Even before leaving for the #lumiainlapland we were told to carry our swim suites for the sauna experience. I have been to saunas in the past but within Indian spas. The Finnish take the sauna experience to an altogether different level. First of all we have to take into account the weather. When I landed at the Kittila Aiport the pilot cheerfully announced, “Welcome to Kittila, the weather is the usual Lapland weather, the temperature outside is -22 degrees.” Now that sounded incredibly cold to me. Thankfully the walk to the terminal building was short. I was happy to be back inside with central heating.
Throughout my stay at Levi, Lapland the temperature was minus something. With no sunshine for three months in winter (the days and nights were roughly equal when I was there in March) a hot sauna makes complete sense. We had with us Friida Turku from Nokia who is a local. She gave us great insights to the sauna culture of Finland and Finland in general. She said many apartment complexes would have a sauna where you could book time, even homes may have it. Business deals apparently are sealed in saunas in Finland.
It makes perfect sense for such cold weather. If you Google images for Finnish Sauna you would also see how comfortable they are with nudity. Friida mentioned that recently Finland went with mixed sex saunas and people have mixed feelings about it.
Our group had people from China and India apart from our hosts Frida and Prima. We women went into the sauna first. We changed into our swim suites in a changing room. Armed with bathrobe to keep the cold away, we ran to the sauna which was a short distance away from the changing room shivering all the way.
Once we got in the warmth was oh so welcome. It was a traditional sauna with a huge wood container to generate heat. We were carrying cool drinks to the hot sauna. I was sipping on a beer in the steaming sauna with 7 other women, sitting on wooden benches that went around the room. I was content, I was happy. Our hosts had other ideas though. Apparently it is a Finnish tradition that once you have become nice and cozy you cannot sit content. You have to get out and take a dip in ice cold water! Friida and her colleague Prima exhorted all of us to go and do it.
Imagine getting out in the snow again from a warm sauna. It felt like madness. I thought I had the fill of madness for the day with the snow mobile ride already. But out we marched. They had a special hatch which was covered and hence it had water in which ice crystals were floating. Everything else of course was frozen solid. Friida was the first to go. I was almost the last. Did I scream? You bet I did. One quick dip and I was out of it as fast as my numb legs would carry me. There are pictures of this event to prove that I actually did it, but then my swim suit pictures are not going to make it to the blog.
Getting inside the sauna again was such a bliss. Any rational group would have settled down in the hot sauna and enjoyed the rest of the time, remember the men were waiting for us to get out. But then we were not a rational group. We next decided to make snow angels and unlike the lady portrayed in the link who is fully clothed we were in our swim suites. So out we went to make snow angels. You can hear us scream in this video while we indulged in more madness.
After a few seconds, once again we ran back to the sauna screaming. However, guys started knocking at the door saying we were taking too much time. We asked them to go away. But we knew we had to get out. By now we were experts at getting out in the cold and walking around. The warm changing room was still quite a welcome relief once we got there. With an icy dip, making snow angels and drinking beer in a warm sauna, I wonder if I could have got a better introduction to the ultimate Finnish sauna experience!