Finland is world famous for the sauna, so after arriving by ferry into Helsinki and I met up with my backpacking friends Sofia and Karoliina after a gap of over 5 years when we partied together in Sydney while staying at Chilli Blue Backpackers. The whole thing seemed to fit in so spookily together and for these reasons…
1. I had just crossed from Estonia into Finland and back in 2009 I had been backpacking with Estonian girl Natalja.
2. We stayed in “Chilli Blue” hostel and tonight was chilly and a “mild blue movie” was due to be made.
3. I was also on route to Sweden for a catch up with my backpacking buddy Daniel Evans who I was with in Australia when I met the Finnish girls!
So after arriving off the ferry from Tallinn in Estonia (itself a crazy story as my original ferry had a a fault and had to be redirected and then I was upgraded onto another ferry), I finally arrived in Helsinki around 4pm. While I waited for Sofia and Karoliina, I headed for a beer in the aptly titled Hemingway’s Bar and Cafe in Helsinki (one which features on my top bars in Finland post).
Then we were reunited. I got to meet Atte, Sofia’s boyfriend and we got in their car and headed to Jarvenpaa, after a stop off in a Finnish supermarket to buy food and drink. We were having a big Finnish party at Sofia’s and I hope I can write about the party separately when I have time, first of all though – one of the highlights was the Finnish Sauna experience so here goes.
What is a Finnish Sauna?
It’s a hot room with wood around it and a closed door where naked people congregate to get warm, stay healthy, chat and even give birth in (though having children in saunas happens less these days).
I had been in many saunas around the world including in some spa complexes but despite enjoying nude freedom on occasion, I normally had swimming trunks on. In Finland, you go completely naked. It’s the rule. I don’t know the exact reasons for this but purity makes sense – the naked body as it is. No watches, no hair bands, no bracelets, no pants, no socks. Nothing. Bare boobs, burny bums and wrinkly willies. It’s strictly non- sexual though and genders are separated. Girls in at the same time, boys in at the same time. Most homes in Finland include a sauna, and of course Sofia and Atte’s had a sauna so we were sorted.
Types of Finnish Sauna
There are of course different types of sauna. Outdoors in a hut, inside in a room off the bathroom, public saunas etc.. There are wood and electric saunas. In city apartments, and in most public saunas, an electric sauna stove is used, as it does not require wood to burn. They are very simple to prepare, only a press of a button will do. This is the type that Atte and Sofia have. They usually have stones to retain heat, like their smoke sauna and wood stove counterparts, but sometimes even a large slab of stone is used to give the same effect as you throw water on it. Most apartment buildings in Finland include at least this type of sauna, or there is one for use by the occupants of a building, with dedicated hours for use for communal men’s and women’s sauna, and special hours for those who have requested apartment specific hours. Most Finns prefer Wood stove sauna to Electric Sauna.
After food and drink, it was time to lose my clothes and get naked with the boys. It was January, so one of the coldest months in Finland and outside the streets were white with snow. So we have a quick shower in the bathroom next to the sauna, we grab an ice cold beer each (from the snow).
There are five guys heading into the sauna – Alex, Atte, Reina, Roope and myself. Four Finns and a Northern Irishman. I’ve only met them all that night. The sauna is small and compact and five guys is about the maximum for this one.
Everyone was in good spirits, a huge party was in full flow. With me being the only non Finnish person, I was flashing my camera all over the place and encouraging the girls to take photos, they knew I’d be writing about this sort of thing! Of course during the evening, the girls got an eye full of nakedness from the lads and got some photos. I’m putting up the censored ones for you on here – if you want the full nudes you’ll have to head to Finland yourself or ask the girls to forward you some of their photos. Karoliina was taking lots and saw plenty of willies. I used my Northern Ireland flag to disguise the fact that we were all naked in behind…
So now we have stripped off, got our photos, opened our tins of beer, the door closes and the five of us enjoy the delights of the Suomi Sauna. There’s a freedom about it and chat is about many things in life. We speak in English of course – my Finnish is sadly non existent. One of the guys says that a reason for getting close in the hot sauna with a beer is that it’s a way for lads to bond and chat about inner feelings and anything positive or negative in their lives. We’re all straight of course so there’s no harm in touching skin with each other or feeling any less heterosexual because we are naked.
In Finnish saunas, you keep adding water and each time one of us does, the steam rises, the heat rises and at times I feel like it’s too hot. But that’s the way it’s meant to be. I worry about my beer getting hot, so we drink it quicker – it’s still ice cold and the range o temperatures running through the body is crazy. A staggering contrast to a zero degrees beer in an 80 degrees sauna, with minus 3 outside and a cosy warm lounge.
We finish our beers and it’s time for the “Snow Dive”. Yes, Finnish saunas are not just about the sauna. After you get out, you’re meant to either jump naked into a lake or dive into the snow. It’s a cold winter night and there’s no lake nearby so it’s a snow dive into the fresh world of white in the back garden. We put skimpy towels on, pass through the lounge and straight out the back door for the snow dive.
Sofia makes a video for my travel memory, we drop the towels and we make a dive for the ice cold snow.
“It’s all too beautiful” – Itchycoo Park
Once in the snow we roll around briefly, cover our rude bits with snow and I pose for some photos with and without my flag.
Alex tells me I didn’t stay in long enough, but I’m loving it so I dive back in. The weird thing is you don’t feel the cold. It’s weird. You have gone from an 80 degree sauna to -3 degrees of snow and your body somehow enjoys it!
“You make me feel naked, undressing me with your eyes” – Louise Nurding
Sofia’s sister Sonja had asked me to pose with her Suomi Finland scarf (for the ice hockey team) but we hadn’t taken it outside. Luckily she threw it to me once inside again and I could cover my penis again with it to bring you some photos.
Atte also hands me a warm jug with a cocktail in it. It’s something similar to the Glogg in Sweden and the Gluwein in Germany and tastes great. Naked in the lounge again, we all head back into the sauna for round two. So you go from 80 degrees sauna to -3 degrees snow and then open another beer and back into the 80 degrees sauna. It is all really crazy!
After that blast in the sauna, it’s clothes on time and it’s the girls turn. They were a bit shy though and while we continued drinking, chatting and partying, the girls didn’t get naked and dive into the snow sadly!
I did the sauna again in Helsinki, as my hostel there, the Eurohostel has a morning sauna for free for guests. It was a great experience and definitely makes your body feel better, probably best not to booze it up so much afterwards though!
Thanks to my friends Atte and Sofia for letting me stay and enjoy their sauna, to Sonja for the scarf to cover up, Karoliina for the photos and everyone at the party for such a great time in Jarvenpaa.
I hope to return to Finland some time again because it’s a very friendly nation.
Sofia kindly made a video of the full snow dive but it’s not suitable for YouTube as there are three visible willies in the video. I might put it on the over 18 site Xtube at some point, but in the meantime here is a video on six steps to prepare for a Finnish Sauna. Also shame on Facebook who banned my photo from the DSL page when it’s only a bit of fun and anyway I had a can of beer covering my willy.
Enjoy your Finnish sauna!