I have wanted to go to a Turkish bath for a long time so when our daughter told us about SofieBadet in Copenhagen, we were excited to give it a try. SofieBadet is a “preserved and renovated bathhouse from 1909 with a focus on ecology, sustainability and social responsibility.” My friend from high school who is an architect and has lived in Copenhagen for 18 years went there to look at the materials and I can see why – it’s a beautiful place!
And the experience itself was so surprising. I don’t know what I expected. I just thought it would be fun. It WAS fun – but it was so much more. First, I want to set the stage by mentioning that our daughter’s apartment where we have been staying in Copenhagen is so great – but her bathroom is characteristically tiny. You kind of have to sit sideways when you – well – when you need to sit down. The sink is truly sized only for washing your hands. And the shower, which is separated from the rest of the bathroom with ONLY a shower curtain (the floor is flush with the rest of the bathroom), makes shaving your legs an act best fit for a contortionist. That said, I am by no means complaining – it has everything you need in a bathroom….you just don’t want to spend much time in there.
SofieBadet, however, in an unassuming, remarkable manner, invites you to linger and relax in the experience of a common bath. And by common, I mean men and women, together, bathing. Some wore bathing suits, some did not.
I asked for instructions and the lovely woman who welcomed us chuckled under her breath – I mean….why would you need instructions for a bath? Basically she said that “first you douche and then you go to the next room and have a steam, a sauna, a bath – whatever you want.”
So we changed into our bathing suits in the common dressing room and donned our shower flip-flops that were provided so we wouldn’t slip, and we entered the shower room. With old creaky copper pipes and blue-green and white tiles, it was hard to know what to expect. The oversized showerhead was high above and the shower itself was spacious. We each stepped into our individual shower and enjoyed a delightful rush of hot, refreshing water flooding over our bodies. It was a heavenly contrast to the cold temperatures outside and the rather restrictive space we had been experiencing lately. We all got out and felt that in itself was worth the price of admission (135 DKK or about $19). We didn’t understand what was yet to be discovered….
We entered a larger, also beautifully tiled, room, with different “stations.” First, there was a steam room. We gingerly opened the door – you couldn’t see anything in there because of all the steam….I nearly sat on a naked Danish man who seemed very comfortable in his own skin….and we sat down on the marble bench. It really did not take long to begin to appreciate what divine pleasure can be enjoyed from hot steam and quiet relaxation. We just soaked in the eucalyptus mist and all cares and concerns of the world washed away. We rubbed our bodies with a green salt scrub and rinsed with cold water before trying the next bathing activity. You can go between stations as much as you want. One station was a wooden bucket high above a stall, with a rope attached. Somehow it miraculously filled with water after each dousing of – yes…you guessed it – COLD water. I did it once and yelped. Everyone laughed at my reaction. It is rather refreshing when you get over the shock.
There is also a brass tub that will fit 2 people. Four showerheads rain water on you and into the tub. There is a large wooden round bath that you fill with warm water and then rinse yourself with a large copper ladle. And there is a sauna for further relaxation. You could get hot tea and water to enjoy while in the baths. We spent 2 hours luxuriating in a Zen like state going from one station to the other, becoming more comfortable with the experience with each tranquil moment.
It was rather difficult to force ourselves to get dressed and head back out into the cold Danish winter air. We headed out for our 40-minute walk back to the apartment. As we were passing Parliament, we saw police and a gathering of people outside one of the entrances. We paused to ask what was going on and a lovely woman said that it was “a very important day for us – our queen will be coming out in a golden carriage led by horses.” WOW!! We waited no more than 5 minutes and a parade of military men and women dressed in all their finery, riding horses, clip-clopped down the street. They went through the archway leading into Parliament and a short time later, indeed, the parade returned with a horse drawn carriage and Margrethe II of Denmark, the Queen since 1972, waved to all of us!! She was followed by the prince and princess in a Rolls Royce…and more horses with people in beautiful uniforms. Such pageantry! And we were so close!! I couldn’t believe it! There was some security but nothing like what we would have expected. The Danish people love their queen and she is present for her people. It was such a serendipitous, exhilarating moment. You just never know what will happen when you travel. It was awesome!! We love Copenhagen!
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