Suomi Spa Vs. Suomi Sauna

The New York Times’ “How to Enjoy A Nordic Ritual At Any Age” (Travel, March 4, 2007) focused on spa town Naantali in western Finland. The author took his family to the town in question and declared it an ideal destination for travelers with children.

Maybe for young American children, but certainly not young Finnish children. If you ask Finns what they think of Naantali, or any other “spa town” for that matter, all you get are raised Finnish eyebrows. Why waste time with frou-frou spas when you can have the whole family together in a big old-fashioned sauna?

Nude co-ed bathing, a family-friendly activity? Now there’s a real Nordic ritual.

Saunas are baths. Siblings grow up using the sauna together and continue to do so well past puberty. Boyfriends and girlfriends, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends,
grandmas and grandpas, and yes, parents and children, relax together behind that steamy door.

Need more evidence? Sauna lore is part of Finnish childhood. Example: the story of the old man who fell asleep in the sauna. “His skin slipped off like a large sock when they found him,” we were told. “We made sure never to fall sleep in the sauna.”

About the author

Native New Yorker Miranda fondly recalls family trips to Europe, which featured formative events like spending a night on the roof of an overbooked Greek hotel and sampling the culinary wonders of horse meat. But it was while riding a pony through a patch of wild blueberries in Iceland that she realized she wanted to be an explorer. As an undergrad, Miranda bicycled across the US and lived for several months in Berlin. Nowadays she obsesses over Baltic countries and the plump cream-smothered dumplings to be found there. Fluent in German, she does freelance translation and writes educational material for children.
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