Three times a week, Sjællandsgade Bade open its doors to twenty people - sometimes a mix of both genders or sometimes only men/women - who desire to sweat in a 'Saunagus.' A Saunagus, or 'Mist Sauna,' is not the typical sauna as we know it.
Saunagus is a therapy well known in Nordic Countries which utilizes warmth and oils as to positively affect the body and mind. For three sessions of 15-minutes, the customers of Sjællandsgade Bade can sit and sweat completely naked, following the scents and towel movements of the Gus Master as he increases its intensity at each round. In between the rounds, people can freshen up with cold showers, cold baths, or with buckets of cold water over their burning bodies.
Each Saunagus is a different experience as each Gus Master has a different style to leading the sitting team. When some would bring you delicate aromas of roses and lotus whilst talking with a vibrant voice, others would rather use a heavy orange scent and proceed to sweep the towel until no one could handle the warmth anymore.
Sometimes even, the Gus Master would suddenly open the doors within a round and spray extremely cold water on the blazing team who couldn't retain a scream. Or sometimes, the Gus would decide to offer some delicious pieces of fresh fruit to help you throughout the rounds.
If Saunagus is already quite a special experience, it is even more so at Sjællandsgade Bade. The building was built precisely 101 years ago in 1917, to permit the citizens of Nørrebro to take baths. At that time, people would take baths only three times in their lives: when they were born, when they would get married, and when they would die. And some additional times here and then in the middle.
But with time of course, it became normal to shower more often and therefore, the need for communal baths decreased. Sjællandsgade Bade though, decided to offer more activities, the Saunagus being of them. But in 2010 and despite an increasing number of customers, the city of Copenhagen decided to close the place.
This is when a handful of former employees and customers gathered in an association to fight back. In the name of cultural heritage, they started procedures so the building could only be used for bathing activities. During the two and a half years of procedures, the network expanded and eventually to the pleasure of many, Sjællandsgade Bade opened once again.
The warm baths, the delicate and perfumed aromas, the cosy midnight Saunagus is today still, alleviating the quality of life to many. As Nørrebro is also a neighbourhood where inequalities are considerably higher that other neighbourhoods of Copenhagen, Sjællandsgade Bade really offers a way to maintain good hygiene and care in a private and dignified environment. This place also has a gym and offers health care where students from health education, such as midwife or physiotherapist, can come and counsel.
In 2012, the association was awarded a prestigious award from Hovedstadens forskønnelse (the Capital’s Beauty) for their social work, and ultimately, for striving hard in a case and culture they believed in.
Words by Maëlle Caussarieu
Images courtesy of Sjællandsgade Bade's Instagram
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