Drink two to four glasses of cool water after each sauna; the average person will produce a pint of sweat during even a short session. Photograph: Ruth Kaplan

Cult Rooms Peter Smisek wallows in the glory of the bathhouse.

Cult Rooms Peter Smisek wallows in the glory of the bathhouse.

Banya, sauna, hammam, bathhouse, spa, sentō, jjimjilbang, sweat lodge. Throughout much of the world, a weary traveler will sooner or later stumble upon some combination of water, steam and communal nudity. Used, in varying measure, for recreation, hygiene, spiritual enlightenment or social (and sometimes physical) intercourse, each one presents a distinct set of
spaces, rules and rituals.

Some bathing cultures are a result of happy geomorphological accidents—think of Iceland’s rugged thermal pools or the refined Japanese onsen. Some encourage indulgence, like the opulent spas of continental Europe; others, like the Finnish sauna or the Russian banya, foster a more egalitarian spirit. But there are cross-cultural commonalities among all that oscillate between hedonism and asceticism...

The full version of this story is only available for subscribers

Want to enjoy full access? Subscribe Now

Subscribe Discover unlimited access to Kinfolk

  • Four print issues of Kinfolk magazine per year, delivered to your door, with twelve-months’ access to the entire Kinfolk.com archive and all web exclusives.

  • Receive twelve-months of all access to the entire Kinfolk.com archive and all web exclusives.

Learn More

Already a Subscriber? Login

Your cart is empty

Your Cart (0)