The sauna is a way of life in Finland, it’s not a luxury like in the rest of the world and the locals use them at least once a week. We couldn’t leave Finland without visiting one, but I’ve read that most of them are separate sex, so I’d have to sit in a room of hormones and Craig with a lot of sweaty balls. The sauna is to be had in the nude…this is rather odd for a Brit, but very normal here.
There are some mix sex saunas in Finland, so Craig and I could at least go in together, but it’s just plain weird sitting around with naked strangers.
We drove to Patvinsuo National Park, the dirt road from Leiksa was quite an adventure, high up on a gravel ridge with forest swooping down the slopes. There was hardly anyone around, so we did a couple of short walks, picked lots of berries and swam in the lake.
We came across a sauna at the end of the trail, with a wooden platform leading out into the lake. It only cost €15 for 2 hours for the whole sauna to ourselves so we paid up and the lovely chappy gave us an extra hour free.
It was in a beautiful wooden cabin, surrounded by forest. Inside was a small changing room and a miniature wooden door leading to the Sow-na (as the Finns seem to pronounce it). There was a lot of space inside with two tiered wooden seating, and two sort of stoves; one to heat water in which we (Lauren) had to collect from the lake, and the other had the traditional stones on top.
It was such a lovely location, and all to ourselves. There was a shed out back full of logs which we (Craig) had to chop for the fire. Within 45 minutes it was hot, very hot. I couldn’t believe the difference in heat from sitting on the top seat as apose to the lower. I had an awful cold and stuffy head so it was quite a good decongestant as we ladled boiling water over the scorched rocks. As the heat spread around, it literally burnt my nostrils and I had to duck down for a few seconds.
We’d heard it’s good to gently slap yourself with birch branches/leaves, so grabbed some before hand. It’s said to improve circulation, but it was just annoying, as our body’s were just pouring with moisture the branches sort of wrapped around us and stuck on. As Craig was tapping them on my back he said “let’s hope there’s no ticks on these!”.
When it got too hot, we ran naked into the lake, which was about 1ft deep. At one point Craig said “shit, we got a visitor!” and some guy had clearly wondered down the path and realised he shouldn’t have come so far. We both dunked into the shallow water, but couldn’t quite submerge and our white bottoms were just above the surface.
After three hours of sweating, swimming, running and dunking we were feeling very refreshed. This travelling malarkey ain’t so tough after all…