Theme of the month - Wellness

 

Lufthansa travel reports Helsinki

 

Helsinki - Wellness Finnish-style: The heat is on

All over the world, people seek refuge from the cold and frost at the sauna, Finland’s oldest export item. Yet to this day the Finns have for the most part kept their distinctive “bathing culture” to themselves. So anyone who wants to find out what a steam bath is really like should visit Helsinki – where people actually sauna all year round. That’s because real Finns like to sweat in summer just as much as in winter.

 
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Wellness Finnish-style: The heat is on

Where politicians sweat it out

Where politicians sweat it out:
What to the Germans is their beer, to the Finns is the sauna, a cultural heritage that belongs to their daily routine. But in days of yore, the sauna was more than just a sweat cabin – it was also used for all kinds of activities, including cooking. There are several mentions of the sauna in the Finnish epic poem “Kalevala,” and a number of doctoral theses have been written on the subject. Television has even broadcast talk shows from a sauna, featuring notable Finnish politicians among their guests. Finland’s ex-president Urho Kekonnen has been quoted as saying: “I simply cannot imagine life without a sauna.”
Gateway to another world

Gateway to another world:
Going to the sauna was never seen as a luxury, a privilege reserved only for the upper classes. On the contrary, it was, and still is, considered a necessity for everyone. In rural areas, the sweat cabins were both easy and cheap to build, and they served various purposes. Up to three or four generations ago, Finnish mothers were still giving birth to their children in their sauna; no other room in the house was as hygienic because regular heating destroyed many germs. The sauna was even the place where the dead were prepared for burial, making it a kind of gateway between this world and the next.


Municipal saunas

Municipal saunas:
When many Finns moved to the cities in the early part of the 20th century, large public saunas opened. Today sauna facilities are a standard feature of town houses and apartments. Also, private companies and government offices run saunas for their employees, as do hotels for their guests. Altogether Finland has up to two million saunas for its roughly five million inhabitants, which is why only three of the classic public saunas in Helsinki still remain in operation.

Info:
Hermannin Sauna: Hämeentie 63, Tel.: +358-(0)9/701 24 24. Open: Mon-Fri 2-8pm, Sat 12 noon-6pm. Admission: €9 (reduced €6-8). www.saunahermanni.fi (Finnish). Kotiharju Sauna: Harjutorinkatu 1, Tel.: +358-(0)9/753 15 35. Open: Tue-Sat 2-9:30pm. Admission: €12 (reduced €6-8.50). www.kotiharjunsauna.fi (Finnish, Info PDF in English). Sauna Arla: Kaarlenkatu 15, Tel.: +358-(0)9/71 92 18. Open: Wed-Sun 2-8pm. Admission: €9 (reduced €7). www.arlansauna.net (Finnish)


Sauna customs

Sauna customs:
Finnish babies are only about twenty weeks old when their parents take them to the sauna for the first time, so for most Finns, taking a sauna becomes a truly lifelong weekly ritual. People visit the sauna with their family, with friends, and even with business associates. Unlike in Germany, for example, it is perfectly normal in Finland to hold lively conversations while sharing a sauna. And while men and women don’t usually sauna together – at least in public facilities – clothing is not worn. In the time-honored municipal Yrjönkatu Swimming Baths, built in 1928, people can even bathe in the nude after visiting the sauna.

Info:
Yrjönkatu Swimming Baths: Yrjönkatu 21b, Tel.: +358-(0)9/31 08 74 01. Open: different days for men and women as posted on the website. Admission starts at €4.80. Prices vary according to selected ticket. www.hel.fi (in English, Finnish and other languages)


Beach saunas on the Baltic

Beach saunas on the Baltic:
Don’t be shocked to see the Finns beating themselves with birch branches to open the pores of their skin and stimulate their circulation. Another thing you should know is that washerwomen rub soap into the backs of sauna-goers and then scrub the skin thoroughly. And of course, after the sauna it’s great fun to leap into the cool waters of a lake or the sea. That’s why the two saunas at the Rastila Camping campsite, easily reached by train, are both located right on a Baltic bay. If you prefer to perspire in private, you can book the entire sauna facilities outside of the regular opening hours.

Info:
Rastila Camping Beach Sauna: Karavaanikatu 4, Tel.: +358-9/(0)310 78517. Open: Tue 5-7pm (women) and 7-8:30pm (men), Thu 5-7pm (men) and 7-8:30 pm (women), Sat 9am-11pm (men), 11ym-1:30pm (women), Sun 10am-2pm (women) and 2-6pm (men). Admission: €6.50 (reduced €3.50), rental for private sauna €20 (family sauna) or €65 (beach sauna) per hour, at least 2 hours. www.rastilacamping.fi (in English, Finnish and other languages)


Spa-cum-Water Park

Spa-cum-Water Park:
While you can certainly experience Finland’s traditional bathing culture at Helsinki’s public saunas, you should not expect to find an atmosphere of pampered ease there. They offer no large rest areas; instead, to cool off, sauna-goers simply wrap a towel around their waist, grab a plastic chair – and then sit down outside on the sidewalk. You will find more wellness (but little originality) at the modern spas offering a wide and varied range of treatments. The Flamingo Spa complex in Vantaa near Helsinki even features a real water park complete with water slides and restaurants.

Info
Flamingo Spa: Vantaa, Tasetie 8, Tel.: +358-(0)20/778 52 25. Open: Mon-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat 9am-9pm, Sun 9am-8pm. Admission starts at €29 for 4 hours (spa). www.flamingospa.fi (in English, Finnish and other languages)
 

Photos: Boening/Lengler/laif (3), visithelsinki.fi, visitfinland.com

 
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