Polar Plunging into the Baltic SeaMay 14, 2020
Imagine you’re in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s December – the dead of Winter. And it’s cold. In fact, it’s very cold. Smoke billows out of the chimneys of cobbled street canal houses with frosted windows. There’s still snow on the ground from that morning. Your only hope of warming up your bones is continuing to slug down glühweins from the many Christmas market stalls around town as you stroll the canals. But the smell of oranges, cinnamon, cloves and anise simmered in hearty red wine and rum and the fact that the piping hot paper cups help to keep your already-gloved hands warm is enough to make you forget that you might stain your teeth red and get a little buzzed before 11:00 a.m.
You call a taxi. No, you probably want to order an Uber. You don’t want to take the risk of having a language barrier with a taxi driver and Uber gives you the ease of just inputting an address and forgoing the small talk. You and your friends are thankful for the warmth of the car’s heaters when it arrives. You all pile in and you’re so excited for what you have planned. But as you’re crammed into the back seat of a tiny European Fiat and you feel your bathing suit slowly threatening to give you the worst wedgie of your adult life, you begin to wonder if this was a good idea. Are you really prepared to strip down to your bathing suit in below freezing temperatures?
As the car begins to take you beyond the limits of the main city, the fear of stripping to your skivvies is replaced by another fear. Are you getting kidnapped?! Where is this guy taking you? All of a sudden you’re navigating through dilapidated warehouses and boat yards that look like they haven’t seen human activity since the Norse vikings. This does not look like you’re headed to a wellness spa on the harbor. I mean…the website said spa didn’t it? Or maybe it just had really aesthetically pleasing pictures and you made an assumption [see website here: https://copenhot.com/en/home]. Either way, you’re definitely in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The road isn’t even a road anymore. It’s just a gravel path with a ton of potholes filled with melted snow.
And right as you start to contemplate trying to tap out a morse code message to your friends…you arrive.
It’s definitely a rough and tumble outpost. And it’s also the most hygge thing you’ve ever seen. The waiting area provides some..seating options..and booths to minimize the wind off the harbor slapping you in the face. The smell of fire, smoke and ash almost beats out the smell of salty seawater, but the mix is actually quite nice.
At Copenhot, there are a few options of things you can do. The water tower pictured has a hot tub inside and can be reserved for a higher-up view of the harbor. There are also a few inflatable hot tubs you can reserve if you want to actually float around the harbor. Or you can just do a communal experience. We opted for this since we thought it would be a great experience to meet people from all over the world. When I travel, I always throw myself into experiences where I know I’m going to meet some cool people, learn new things and bring amazing stories from it back home with me.
The communal experience comes with access to little changing pods that are very..um, how shall we say this, open? Imagine a wooden pod the size of a modest walk-in closet where you and other women go to change. And Europeans are pretty free, nahmsayin? Just be prepared for close-quarter nudeness. After you change, you have access to a few different things: the communal hot tubs, a communal eucalyptus steam pod, an ice tub in the middle of the hot tubs and of course…the Baltic Sea beyond the outpost.
While you wait for the staff to get everything going, you have access to a full bar. Local beers, wine, champagne and, not surprisingly, glühwein. So sticking with the theme of drinking our weight in liquid Christmas, we enjoyed a “few” glühweins before changing.
I’ll also add that your communal experience comes with a towel and some sandals (a bin of slides from circa 1992 LOL).
And because of the cold and the wind coming off the water, I suggest taking a beanie and keeping it on while in the tubs. I don’t know about you but ya girl suffers from a solid case of Holy-Crap-My-Ears-Burn in subzero temps so the beanie really helped!
Here is a glimpse at the changing pods. For obvious reasons, I did not take photos inside.
This is where the fun starts. Once you step out of these doors it’s just you, your bathing suit and REALLY COLD AIR until you get your hiney the necessary 10 or so feet into a hot tub.
Now, hear me out. But it might be a good idea to *not* swan dive into a tub immediately, even though every fiber of your being is telling you it’s about to die and needs warmth pronto.
The tubs are not electric. There are cedar wood fires (favorite smell ever) burning under the tubs and they pipe up seawater from the harbor to fill the tubs. So the water could quite literally be at boiling point. You have to wait for a few minutes until the fires have been going for a while and the staff has hosed more water in the ones that got too hot. How do I know this, you ask? Oh, because I found out the hard way. I threw that changing pod door open and rhinoceros-style barreled my way into a hot tub as quick as my little frozen legs could carry me. What happened next can only be described as throwing a live frog into a pot of boiling water. Anyone knows to boil a frog, you have to put it in the pot and then boil the water slowly so they won’t realize what’s happening. If you throw it into already boiling water, well..chaos ensues. Which is what happened. The water was literally turning my skin the color of a fire hydrant and I was pretty convinced I was cooking alive but I also could not get out of the dang tub. Stand outside the tub ALREADY WET in freezing temps or just kinda bounce around like psychotic yo-yo while I blanch myself like a piece of broccoli. Hm….which one do I choose? I decided to just yell like I was on fire until the guy came and hosed more seawater into the tub to get it back to a normal hot tub temperature.
I’m so proud of myself.
Anyway. Once my crew joined me and we got settled in with some drinks to boot, it was actually an incredible soothing experience. Cold wind whipping around you while you’re comfortably warm in a tub with incredible views of Copenhagen’s harbor. We watched boats go by…even watched a seaplane land and take off again.
You can choose to go back and forth between the tubs and the eucalyptus pod. I had left my phone in the changing room since there was nowhere to put it by the tubs, so I did not get to snap a pic of the eucalyptus steam pod, but here’s a shot from their website:
Yeah. It’s as impressive in real life as this picture makes it look. So freaking cool. We loaded up on some champagne and went to spend time in the pod before returning to our hot tub. But then…
A gal on staff came out and started telling the group about how it’s really good for your health and especially for your skin if you shock your body by going from a hot tub to the cold water tub in the middle – or for the braver of heart – to go take a little walk down to the dock below and JUMP IN THE BALTIC SEA. I’m going to be honest. I thought she was joking.
She was not.
Slowly, a few people started to get up their courage and we watched as they walked down to the dock and took the plunge. I started to think, well if they can do it so can I. Plus let’s be real. I’m already there, I’m already doing this, I’d already come this far, who knew if and when I would be back. How could I be a weenie and not get the full experience? So my husband and I decided to go down to the dock together and live out a memory we’d carry with us for forever.
Before you jump in, the staff tell you to watch out for jellyfish in the water. So now we’re talking willingly plunging yourself into the below freezing Baltic Sea in the dead of winter…where jellyfish could sting you. Cool. If you’re wondering what kind of jellyfish are in the Copenhagen harbor, you’re not alone. I also was confused by this. Here’s what I found out they look like:
Yeah, no thank you. Although we were jumping in at about 4:00 p.m. in the day and there was definitely still daylight, the water was pretty pitch black and there was no way of seeing what was beneath the water where we were taking our plunge. So we just hoped for the best.
I handed my beanie to my husband, and told him to stay on the dock in the event I died and didn’t come back up so he could fish me out LOL and then I did it. Shaking so badly from the cold already, teeth chattering, not able to imagine how it could get any colder…I plunged into the sea.
It was a full assault of the senses. I have never experienced that level of cold ever before in my life. My entire body was shocked through to the bone. When I surfaced, I could barely catch my breath. In fact, I was *gasping* for air. I swam over to the ladder, and climbed out, screaming. I don’t know what I was screaming, but it just felt like a good way of releasing the cold. My husband wrapped me in a towel, handed me his beanie and jumped! Afterwards, as we walked back up to the hot tub something happened. We felt more alive than ever. It turns out she had been right. It was the most refreshing feeling I think I’ve ever felt. Totally rough during the actual plunge, but wayyyy worth it afterward.
Again, I had left my phone in the changing pod and wasn’t able to snap anything to look back on. But in some ways that was really nice. Just to have that completely disconnected moment with just me and Adam and the Baltic beneath us.
But, for inquiring minds, I found this picture on the CopenHot website so you can see what it kinda looks like:
Looks like their day was a lot sunnier than ours hahaha
We wrapped up our experience by spending the rest of our time in our hot tub, drinking some local beers and continuously looking at each other and saying, “That was so cool.”
I have done a lot of global adventuring in my life and have racked up quite a few stories…
Cage diving with 16 ft. great white sharks off of Seal Island in South Africa
Buying sandals in Athens, Greece from a poet who quoted me poetry the entire time as he took raw leather and crafted me sandals on the spot, using olive oil to darken the color
Attending Prince William’s graduation ceremony on the Royal Military Academy in England where I lived – and also seeing the Queen, Charles, Camilla and Kate Middleton (when they were just dating!)
Floating around and covering my face in natural silica in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Being chased by a guy with a knife on the 4th of July in Cape Town, South Africa and surviving to tell the tale
Crashing a Greek wedding celebration in the Latin Quarter of Paris and getting kissed on the cheek by everyone who learned my name was Thessali (it’s a Greek name, but I am not Greek…hard to explain to drunk Greeks though) – OPA!
Getting in a wreck in a remote village of Malawi in my underwear since my skirt had just been overtaken by fire ants
Ziplining across a waterfall taller than Niagra Falls in Quebec
Lazing on a catamaran off the coast of Maui while a huge whale swam right under the net I was laying face down on
I mean…the list could go on. I’ve lived a crazy life, y’all. But even at the age of 29 sitting in that hot tub in Copenhagen, Denmark with my husband and my best friend and her husband I just thought to myself….I have to be the luckiest girl to still continue to live my life with wild abandon and now getting to do that with the people I love most.
Never slow down. Never stop doing things that scare you. Plunge into the cold, lose your breath and FEEL ALIVE!
baltic sea copenhagen copenhagen denmark denmark polar plunge Travel travel experience traveler wanderlust
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