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    Purity, Towel Rituals and Pesto: YBN’s weekend in Amsterdam

    I’m sitting on the tarmac at Schiphol airport, waiting for the conga line of passengers to hurry up and take their seats. There’s a younger man to the left of me, clowning about on his phone. To the right of me, there is a joker, cracking puns to his friend and giving off a strong aroma of the local horticulture. I’m stuck in the middle of the usual pre-flight scuffles with the sad reality of going back to work after a sublime weekend with some of the YBN at Zuiver Spa in Amsterdam (“Zuiver” means “pure” in Dutch). This was a jointly organised by BN and Chalfont Holidays and was the first trip exclusively for YBN. About 20 people came, including several familiar faces, and some that had chosen this trip as their first foray into social Naturism.

    The weekend began with a light dusting of snow in Aberdeen and a few inches elsewhere in the UK. Luckily, my flight was only delayed by an hour, and the power of Chalfont Holidays meant that their emergency helpline came in very useful for some of us that were rerouted due to the bad weather. Zuiver Spa is a short taxi ride from the airport. The complex has a a spa and hotel, and gym and tennis club. The complex is not Naturist, but nudity is mandatory within the spa itself and wearing only a dressing gown and flip flops in the hotel is acceptable. The room I shared was perhaps a little basic, but perfectly comfortable for the two nights and had everything we needed. The focus at Zuiver is very much on the spa: in the UK, Zuiver’s equivalent would be a big hotel with luxurious rooms, a fancy steak restaurant, a pool and maybe a small steam room. Zuiver realigns this balance somewhat.

    Friday afternoon was spent in the spa while waiting for the others to arrive. I arrived with Thomas and Alan, and quickly lost them as we all went off to explore - it’s huge! The spa has a large heated pool that extends outside. On the inside, there are many saunas, a steam room, steam baths, a caldarium, showers, and the restaurant. Upstairs is a bar and lots of comfy chairs if you want to take a break from the heat! There's a sunbathing lawn with plenty loungers outside (not a popular choice given the time of year), a big jacuzzi tub that had room for all of us and even more sauna rooms. The saunas all have a defining characteristic. The Finnish sauna is the warmest at 80 degrees, and you can experience the löyly ritual, where steam is released as water is sprayed onto the hot stones in the centre of the room. The music sauna has ... you can guess. I was expecting an angelic choir to help me relax in there but I got a Daft Punk CD instead. The colour therapy sauna has lights that make it feel like a disco in very slow motion, and the infrared sauna is like sitting on a wooden bench and pointing heaters at your naked body. The whole spa has mandatory nudity, except the bar and the restaurant, where you must be wearing a dressing gown and flip flops. There was a noticeable spectrum of ages, genders and nationalities. Zuiver attracts a much younger crowd than is typically found at Naturist events in the UK, and sometimes the women outnumber the men. Being close to the airport, it's no surprise that a mix of nationalities are present, including a Japanese woman that could outlast any of us in the Finnish sauna, French couples enjoying a romantic weekend away, and an angry German that objected to the jacuzzi tub being still for too long. You get the feeling that nudity is not a new experience for most visitors to Zuiver. Everybody seems totally at ease, nudity is just part and parcel of being at a spa, whereas for many British Naturists, nudity can be the primary reason for being at an event, swim or club.

    The group had all arrived by evening, and leaders Mark and Pam had organised a meal at a nearby restaurant, which helped to break the ice. We enjoyed our food and the restaurant’s own pesto, which, despite appearances, did not have hallucinogenic properties.

    Clearly the spa had already had good effects on me, as I managed to sleep in until after 9am on Saturday morning. Breakfast was continental style - don't expect a fry up here! We spent all day in the spa. I enjoyed a massage that was much more thorough than I was used to - my masseuse became well acquainted with my vertebra and I left feeling much less tense and slightly dizzy. At a UK leisure centre, you might be served a damp chicken burger, fries and Diet Coke for £7.99. At Zuiver, wellbeing is a focus, and the restaurant served a salad and deli meat buffet. Even paying for your food is relaxing: there's a clever wristband that you use to enter the spa, which is scanned whenever you buy food and drink – no need to carry cash! In the afternoon, some of us went to a towel ritual (Aufguss) in the Finnish sauna, which was the defining moment for Zuiver. A towel master poured water and oils (peppermint, almond, eucalyptus) and then wafted the hot air around the room with a towel in a series of well-practiced moves. It's like watching the ribbon dancers at the Olympics. The room got progressively hotter. Half way through, everybody got honey to rub over their body before returning for another round of towel waving to sweat off the sticky stuff. You'll have to take my word that it's more pleasant than it sounds, and this ritual became a highlight for the YBN. Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed the more serene ritual of listening to singing bowls in the colour therapy sauna. This time, the sauna master used a mallet to strike metallic bowls that vibrated and produced a humming sound. The combined noise and the lights made for an unusual but very calming experience. We filled the rest of the afternoon in the spa. I found myself daydreaming even more than I usually do. Time is easily lost in Zuiver and every effort is made to ensure that visitors leave as relaxed as possible!

    We went into Amsterdam to explore on Saturday evening. We were joined for dinner by two members of the Dutch YBN equivalent. Chatting to them revealed that the two young Naturist groups face similar problems, and I'm hopeful that in the post-Brexit UK (whatever the outcome) the YBN will be able to join forces with European groups to promote Naturism in young people. After dinner we went for an eye-opening wander around Amsterdam. Some of the streets are like walking past a lot of Ann Summers shops with live mannequins! We landed in a bar filled with arcade machines and enjoyed a bit of Pacman and drinks. After another wander (more mannequins), we found another bar and commandeered a sofa. Naturism is something that brings a sense of identity and close association with other people. Our clothes had been reluctantly put on back at Zuiver, but underneath we were the people that enjoy the unique positive benefits of social nudity.

     Sunday morning was predictably late. The sun was out, and we spent a lot more time in the big outdoor jacuzzi in between visits to the warmer rooms inside. We said our goodbyes concluding that the first YBN trip to Zuiver had been a success and that we should have another trip later in the year! I’m really excited to see more people join YBN through trips, watch them build friendships and become more confident in sharing the delights of Naturism.

    Ed Shearer

    Photo supplied by Spa Zuiver

    There is another opportunity to join a group and travel to Spa Zuiver in Amsterdam, from 20th to 23rd September.  For details of this fabulous trip and other BN Events, click here



    Edited by Sheryn

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