Saunas

There are two types of sauna. The Finnish variety normally uses an electric heater with a mound of stones on top, and tends to be housed in a larger building such as a hotel. This is the kind more commonly encountered. The Russian or smoke sauna uses a wood stove, also topped with rocks. These produce a much smokier heat. Several of the guests at Leigo Farm were sooty for days after trying their smoke sauna. Apparently this was not because of the smoke itself, but because they had been switching themselves with birch twigs, which picked up the soot from the wall. The smoke sauna tends to be housed in a wooden hut beside a lake, which you plunge into when you get too hot. (In winter, they cut a hole in the ice.) Finnish saunas have a cold plunge or just a shower. In both varieties, you sit on wooden benches, preferably on a towel because even the wood gets too hot to touch. The benches are arranged in tiers, the top ones being hottest. Every now and then some sadist throws a ladleful of water on the stove which makes it hotter. The two survival tips which got me through my second (and only successful) sauna are: wet your hair before you go in, and breathe through your fingers. I actually enjoyed it in the end - not many things can make me look forward to a cold plunge.

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