Finnish Sauna Culture

Today’s topic is: Finnish Sauna. On sauna nights, it’s not unusual to see people running across the yard in outfits like I’m wearing here. The other pics are of the sauna from the outside, the coat room, the inner room where you douse yourself with water before going inside and the door to the sauna itself. What happens behind that door is a secret…no pictures, please!

For those of you not familiar with Finnish Sauna Culture, it goes something like this…two hours before we want to sauna, a couple of us go over and build fires in the woodstoves. In the outer room, where you wash yourself off, there is a big steel drum of water over a woodstove and it is heated to hot (not boiling over and filling the room with steam like the first time I did it!). This water is later mixed with cold tap water to bathe with, to cool off, or just to get your hair wet so it doesn’t burst into flames (I don’t think it actually would, but it sometimes feels hot enough to.).

The other fire is in a woodstove in the sauna itself, and it has stones on top of it that get really hot. The sauna is ready to use when it reaches 110 degrees, but usually it’s more like 120. And if you happen to be in there with a Finnish person, they tend to get a little crazy pouring water over the stones to make a steam that basically singes the little hairs in your nose right off. Finnish people can stay in there for what seems like forever, but at some point, the rest of us realize, “I’ve got to get out of here!!!” At that point, you go outside naked, or in your towel, and sit or stand around chatting until you’re shivering. Then you do it all over again. If there’s snow, you roll in the snow…I know this sounds crazy, but we were lucky enough that the very first time we tried sauna there was fresh snow and we got to try it. Since then, there’s only frozen grass and that would be sharp, uncomfortable and probably feel like rolling in glass.

The first week I was here, some of the artists went to the public sauna. At that time, no one knew the world was going to come apart at the seams, so those of us who were busy working (or possibly sleeping) were assured we’d get our chance the following week. Alas, the public saunas are all closed now, and I missed my chance. Of course, I may still be here when they re-open after all this is over. Who knows? Day-to-day, my friends, day-to-day!

At the public sauna they have something called “public crocs” which apparently is a big pile of those ugly croc shoes and you just pick out a pair to wear down to the lake before you jump in. Can’t say I’m sorry I missed that, or that I didn’t get to try out the Sausage Hut. There’s something called a Smoky Sauna, too, which I’m not so sorry I missed either, as apparently the smoke is so thick you can’t see anything. And the tales I’ve heard of the old men in Speedos…you know, now that I think about it, I’m not so sure I mind that I missed the public sauna after all.

Our Fearless Leader here at Arteles is a lovely woman called Ida (in a previous post, she’s the one sitting on a rock looking serene and beautiful). Each week, we have Silent Days on Saturday and Sunday, and because we can do the sauna every other day, there is always one Silent Sauna. Or as Ida says, “A Finnish Sauna.” That was her subtle, Finnish way of saying we all talk too much in there, unfortunately, it was probably too subtle for the likes of us as we chattered right over her comment. I think one reason she always drops so many ladles of water on the rocks is to keep us gasping and stop us talking!

So now you understand Finnish Sauna Culture. At least as far as I understand it. Oh, and if you’re still reading, and you’re one of the people who emailed to ask how to subscribe to this blog, I’m trying to find out and will post the info here once I have it. Thanks for reading!



This article was written by Joelle