“Sauna-Motherland” Finland by Gerhard:
My first encounter with real Finish Sauna was at a Red Cross Training. The Finnish Red Cross has a great Training facility in Nynäs, about an hour north of Helsinki. It has two wonderful typical finish saunas. One is at the lake, so a dive after sauna becomes mandatory. The other one is in the forest. The Finns provide every evening a full crate of drinks in every Sauna: Juices, water and for sure beer. Possibly that place, with all the international participants at every session, spread the sauna culture to more countries than any other sauna in Finland. The training centre was once owned by the Association of ex combatants who became blind as a result of fighting. A tank is situated on the top of every sauna stove. So the blind could pour water on the stove without using a spoon, they just had to open a valve. This is very unique to this sauna. More unique is just the smoke sauna which is heated by an open fire in the middle of the cabin. The smoke escapes via a hole in the middle of the roof, but over time, leaves behind a completely black wooden sauna cabin. All users leave the sauna with a light smell of “smoked ham”. The last sauna experience for us together was during our round trip in northern Europe…. We went to the sauna in Finland with our very good Finnish friends. It was an enlightening package of Finnish family sauna evenings.
They make sausage on the sauna stove. This is called sauna sausage: sausages filled with cheese, some tomatoes, some peppers are wrapped in to an aluminum foil and kept on the sauna stove to be cooked. You go in and out of the sauna as you wish and when the sausages are done, everyone enjoys the evening meals, in between the sauna session…. another sauna tradition of Finns were discovered…
When exactly sauna made it south, to Germany is difficult to say. The German Sauna Association was founded in 1924. On request of the Finnish athletes there was a Finnish Sauna at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. What is praised as good for sportsman can´t be bad for beer bellies. Many soldiers brought back to Germany after world war 2 their good experiences with sauna from the north. My father installed one in his house in 1980 and even I have one in my house. We Germans are lacking the long Finnish Sauna traditional knowledge, so Germany needed some guidance on how to use the sauna. The ten golden rules “ How to do Sauna” were then invented in Germany. Late 2005, in a German Red Cross training in Hennef, a quite mixed crowd ended up in the sauna of the training center of the German football associations. Scandinavians, Germans, Austrians and some Asians and Africans ended up in the huge Sauna. The Finnish colleague made jokes about the strange German 10 golden sauna rules. He basically stated that in Finland there is just one rule: “You enjoy sauna however you like it”. But then he looked at his Swedish neighbor and said: “I forgot, there is a second rule- If somebody from Sweden is with you in the Sauna, you have to stay longer then him”!
In 2003 , I did a 3 month mission in Swaziland. The purpose was to start a first aid/ ambulance project. I found a quite nice “health club” where they had a good Sauna. Usually I was the only white guy. I enjoyed the Sauna after a long day in the office. One evening, there were some elderly gentlemen in the sauna, with me. The most senior one started a conversation, asking me how I like the country and the tradition. I gave my quite positive picture. The King Mswati II is heavily criticized for having 14 wives. In times of HIV Aids a difficult to communicate fact. He picked all the new queens in a ceremony called: Reed dance. All the maidens of the country bring Reed and offer, symbolically to repair the royal houses at the royal kraal. He considers, beside unknown selection criteria, all provinces of Swaziland, in his selection of a new wife. He keeps the country at least together. Till independence there was no unrest or military coup. The conversation went on, for the next 10 minutes, you usually have in a Sauna, till you need to get out and cool down. Later in the locker room, another gentleman from the same group came to me and asked: “ Did you know whom you where talking too?” “ No, no idea” “It was the prince!” “ Ahh, OK” I have to explain that the previous King had 70 wives and 210 children. So, it is not that unlikely to run into a prince in Swaziland, but some great conversations just happens in the Sauna. The conversations in a sauna are always limited to the time one can stand the heat. Maybe the German Reunification has its roots in the Sauna sessions of the former Chancellor Kohl and Russian President Jelzin had together? North Korea, DPRK Even here in North Korea, Sauna is quite popular. While copying the idea they have missed some points of fine tuning. Usually the wooden benches have nails or screws from the top, so you sit on the hot metal and in many saunas the temperature can´t be regulated because they are headed by the community heating system. At times the temperature can be over 120 C and then it becomes not pleasant anymore. Over all a general reflection of the situation in the whole country.
Saunas that I know by Luvini
As a Sri Lankan I am not coming from a sauna culture. In the hot and humid days… walking on the street for more than an hour can be the same as staying 10 minutes in a European sauna… So the culture is unknown to Sri Lankans. My first sauna experience was in a five start hotel in Colombo. But those days I preferred steam bath after a nice swim…… Then the next sauna experience was in Haiti… yes do not get surprised.. it was in Haiti and adding to the excitement it was in the base camp. Where more than 100 internationals were living in tented accommodation… so who brought a sauna to the base camp.. Well not a question to be asked, the Finnish are guilty. They brought a sauna to the base camp, a sauna in a tarpaulin tent… This was unique.. I was first quite surprised, and questioned myself who the hell is going to a sauna when the temperature is normally 40 C in this country. But our good friend Marla invited me one evening to have a beer with her in the sauna… Out of curiosity I went…. ok a good lesson for me.. it can be quite nice to go in to a room where it is 100 c and come out to 40 c and feel fresh…. Since then I went to the sauna in the base camp 2 or 3 times a week…… Well I should not forget that Finnish delegates are well known for travelling to missions all over the world with their “emergency saunas concept..” and set up a sauna where ever with whatever possible….