By Laura Niemi
A few weeks ago I received a tempting invite on Facebook. Finland Center Foundation asked me to join a women’s sauna gathering at Wall Street Bath in Manhattan. As both a sauna blogger and a Finn who misses sauna terribly, I was immediately excited. I had heard many stories about the legendary Russian saunas in New York, so I simply had to visit this one.
Showing characteristically Finnish punctuality, I arrived in the lobby at 7:00 p.m. on the dot. I expected to see a group of women gathered together, but couldn’t see a single person. I started to feel nervous. Had I come on the wrong date? Would I dare to go inside alone? While waiting, I had time to think. If I, as an experienced saunagoer, felt insecure in front of a Russian sauna, how unsure must our foreign friends have felt when we took them to the Finnish sauna for the first time?
We Finns don’t have any specific sauna rules; we simply advise our sauna guests to listen to their bodies and trust their senses. I wondered if this piece of advice would also work in a Russian sauna, or there was something else essential that I should know. I knew that German people had a strict sauna code, but what about the Russians?
Luckily I didn’t have to test my courage. After a while I saw Jaana Rehnström, President of Finland Center come inside with another lady. Adventurously we went in and had a fun time. The Wall Street Bath had different kinds of saunas, from steam to red-hot wood-heated saunas. The place was a little bit worn out, and most of the customers seemed to be Russian men. It seemed to offer a homey meeting place for immigrants far away from their home country.
Wishing you wonderful moments in the steam!
Laura, who moved to the U.S. a couple of years ago, is one of the founders and editors of a new wellness blog called Saunaflow.com. To Laura, a sauna is not just a place but a state of mind, and she is always looking to hear new sauna-related ideas and experiences. Join the sauna discussion at www.saunaflow.com. Check out, for example, her list of sauna etiquette rules at www.saunaflow.com/page/4/.