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1. German sauna culture: The Aufguss ritual

Since we are actually moving to HEL during the next weeks, updates on the blog will be irregular. Follow us on Instagram to see updates on what we are doing in the stories. But to give you something fun here as well, here's the promised post - or even, series of posts - on German sauna culture.

Every Finn knows how to flick a ladle in a way such as to propel a gulp of water onto the sauna oven without having to get up from the sauna bench. This is done semi-constantly and in verbal or nonverbal agreement between all sauna guests.

Of course, that is not how it works in Germany. There, the process of throwing hot water on the oven is highly ritualized and called “Aufguss”. Sauna guests are forbidden from doing so themselves, it strictly is for employees only. And there is a schedule for it. In most saunas, an “Aufguss” is happening every hour either on the dot or at half past. And it’s not to be missed. In the minutes before the Aufguss, a line of middle-aged German forms in front of the sauna, waiting to get in before it begins and a “AUFGUSS! DO NOT ENTER” sign is placed on the sauna door. And rightly so, because Aufguss is popular and if you don’t come early, you won’t get a seat and miss the ritual.

Celtic Throne Aufguss at Therme Erding's Stonehenge Sauna (pic by Therme Erding)

And so it begins. An employee looking like a low budget Baywatch copy cast member (including speedos for men and bikinis for women) walks in. They then do not just throw hot water on the oven and leave. Instead they first explain what exactly will happen next and how the Aufguss relates to the sauna’s theme. This fitting into the theme can also be done with props and costumes, for example wearing Lederhosen for a “Bavarian Aufguss” or using a drinking horn for a “Celtic Aufguss”.

Then, with a gesture full of self-importance fit for a priest handing out the sacrament, they do in fact pour water over the oven. They pick up the largest wet towel known to mankind and start twisting and twirling it around in order to evenly distribute the humidity in the room (see YouTube tutorial). Finally, after what feels like an eternity, they leave the sauna and remove the “DO NOT ENTER” sign. The ritual is over. Most Germans get up and leave immediately, because what’s the point in staying now that it’s over?

But WAIT! Something is missing here. How could one make the over-ritualization of throwing water on the oven even more ridiculous and suck the last bit of joy out of it? Right! We need an element of competition! Enter: The German Aufguss Championships! It is at this point that we have to point out that nothing reported in this series has been made up or is being misrepresented. Seeing that the Championship judges “showmanship” and “use of music and lights” during the Aufguss, it even seems like this article is too tame to really represent the ridiculousness of reality. See this man who won second place at the Championships while being dressed like a cast member of a porn movie set in hell.

Other parts of the series:

2. Background music and hand clapping

3. Silence!

4. Themed Saunas


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