If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good massage. Or facial, or pedicure, or just about any other form of pampering you can imagine. Except for Thai massages. Those aren’t pampering. Those are torture. A few years ago however, my love for massage was overthrown for a love of something bigger, something badder, something… steamy. The sauna.
In 2008, I had a unique opportunity to visit two friends of mine who live in the only place that’s colder than Canada (okay, not the only, but certainly one of): Finland. The three of us met while on exchange in Toulouse, France and bonded after realizing we all had French dictionaries propped front and center on our desks. At the end of 6 months, it was clear, we were destined to be friends for life.
After nearly 2 years of not seeing each other, I decided to make Finland the first stop of my European travels. I was coming in from India and was ecstatic for some quality time spent in formidable company. I arrived just in time for white nights, which meant no matter the time of day, the sun was out and the sky was simply stunning.
During my visit, we made the drive up to a cottage where the girls were kind enough to introduce me to Finnish Sauna. I quickly learned that there are 5 steps to sauna-ing like a Finn:
- Drink cider.
- Get naked in front of all your friends. The cider makes this easier.
- Make the sauna so bloody hot that no one born outside of Finland could ever outlast a Finn in a sauna sweat-off.
- Use the beating bush on friends to increase circulation and take out latent anger.
- Run into freezing cold water until at risk of hypothermia and then return to sauna.
The second time I was in a position to experience a real Finish Sauna, I was at a friend’s cottage just outside of Kuopio enjoying post-wedding celebrations, ready for the naked and longing to partake in vast amounts of cider-drinking! Unfortunately, I was very pregnant at the time and had to jump in and out of the sauna every other minute, short of breath and sweating like a pig! I also opted out of the dip in the lake, blaming the “baby” for my complete and utter cowardice.
Nonetheless, the experience was just as spectacular as my first go around and the scenery every bit as spectacular. If you ever do decide to visit Finland’s beautiful northern territory, be sure to do so in the spring/summertime. For the lover of the great outdoors, there’s few places in the world that compare to the natural beauty and tranquil surroundings.
A lover of everything Finnish? Check out Street Eats Helsinki, Finland: Reindeer Meatballs or Lake Fish?