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Published: April 24th 2009
A view of the smoke sauna walking back from ice swimming.
The day has finally come for the much anticipated sauna party. Work went well and let out early as Dave, myself and several compatriots boarded the Himos-bound bus. Arriving at the ski resort we immediately made the tricky walk down the icy road to the sauna building. This building housed a regular sauna plus a lounge. The girls had gone to the savusauna (smoke sauna) first so the guys took advantage of the lounge, the snacks and of course the booze. Finally, savusauna time came.
The savusauna is a very traditional type of sauna; it's lack of a chimney makes it special. Heat is provided by a wood fire set beneath the kiuas (bed of rocks) and the smoke is allowed to fill the sauna. When the sauna is hot enough the fire is left to die and then the doors/windows are opened to let the smoke escape. This long-burning fire and an exceptionally large kiuas enable the sauna to retain enough heat to keep the heartiest Finn contentedly sweaty for hours. The feel of the savusauna is tangibly different from a typical sauna, but the words to describe it are beyond me. I want to say it's softer, more
Some of the crew cooling down outside of the sauna.
mellow in some way. It is definitely quite pleasant and I prefer it in great order over the typical sauna.
A key ingredient of my sauna experience today, besides plenty of Lonkero, is avantouinti (ice swimming). The sauna is conveniently located lakeside, as many in Finland are. An avanto is a hole in the ice intended for swimmers. Let me tell you this is an invigorating experience. All you have to do is get up the nerve to get in the water. Then you scramble to get out as quick as you can while gasping for breath due to the shockingly cold water. Once out of the water it takes just a matter of seconds to warm back up. Then you find yourself standing outside in subfreezing temperatures with just a towel on feeling as comfortable as can be. After relaxing a few you head back to the savusauna, probably stopping by the cooler for another Lonkero on the way, and repeat the process: Sauna, sweat, cool walk to water, freezing swim, warm up, drink and back to sauna. I loved it.
After a few hours of enjoying the sauna it was time for dinner. The Himos restaurant
Really cooling down after the sauna.
had a great buffet spread of traditional Finnish food, e.g. smoked salmon, sausages and mashed potates with sauteed reindeer. Oh, and of course more beer and Lonkero. Following dinner we participated in some team-building games, drank some more and had a damned good time even though my team lost.
Festivities over, the Tampere crowd boarded a taxi and headed for home. We rolled back into Tampere just in time to swing by the bus station and pick up my sister, Liz, who had flown into Helsinki earlier. Dumping our stuff at the hotel we headed for London Pub to finish off the night. A few drinks, some chatting and a cigar later it was well past bedtime so we walked home. This has to be one of the most fun Friday nights I've had in Finland, plus my Liz is here now 😊
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