Sauna: The True Finnish Experience
There is one word in the Finnish language that’s known throughout the world–sauna. It’s the word that’s associated the closest with this northern nation, and an experience that is shared by all Finnish people.
No apartment is complete without a common sauna, nor is any house complete without the built in sauna, though most of the Finns we met said they partake weekly, or monthly, and not every day.
While we were in Hanko, of course we had to partake in the traditional sauna experience, and for that we called up upon a man named Teemu Sandin, who owns a sauna on wheels that he rents out to and uses every week for a gathering of his sauna buddies. We joined group of five men as they sat on deck chairs outside the little trailer next to the harbor in Hanko. A tiny barbecue grill was fired up and sausages were about to be grilled. They sat drinking beer wearing towels, waiting to return to the cozy hot confines of the wood-paneled sauna, heated by a wood-stove burning birch logs.
Everything was as it should be—the sausages are eaten without rolls, but with a squiggle of hot local mustard. The sauna is heated with birch wood, surrounded by bubbling water, and inside the sauna, birch branches are soaked in water and used to clean oneself. There were six men, a few of the younger ones in bathing suits but most naked, letting the temperature rise as water was ladled on the stove, bringing the waft of hot air around us. The temperature said 65c (149 fahrenheit) but it felt much hotter than that and we watched the sand flow out of a wall-mounted hourglass.
It was a wonderfully assortment of local Hanko men–Markku, a painter with long hair and glasses, and Stig, a heavily tattooed postman, and Ove, a very tall and big sailor on tugboats and Jari, who works in a factory that makes enzymes for animal feed. Teemu said that this group of regulars meets weekly for these sauna and beer sessions, and that he takes the mobile sauna around the area and rents it out.
After the men were glistening with sweat and they had to get out, they headed down to the waters edge. The Baltic sea in May is about 38 degrees, but that didn’t stop any of them from plunging in to cool off. And despite the trailer’s location out in the open next to the harbor, nobody noticed or cared that naked men were taking dips and lounging around in their towels. Ahh, male bonding at its finest! Contact Teemu Sandin by email.