Her: Oh, I must take you to the spa !
Me: Ah, sounds good to me, I wouldn’t mind a leg massage actually.
Her: It’s not that kind of spa … It’s a Scandinavian tradition
Me: *frantically googles “Scandinavian Spa’s *”
A Scandinavian Spa or “kallbadhus” is just one of those places you “have to try” as a foreigner, I was told. It is a sort of induction into an activity that many partake in, for leisure and mental well-being.
The particular kallbadhus we went to is Ribersborgs. It is situated along a shingle beach and has what feels like a never-ending deck leading to the main door. From a distance it seems as though the kallbadhus is floating in the middle of the water.
Distant, yet strangely inviting.
We walk in and the interior has that “hygge” feel to it. As I my eyes pan across the the room I notice men and women having coffee, some having and a bite to eat while others walk to the back, which is where we too are headed.
This Scandinavian ‘tradition’ is a pastime for men and women alike.
We pay and make our way to the back area for women. The men disappear into their own part of the “kallis” , only to be seen again when we leave out of the same main door we all entered through.
The back is filled with rows of door-less lockers made of wooden palettes, and there are bodies scattered all along the floor.
Naked bodies, “kalgat” as they say in Afrikaans. Now the name “kallbadhus” makes sense, as I connect the linguistic dots.
Some women are lying on towels; others prefer the touch of the wooden skirting on their bare skin.
Some are reading; others have earphones in while others opt to have the sound of the sea as soundtrack, while they break away from the world for a bit.
Time at the kallbadhus is more about ‘chilling out ‘ than having a ‘vibe’.
I like that.
The kallbadhus culture has no seasonal bias. Whether it’s throngs of people soaking in the sunshine during the long summer days and nights or braving the cold winter for a dip to kick the endorphins into overdrive.
Everyone is welcome Monday to Sunday and even on holidays. (See opening hours here https://www.ribersborgskallbadhus.se/sv)
As stated, Ribersborg’s Kallbadhus ‘s saunas are divided into two – one sauna for men, one for women. However, every first Monday of the month is “Queer Kallis” where these ‘norms’ and ‘rules’ are broken. Queer Kallis happens every first Monday of the month. The day is for everyone but especially for members of the LGBTIQA community and they can use the facilities with no discrimination based on heteronormative sexual orientation .
Cheers to the progressive spaces, and now to make everyday a Queer Kallis Day !
What this Kallbadhus tradition says about body positivity speaks volumes, in a time where women have to look a certain way to be beautiful and comfortable with themselves.
It is one thing to be naked in private but to be in your natural state in front of others, without fear of judgement or ridicule, without fear of being attacked physically or otherwise is a massive, necessary plus.
This ‘tradition’ is an advocate not only of body positivity but of finding proverbial sunshine in some of the greyest skies and coldest of days.
So maybe next time I’ll ditch the bikini and do as the locals do.
I’m wincing as I type this but as someone once said “life’s short…play naked” .
*hygge *[ hoo-gah ]a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special
* kallis * colloquial term for the word kallbadhus