More than enough saunas in Finland

If the entire population of Finland was told to immediately enter a sauna, they'd all be accomodated.

With a population of around five million, there are more than 2.5 million saunas.

That means almost every household has its own sauna.

And there are plenty of public saunas.

"Sauna is basically in the nature of everything here," says Jari Etelalahti, who runs local tour company Eat and Joy Helsinki.

"A lot of homes have them and Finnish people are crazy about summer cottages which all have sauna."

For Finns, going to a sauna is more than a passtime.

It is part of their Nordic culture.

"In the old days, that was the only place that was really heated," said Etelalahti.

Advertisement

"It was hygienic also so you gave birth in a sauna ... you spent half of your day in the sauna.

As a tourist, there are many opportunities to experience the traditional Finnish sauna.

Public saunas are open daily and you may be lucky to be invited to enjoy some Finnish hospitality at a local's home.

Traditional sauna is a wooden building where the bathers sit on benches splashing water on the hot stones of the stove and gently beating themselves with leafy birch whisks.

More common in homes nowadays are electric saunas.

"The real sauna is the smoke sauna which is heated for like six hours before the whole event and it stays like that."

"Saunas can be electrical ... many of these flats nowadays have electrical saunas.

"But for me the wooden heated saunas are the best."

Temperatures can range from 70 degrees celcius to 180 degrees celcius for the more hardcore sauna lovers.

"It can get up to 150 or 180 degrees and the guys sit there happily sweating."

There are even competitions where people attempt to stay in the sauna for a lengthy time at a high temperature.

Etelalahti said men were particularly competitive.

"Of course when guys have a sauna, they want to be competitive and there is also a world championship for people to see who can stay in the sauna the longest at some high temperature," he said.

"But usually it is about being therapeutic so you can stay in the sauna as long or as little as you want. Of course when guys have a sauna, they want to be competitive and there is also a world championship for people to see who can stay in the sauna the longest at some high temperature.

"Guys are always competitive and many have fainted in the heat of the battle.

"But usually it is about being therapeutic so you can stay in the sauna as long or as little as you want."

Certain rules generally apply to saunas.

"Sauna is not supposed to be a connection to business so the rules are: no politics, no religion, no business and hardly no sex talk at all," says Etelalahti.

"It is just about pure and natural things. It is nice to just talk about everyday subjects like the weather or food."

A trip to the sauna usually takes a couple of hours and involves a whole process of activities.

One must first get naked and shower before entering.

Sauna is usually done nude - it is more hygienic that way - and in public places, male and females are normally separate.

At home, saunas are usually mixed.

"Every time you go naked because it is more hygenic not to go with the swimsuit," says Etelalahti.

The term sauna refers to the whole bathing process and includes several repeated periods of perspiring in the heat and the steam, known as "loyly", produced by the water thrown on the stones.

Loyly is described as the spirit of the sauna. It is a Finno-Ugric word going back 7,000 years.

Between bouts in the sauna room, people often bathe in cold water.

In winter, people cut holes in the ice in the Baltic sea or any lake and jump in for a short time.

If there is no water nearby, people will often roll around naked in the snow.

"If you have water next to you, of course you want to jump into it," says Etelalahti.

"If you don't have the ocean or a lake near you, you always go outside and chill out in the cold for a while."

"It is addictive, both sauna and going into the icy water."

IF YOU GO:
Scandinavian Airlines offers departures from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide via Bangkok or Singapore with Thai Airways or Singapore Airlines then on to over 50 destinations in Europe via Copenhagen with SAS.

Economy fares start from $1649 or, for extra leg room on the SAS flight, the Economy Extra Combination fare from $2749.

Alternatively, the Business Combination fare costs from $3629 in conjunction with Qantas via Tokyo, Beijing or Shanghai.

Taxes and surcharges are additional.

For more options visit http://www.flysas.com.au or contact 1300-727- 707

* MyPlanet is a specialist Scandinavian travel retailer offering expert advice and a broad range of competitively priced city breaks, hotels, various tours and transport options for exploring Scandinavian region.

MyPlanet can be contacted on (02) 9020-5800 or visit http://www.myplanetaustralia.com.

* The writer was a guest of Scandinavian Airlines, Finnish Tourist Board, Helsinki City Tourist and Convention Bureau and MyPlanet.

AAP

Comments