Friday, October 28, 2016

The Sauna

The sauna culture is big in Finland. When I first brought my American boyfriend to our summer cabin in Finland (way back when), he found out my parents had three different types of saunas at the cabin, and one outhouse. Yes. You read that correctly.

They now have, in addition to the three saunas and one outhouse, two indoor bathrooms.

So, naturally, I needed to write one blog post of our Finland summer, devoted to the sauna, alone.

The one in the picture above, is my favorite sauna in the whole world. It was built by grandfather. It now belongs to my older sister's family, and we warmed it up almost every single day while we were in Finland. Since this was my grandparents' sauna, my parents have one attached to their cabin as well. Later they built one with a bedroom closer to the shore, and they also added an electric one to their new cabin next door.

This sauna is a wood burning sauna, so you need to start by getting enough wood to heat up the stove, and the hot water barrel.

You can pump water for washing (there are showers at the other cabins, but we prefer the old way of washing from basins in the sauna) either from the lake, or from the well. We usually used well water. One person would pump the water by the hand pump, and one person would make sure the water at the other end of the hose would make it to the hot water barrel and the cold water bucket.

My sister and I would take turns at the "job" of heating up the sauna. Usually the other person would keep an eye on the seven kids, so you can see how we had to take turns. You needed to build and feed the fire under the stove, as well as under the hot water barrel.

And then you'd wait. Sometimes in blissful quietness. Sometimes, not.

In the very first photo of this blog post my dad is making vihtas, and in this photo Mei Mei is in the sauna holding one. I persuaded her to smell the vihta, made from birch branches, but she wasn't a fan of whacking herself with it, which is what we native Finns do. Why? It feels good!

And don't forget to throw water on the stove to make the sauna all hot and steamy. No dry saunas for the Finns! Some people prefer the temps hot, like around 250F, but I personally like it when it's around 150F, then it's the best for throwing water on the stove.

When you get too hot, you go for a dip in the lake, and/or sit outside, typically sipping a beer (I'm a rare Finn, and don't like the taste of it, my choice was a can of grapefruit cider). And repeat. And repeat. And stop reluctantly once you absolutely have to go put your little ones to bed.

(The towel around Mei Mei is purely for the photo's sake, I knew I wanted to blog about the sauna eventually.)

While my youngest little Chinese girl enjoyed sitting in the sauna, she definitely enjoyed bathing outside the sauna in a tub, much better. All the littles love it. And for the bigs, there is now a wooden barrel, a 'hot tub', too! Heated by wood, of course. You can see a glimpse of it in the very first photo.

After the sauna, you feel so relaxed, warm and clean. It is a big part of being in Finland, and being a Finn.

I already miss it.


Halusin kirjoittaa ja kuvata suomalaista saunakulttuuria, mutta taidan jättää tämän postauksen vain englanniksi. Eiköhän me suomalaiset ymmärretä saunomista, ilman, että käännän tekstin suomeksi.
Ja kyllä, me tarvitsemme ehdottomasti saunan Mainen mökillemme. Rakas mieheni rakennutti saunan New Hampshiren kotiimme, eli eiköhän se saada Maineenkin joku päivä. Floridassa saunaa ei kaipaa ihan samalla lailla:)


  1. Yes, that's the thing I love and miss the most most about Finland. I volunteer to heat the sauna at my mum's place (she's got a sauna cabin by the lake too). Just the anticipation is lovely. And then when you sit on the sauna benches..... the bliss. Thanks for posting this my dear! Now I have to go call my friend and ask if I can go to her sauna as I cannot wait until summer.

  2. Oh my goodness, can I go next time? :) It looks LOVELY!!!!

  3. Tsemppiä saunan suunnitteluun ja rakennuspuuhiin! :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. A sauna looks like it would be so relaxing. It does seem like a bit of work to get all of the wood that is needed to heat it with, but it would save on the electric bill. The view by the lake is beautiful and would be breathtaking while sitting in the sauna.