2. German sauna culture: Background music and hand clapping

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.


Evágelos was a greek hippie who loved to make music. He never intended to ruin sauna once and for all. In fact, probably he never cared about sauna. This should not be his story, but he will feature prominently.

Probably what you're expecting from a sauna experience - hint: the reality might differ (pic by Anne Nygård)

There’s nothing wrong with music in the sauna. Our friend Mikko has a set of speakers installed in his wood-fired sauna and likes to blast Wintersun. It’s moody background music fit for having a beer, closing your eyes, leaning back, and focusing on drops of sweat running down your body. Or to lean forward and have heated discussions with your friends on the merits or demerits of driving 80s shitboxes on ice.

The German approach to music in the sauna is very different, and a lot more German. For a glimpse in to it, let's look back to a few years ago, when Julia was visiting the Therme Erding (of Stonehenge Throne Aufguss fame).


Featuring a whooping twenty-five different themed saunas, they proudly call themselves the largest selection of saunas in the world. Of course, this means that everything noted in this series of articles is not only at full display there, but turned to eleven.


This brings us back to Evágelos. A child prodigy, he already released several hit singles in Greece as a high schooler. Later he moved to Paris and played psychedelic progressive rock, culminating in a concept album about the Book of Revelations called “666”. Getting bored by the constraints of pop music, he shifted to electronica, jazz, and movie soundtracks. Under his pen name Vangelis, he composed academy award winning scores for stuff like Blade Runner. But Germans don’t care about this more than about how authentic their local Greek restaurant is. All Germans know is that “Conquest of Paradise” is the theme tune of Henry Maske, Germany’s second most important boxer after Max Schmeling.


The setting of Julia's weirdest German sauna experience yet - (pic by Therme Erding)

So imagine sitting in a sauna, expecting nothing out of the ordinary to happen, when the string arrangement fades in on the PA, the background choir joins, building up slowly to a majestic, epic arrangement when the vocals and finally the piano come in… and every middle-aged German starts smiling in ecstasy and clapping along. Can you imagine sitting in a sauna packed with naked middle-aged Germans smiling while clapping along to Conquest of Paradise? Hunter S. Thompson once described Vegas’ Circus Circus casino as “what the whole world would do on a saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.” He was wrong. Clapping along to Vangelis in a sauna is what they would do.


Other parts of the series:

Intro: Sweating it out with Hitler

1. The Aufguss ritual

2. Background music and hand clapping

3. Silence!

4. Themed Saunas