At my student dorm at Emilsborg, we are fortunate enough to have an indoor sauna and pool as part of the complex. Having quite a few friends from Chalmers that live at Emilsborg as well, it has been quite easy to round everyone up for evenings at the sauna!
Seeing as Swedish Winters are much colder than Australian ones, feeling that overwhelming sense of warmth and heat when it is so cold outside is a strange but welcomed sensation. The smell of the hot coals and fragrant cedar is really relaxing especially with a cold beverage in hand. What tops all of this is the fact that I can spend some time with my friends chatting about our day in a cosy setting! This cosy setting typically does not last too long for me as my tolerance for the extreme humidity is not the best. I do try to stick it out for as long as possible, however. When I do find it gets too hot, I jump into the pool and hang out in there until I’ve cooled down and am ready for round 2!
I don’t find it weird being in such close quarters with others as everyone is minding their own business. Some saunas in Sweden require you to take your bathing suit off and in that case the sauna rooms are split into male and female quarters. For the most part though, including the saunas at Emilsborg, you keep your swimsuit on. Public saunas generally have swimsuit and hygiene guidelines as you enter so you know what to expect! I also found out the hard way that a lot of the older generation do not particularly like a lot of noise or chitchat whilst you’re in the sauna with them so please don’t make my same mistake! Depending on your love for the heat you can either stay on the bottom platform or go higher up with the sauna daredevils. I am not in the daredevil league yet but I’m climbing that ladder.
Although saunas do exist back home in Australia, it is not very common to visit them. Unlike Australia, many homes and summer houses in Sweden have saunas in them. A little fun fact: there’s actually a freestanding sauna that’s on stilts in the harbour at Frihamnen, Gothenburg which was constructed largely from recycled materials. FYI, it does wobble in the wind.
Despite sauna being Finnish by nature, sauna or in Swedish bastu, has been a part of the Swedish cultural landscape for some time and I have come to see why! I found that after my first time, I got hooked on the sensation. As you walk out of the sauna you feel that all your muscles have relaxed and that you’re on cloud 9; it’s the best feeling ever! I eventually found myself going on a weekly basis where I even started going on my own when my friends couldn’t make it. Even though the social aspect is not there on these occasions, I am still able to relax whilst reflecting on my day which is also great. Some people run to relax but I prefer to go to the sauna instead!