Autumn has descended like a gentle mist; enveloping hill and dale with its all-powerful hand of change. The wonderful European autumn hues have vibrantly evolved, adding warmth and colour to the land. Here in Southern Bavaria, it’s time for the final harvests. For farmers it’s maize, this is finely chopped up and stored in large outdoor silage pits to be used as winter feed for cattle, which mostly live in indoor stalls all-year around. It is also the time for gathering walnuts to dry inside and for collecting apples.
I’ve been helping with the apple harvest from one ancient tree, well over 150 years old—the biggest I’ve seen in my life. The tree is massive, towering over 20 metres, and because it is so high, we had to shake the branches with long poles to knock down the fruit. Some of the apples are stored for winter use, but 122kg went to the local juicer who, for 42.90€ pressed 65 litres of juice into 13 five litre plastic bags. Get your gear off for the sauna One day, to warm the bones and cleanse the body, we went for a sauna. German saunas are quite unique and normally set in a spa-like setting. We arrived, paid our fees, which was not cheap, around $20NZ dollars—but it’s a whole day activity. I then entered the changing room and put on my togs, then opened the door and went into the sauna room. Good grief! I was horrified to find that I had walked a room of naked women—oh no, I’ve mixed up the doors and walked into the women’s changing room! But as I looked closer I also saw naked men, hmmm, this must be how the Europeans take sauna. I soon got into the etiquette of sauna and worked out that bathing costumes are frowned upon: you are expected to have a towel between your body and the wood, and silence pervades in the sauna. There were 7 dry saunas—where temperatures ranged from 55 to 95 degrees celsius, 2 wet saunas, a stone room—where you lie on heated smooth stone slabs — and several relaxing rooms, as well as cold plunge pools. There was also café and restaurant. Wonderful benefits from the Aufgass sauna sessions The highlight was an Aufguss session. This happens on the hour, in the hottest sauna, when a sauna specialist pours water on hot stones to increase humidity and then uses birch branches to circulate the hot air through the sauna. This seem to supercharge the air and had the effect of intensifying sweating and the perception of heat—it felt like the temperature had doubled and I was going to explode, but I gritted my teeth and the sweat poured out of me in buckets. Most sessions spent inside the sauna were around 15 to 20 minutes, then it would get too hot and I would cool down using either the nearest cold water pool, cold shower or cold overhead bucket of water—released by pulling a rope. All in all, I spent about 7 hours there, drank tons of water and come out invigorated and sparkling clean. Fantastic, my next project in NZ is to build a sauna! Time is ticking down and winter is nearly here—it must be time to follow the example of many birds around here and head south— but I may be able to get one more post in from Europe before I fly.