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Different Beds From Around the World

Author imageThe Mattress Warehouse

Do you ever feel like going on holiday? Isn’t it fascinating and exciting to plan an overseas trip? Spending time to look at all the weird and wonderful things other countries and cultures have to offer is great. Trying to find exotic places to visit, or just planning to go to all of the well-known tourist destinations can be so exciting! However, what does all of this have to do with beds and with sleep? Have we gone off our rocker here at the Mattress Warehouse? Certainly not!

We just want to add a different flavour to your holiday planning. Beds. Everybody needs to sleep. Whether we are at home or on holiday, that doesn’t change. So, why not try out an exotic bed next time you go across the pond? (Or just across the border)

Are there really that many different beds?

That is a very good question. Let’s be honest, sleep is sleep is sleep, right? And a bed is a bed! Why would it be any different in another country? Do people really choose to sleep on something other than a proper mattress nowadays?

Sure, in the past people might have slept on something other than beds, but today? Aren’t all of us “living in America”, as Rammstein sang? Well, have we got news for you!

Firstly, no, we are not all living in America. And secondly, America doesn’t exactly conform to the bed standard. So hear us out (or read us out). Call it what you will, but if you want to know where to go to spend an interesting night in an interesting bed, read on.

History of the bed

We didn’t always have spring mattresses and raised platforms to place them on. The bed as we know it today had much more humble beginnings than that!

Ancient beds consisted of layers of leaves, stacked on top of each other. According to National Geographic, the oldest bed was found in a cave not far from Durban, in our very own South Africa! How cool is that?

beds - ancient folk slept on heaps of leaves instead of beds

In America, there is also evidence for beds being made up of leaves. At Hinds Cave in Texas, researchers found well-preserved heaps of leaves stacked in indentations in the cave floor. Archaeologists believe that the caves were used by many nomadic tribes over the years and that these hunter/gatherers slept curled up in the fetus position. How can they say that? Apparently the indentations in the cave floor where they found the leaves weren’t much bigger than a curled-up human being…

If you’re sleeping on a raised bed, like many other modern-day wonders, you can thank the Egyptians. They invented this kind of bed so that they could sleep a bit higher off the ground (duh)! In those times, sleeping off the ground was a brilliant idea, since snakes and vermin roamed freely throughout the land. It would probably have been nothing funny to wake up with a snake in your bed in the olden days. The Egyptians got tired of that, so they gave their beds legs.

It seems that, if the Egyptians didn’t invent useful things (like toothpaste), the Romans did. It was the Romans who first came up with the formal idea of a mattress. Sure, the prehistoric hunters and cavemen slept on piles of leaves, but those leaves were probably not permanent mattresses. It would have been gathered like everything else. The Romans put a bunch of straw in a massive bag, put the straw-filled bag on a platform with legs (an idea they conveniently got from the Egyptians), and voila! The modern day bed was invented.

The South American bed

In lieu of the Romans and Egyptians, the South Americans also had a few tricks up their sleeve. These people also didn’t like sleeping on the floor. Living in anaconda infested jungles, who could blame them!? However, they didn’t waste time to build platforms and put legs on it.

They just braided mats from plant material and strung it up between the trees. Why build a bed if you can just hang your mattress up between the abundantly occurring trees, right?

beds - girl lying in hammock

In case you don’t know what we are talking about, we are talking about the hammock. No, it wasn’t invented by lazy pirates with parrots that did all their dirty talking. The South Americans did it long before the Spanish decided to colonize their continent.

However, even though pirates didn’t design the hammock, it is still an iconic sight on many a small island in the Caribbean (and every other small tourist island in the world). Also, let’s be honest here folks, who doesn’t enjoy lazing around in a hammock with a cold beer or a cocktail in hand?

 Chinese stove beds

Yup, you read it. The Chinese have a stove bread; we mean bed. They have a stove bed. It’s called a Kang-stove bed. And no, it’s not like people are sleeping in on a stove or in an oven or something. The Kang bed is originally from the north of China, where winters get extremely cold!

The population there engineered this type of bed to keep entire families warm through those long cold winters. Built from clay or bricks, the Kang bed has a stove or fireplace beneath the platform on which people sleep. When it gets cold, the family can make a fire underneath the platform to heat it up. Once heated up, an entire family can sleep on the platform. This way, they didn’t only use body heat to keep them warm, they made fire under their beds!

The Japanese Futon

No, it is not just a mattress on the floor. Even though that is what Western culture would want you to believe. The futon is far more than that! First of all, a traditional futon covers the entire bedroom, not just the space of one or two mattresses.

Underneath the futon, there are mats made of straw rice, called tatami. Come nighttime, the Japanese would unfold their thin mattresses that were folded up and stored throughout the day. These thin, foldable mattresses are traditional futons.

beds - curled up bamboo mats

Also in Japan (although not a futon, but similar in some odd way) you can go to hotels where the entire room consists of a bed. These places are called capsule hotels. There, you can book out a bed that is built into a wall of beds. Your capsule consists of a bed and some little space to put your belongings. Okay sure, you can’t fold up and put away your capsule bed, as you would with a futon; but why would you, if the entire wall is made up of hundreds of beds?

The Indian Manji

Another traditional and rather unsophisticated bed. The Manji consists of a wooden frame with a couple of ropes tied in between for support. There is no mattress and no pillow. At least the wooden frame is raised up off the ground. Apparently, if you sleep on a Manji, you have to forego a blanket as well. That sort of thing gives me the chills!

Western Variants

Now, let’s look at all of the different types of Western beds. Double beds, king size beds, matrimonial beds – the list goes on. Let’s just take a look at some of the more unlikely types of Western beds. In South Africa, we like to sleep on double beds with double bed mattresses on.

In some parts of Europe, like Germany for instance, this is not the case. They prefer to put two single bed mattresses on a double bed frame. We certainly do not know why they would want to do something like that, but who are we to judge?

beds - big western bed

In Poland, you might encounter what they call a matrimonial bed. This is the equivalent of a normal double bed where we come from, but over there not just anyone can sleep in a matrimonial bed. You have to be married to sleep in such a bed!

The French have something they call the French bed. How original! The French bed is another variety of double bed, but just a tad smaller than usual.

Lastly, in Norway, while you are out there in the Arctic circle, looking at the northern lights, you can visit an ice hotel and sleep in an ice bed. Luckily they don’t let you sleep directly on the ice. These ice beds are covered with furs and thick blankets so that the sleeper can get a decent nights’ sleep without freezing into the bed.

Oversized American beds

In the United States of America, you can get an extra-large MacDonalds meal to take home to your extra-large king-size bed. These are also called Caesar beds. For some reason, sometime between the first and second world wars, the Americans decided to build beds with dimensions of 3.6 meters by 3 meters. That is a massive bed! But hey, if you are in the business of being bigger and better than anyone else, big beds are probably not that far fetched.

We hope that you had some fun with this blog post and that you learnt some interesting trivia. What type of exotic bed would you like to sleep on?

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