I'm teaching another travel writing class for Catapult, starting Feb 29

Global Glimpses: Helsinki, Finland


Sauna is seen as a sacred place in Finland, where babies were once born and ailments treated. Finns still take their sweating needs seriously so when I visited Helsinki in May 2011, I made a pilgrimage to Kotiharjun Sauna, the only remaining public wood-burning sauna, operating since 1928.

Pictured above is a foursome taking a break from the sweating. Socializing is fine in Finnish saunas but a friend of a friend whom I met for a drink that same night told me it’s considered almost a sacrilege to, say, read the newspaper or swear. Do so and you may get chided by the sauna’s very own spirit called saunatonttu, the sauna elf.

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