What a strange and absolutely awesome experience! I can sit next to a random stranger near a bus stop in one degree weather in nothing but a small towel as the sun sets behind me and not worry that the cops are going to come after me for indecent exposure. Gosh Finland is cool!
Since I only had a day in Helsinki and most of it was spent wandering around lost, trying to find my hostel, I didn’t have much time to explore empty handed. And what better way to ease the stress on my back from carrying around my bags all day than to hit the sauna?
I didn’t know much about saunas in Finland before going out there. I had read somewhere that you normally go in naked and cool down with a cold shower or in the snow and then go back into the sauna. Sounded simple enough, if a little vague. How many times do I go back in? When do I know I’m supposed to leave the heat/the cold? What do I do while I’m in the sauna? Where do I get a towel?
The last one I had to ask a group of girls once I was already in the changing room. Had to rent it. The towel plus a basic sauna (no massages or anything, but using the room and showers for as long as desired) cost me 16 euros. I feel like for Helsinki that is excellent! Definitely worth it for the experience I had.
I ended up staying there for about three hours, coming and going as I pleased. I sweated profusely on the top ledge of the enormous sauna room. Now the sauna rooms I am used to are actually steam rooms that are attached to the showers in my gym and are usually big enough for three people to sit comfortably for ten minutes before we get kicked out for the next group to come in. So this one being bigger than my living room was so different for me. And to see a group of teenage girls hanging out together, talking I would assume about school and boys and what they were going to do that weekend, in a way I could never do here in the States, I can almost say I was jealous. Now I know why Scandinavians can stand their harsh winters. New England, time to take notes, the whole freak out over whether we have enough bread and milk is getting old.
And then going outside to cool down on a busy street. With other men and women doing the same. Nobody was staring at me as if I was a piece of meat and nobody was giving anyone else dirty looks because they were too fat or too skinny or pale or tan or whatever other reason women cover themselves up for here. We were just people relaxing after a long week of work. I’ll just add this to the list of reasons I love Europe.
My stay in Helsinki came to an end the next morning when I had to catch an early morning ferry to Tallinn, a city that stole my heart almost immediately. But nothing so far can compare to how relaxed I felt after that sauna. I petition to bring saunas to the U.S.! Or maybe I should just move to Finland.