30.11.10 – Sure, even the salt water Baltic Sea is starting to freeze right now but that doesn’t seem to stop Finns from one of their favorite pastimes, sauna. Pastime probably isn’t the right word because sauna means so much more to the Finnish people. Before my first trip to Finland, over 15 years ago, whenever I asked a Finnish person in the states what’s the most important thing to see in Finland, they all answered the same, “Sauna.”
Sauna is best when you can step outside and take a dip in a some nice cool water, preferably in one of the many lakes that dot the countryside. The quick jolt from “almost too hot” to “almost too cold” can be unbelievable stimulating and put your mind and body in a state of nirvana. That’s why most Finns have a summerhouse outside of the city, usually located along the side of a small lake. Visiting the summerhouse is usually on the weekend and more often in the summer because the möki maybe located a couple of hours from the city center, so it’s better to plan when you can stay overnight or even longer. This doesn’t stop some city dwellers from taking sauna and having a nice dip!
Both private and public sauna’s are all over Helsinki and available to almost everyone, but there are a few “hardcore” Finns who prefer the “whole enchilada.” Even though all the water outdoors is sure to turn to ice, they still want a dip while taking sauna. Every once in a great while you’ll see some water next to a building with a ladder and a “bubbler” a couple of feet out. The “bubbler” keeps the water from freezing so the sauna goers can come out of the sauna and do a quick lap and then right back into the sauna.
I haven’t seen anyone going in lately, although I pass by a spot pretty regularly, so I’ll keep my eyes open. Sauna, even though it sometimes is out in the open, is a private matter so I won’t take any pictures or stare. I probably will be looking out of the corner of my eyes with my jaw wide open. I’ve seen it on tv before and thought, oh it’s just mind of matter, I could probably do that, but now that I’ve been walking around in the -15ºC weather, there’s no way I would even think of trying! I could barely take the pictures you see above because my hands were freezing.
I don’t know how they do it but I would imagine it must be extremely invigorating.
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