You may have heard of a thing called sauna. And you may have heard that Finns enjoy sauna very much. You also may have heard that there is nudity involved.
Yep. All is true. We love it (as our almost-Finn Brazilian Mariana does after spending four years in Finland) and we usually do it naked.
First some sauna facts before we get to the actual content.
- It’s been estimated that there are 2-3.3 million saunas in Finland. That is seriously a lot because there’s only 5.5 million Finns. The reason there’s no exact official number of saunas available is because some people might have built saunas illegally and/or some extra ones just in case.
- Lots of sweating is involved because sauna is usually heated to anywhere between 70-100 degrees Celsius and people sit at wooden “lauteet” benches ass-by-ass (i.e. tightly-packed).
- Doing “sauna” takes a while because people usually go to sauna, then get outside to cool down (in winter this can be done by jumping into the snow, in summer into the lake, river or sea), then go back to sauna, then go back outside, etc. This can take hours and this is not an exaggeration.
- There might also be some hitting involved. It’s done by birch branches (there’s some debate on which species is better for the purpose: Betula pendula or Betula pubescens). Yes, we actually have birch branches tied together and we hit either ourselves or the person sitting next to us with it. The smell of fresh birch leaves is awesome and it also relaxes your muscles. IT’S NOT WEIRD AT ALL.
- The history of sauna is closely tied to both common sense and superstition. For instance, in the old days, it’s been practical to give birth in saunas because they have been the most hygienic place available. An example of superstition is that usually all bridal showers (yes, even nowadays) at some point end up to sauna where all the bad stuff (i.e. the evil spirits of EXs’) are hit away with the birch branches…
- And since this is a diversity-focused blog, we want to emphasize that there is a great diversity of saunas: puusauna (=wood-burning sauna – usually considered the best type), höyrysauna (=steam sauna), electric sauna, mökkisauna (=(summer) cottage sauna), work-place sauna (yes, some places of business actually have their own saunas), gym sauna, raft sauna, president’s sauna (that’s where a lot of politics were made a couple of decades ago), beach sauna, floating sauna, etc… But what if you live in a block of flats? Chances are that there are personal saunas for each apartment, but at least common saunas for all people living in the building.
OK. That’s enough facts, ain’t it?
We three have been spending some time apart, either physically (Annika as a postdoc in China) or mentally (Mariana and Katri being super busy with finishing a PhD thesis or with work, respectively). But, it’s July and summer came, and now we’re all in Oulu, northern Finland, for a couple of weeks. So…we decided to go to sauna as the weather is so nice and it’s Saturday. And Annika just came back from very hot and humid Nanjing, so what else were we supposed to do than to go to sauna to sweat a bit more? 😀
This time we picked a lovely floating sauna (called Kesän Sauna) as our destination. It is a public sauna that floats on the River Oulujoki. You actually have to take a short raft ride to the floating sauna itself. It is extremely popular with both locals and foreigners, and as it is a public sauna open for all ages, people actually do wear swimming suits inside the sauna.
A plus side with that particular sauna is that you get to jump straight into the water of the River Oulujoki in between all the sitting and sweating in the sauna.
If you are looking for a great sauna experience, we highly recommend Kesän Sauna in Oulu. There’s also a rather well-known sauna complex called Löyly in Helsinki, but we haven’t tested that one yet. But if you get access to whatever kind of sauna, go for it! You might get naked, you might get sweaty, and you might even drink a few cold ones, but it’s gonna be fun! 🙂 Sauna is definitely one of the best ways to relax.
Also: Check out a short sauna video in our Instagram.
Interesting links and some “references”
Statistics Finland, www.stat.fi
Kesän Sauna, www.kesansauna.fi (this is the floating sauna we visited)