Local custom

Fancy a sauna?

Much more than a leisure activity or a place of contemplation, the Finnish sauna is a convivial pastime quite apart, and a true social tradition. Since the 12th century, the benefits of dry heat - 110°C max - have been apparent, for hygiene and good health, and sharing a sauna is much like going for a coffee, to discuss and put the world to rights. Turning down an invitation may even be seen as impolite.

Traditional saunas were small timber cabins constructed even before houses, and were heated by wood. In the Mokki, traditional Finnish housing, common practice would be to alternate the sauna with a dip in natural or freezing water, either in the lake or river, or a simple cold shower in suburbia. Thermal shock guaranteed!

Today it is estimated there are 2 million saunas in Finland for a population of 5 million, mainly powered by electricity and found in homes, hotels, boats, big companies, in the Senate and even in the presidential palace. The town of Muurame even has its own open-air museum dedicated to the delights of the sauna (sauna kyla), comprising 30 saunas from all over Finland. It is also the head office of Harvia, the leading sauna manufacturer, who offers this single piece of advice: let the body speak for itself.

From beyond | Published on: 13 June 2013
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