The Finnish Sauna
The sauna has been known for centuries. Back in the ancient days people would relax in hot steam baths and other rooms created specifically for sweating. Finland has been using various forms of the sauna for around 2000 years now. In earlier times they were probably nothing more but holes in the mountainside but today’s saunas are usually wooden huts at a lakeshore. Saunas are also commonly found inside city apartments. Walls, ceilings and floor are made of wood. Natural stones are placed inside some form of bowl. The bowl is then heated with electricity or – rarely – with gas, so that the room heats up.
Before you enter the sauna you should take a shower. Temperatures in a sauna vary between 60 and 90 degrees. It will rise further when water is poured onto the stones. Some people feel like lobster in a cooking pot. The humid heat makes the body sweat profusely. To stimulate blood circulation, some users hit themselves with birch branches. The sauna sessions after around ten minutes and people leave to take a cold shower. Some brave souls roll around in the snow outdoors or even jump into the ice-cold lake. Afterwards they dress again and feel refreshed and healthy.
In 1990 Finland counted about 1,500,000 saunas for 4,900,000 inhabitants. This means: There’s a sauna for 3.26 inhabitants. On average a Finn will visit the sauna twice a week. Women have given birth in saunas and the odd dead body has been stored in one as well.
Some Finns are not satisfied with merely jumping into a cold lake to cool off: In winter two holes that are 5-6 metres apart are bored into the ice that covers the frozen lake. They then swim from one hole to the other. However there’s a great risk that they will not reach the second hole and for most Finns this kind of derring-do has nothing to do with the pleasure of the sauna.