U.S.? The best you get is a Jacuzzi next to a swimming pool, modest saunas, and I've never liked a steam room here. No comparison. U.S = 0; Austria and Switzerland = 10.

Elisabeth. I seem to like Elisabeth a lot. She was good looking, a good skier, and was acting as a gracious Innsbruck hostess and ski partner. I invite her for drinks in the evening and we talk only in German. Female companionship is nice, especially when you are young. Talking with a good looking girl is an extra-nice pleasure when you’re young and male. It makes me a little nervous that I think she reminds me of my mother. (Perhaps what my mother may have looked like when she was young.) No, I'm not a mama's boy. I hope there is nothing Freudian going on here. At least, I’m in the right country, if I need help. Sigmund? Winking

Elisabeth is just another example of the great student friendships that can occur when students from different nationalities can meet and share conversations. It’s wonderful.


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