She eyed me up and down and smiled, “usually we are completely naked, but not here, here you need a bathing suit…”
“And men and women are together?” I asked my face betraying my utter surprise.
“Oh course. Thats the only way to do it… but not here. Do you want to try it?”
I’d done sauna’s before, but never a proper Finnish style sauna, so I was down to experience it.
“Great! I was worried that you would be uncomfortable…”
I wasn’t uncomfortable as much as I was surprised, not at saunas but at how good the Finnish body image must be to not be self conscious. To my mind, this would not wash in Singapore being a more conservative society with very different body-size averages.
The sauna experience was intriguing. I’d seen saunas in hotels before, but in those cases, you go into a hot room and sweat and thats it, I never saw the point of sauna. What could make a whole nation go crazy over it (there are 2 million saunas for a nation of 5.5 million, how’s that for crazy about saunas)?
I had to see it for myself.
My friend suggested we try out the newest private sauna located near Helsinki’s bay area – Löyly.
We got out lockers and went to change into our sauna gear. I walked in and a bevy of penis’ were hanging all around the room. It was graphic, no I am not shielding you from it. It certainly felt like a changing room in a swimming pool – the last time I’d been in a public swimming pool like that was when I was in junior school.
After changing into my swimming attire, I had to wash myself and take a shower, big ups for hygiene.
Saunas started in Finland more than 2000 years ago, since the stone age. and the earliest written records date back to 1112 to the Saint Andre.
Saunas were bathhouses back in the day, “showers were not so easily accessibly, so after a long days work, they would come into the sauna and sweat and after that jump into the cold water,” my friend continued, “it’s exceedingly refreshing and most Finns will do it maybe two or three times a week.” She told me all this as we sat in the hot room, at almost 60 degrees. One of the Finns next to us decided to throw more water on the hot coals, it wasn’t humid enough in their view. As the water vapourised the air became thinner and I found myself inhaling deeper.
Saunas are thought to have many health benefits; the sweating is thought to force out toxins from the body, the rapid change from hot humid room to cold water does wonders for your cadiovascular fitness, the whole process increases blood circulation and metabolic rate and thats just the start.
“Time to try go into the water,” my friend told me, I nodded at her and walked out to the pool. Many people were sitting around and a few climbed into the water. “Go quickly into the water before the effect is lost,” she instructed me.
Meet feet touched the water, this was going to be really cold, and my brain went into overdrive as I jumped into the water alternating between being excited to jump in and psychically feeling that I should stop myself from doing something stupid. I threw one leg out with the other rapidly following, the die was cast, my body fell into the gulf of Helsinki.
The cold water engulfed my body and I could not think about anything except from being in shock. What the…
I reemerged from the water, my legs treading and later paddling back to the stairs. I climbed up and went to sit at the benches near by where my friend was waiting. My heart was racing. Boom, boom boom, I could almost hear my heart beating even after sitting on the sofa for what seemed like ten minutes. But it felt good, it was refreshingly. The stress from work was gone and it seemed like I was a new man again. The moment that I fell into the water was the first in a long time that my brain went blank and had a reboot. I was ready to restart things right away.
She was right, I was hooked.
ON THE MAP