Estonians simple love the sauna
Sauna is such a big part of our region’s culture that it can’t be compared to anything else. Sauna bathing is part of the identity and it is sacrosanct for local people. After the long traditional sauna session, the mind-set of local people will become understandable. Sauna has always been an important facility for many functions. It has in the same time a very practical and a spiritual environment.
The Finnish sauna culture is probably the best-known in the world, but also Estonia have a strong sauna heritage that deserves to be explored. Estonians simply love the sauna and smoke sauna tradition in Võromaa is on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO).
A smoke sauna is a great way to experience ancient traditions. The smoke sauna distinguishes from the other types of saunas in many respects. The rocks in the vaporising stove are heated with logs. The sauna has no chimney and so the smoke from the burning wood circulates in the room before escaping through the door or through a small vent inside the wall. After heating the sauna is ventilated, so that by the time it is ready to use, the smoke has disappeared from the room.
The smoke sauna is heated for up to 6 hours, and the sauna session itself can often stretch for hours There is even no need to use the detergents in such a sauna, as the body is already clean by repeated hot steaming, whisking, rinsing and cooling. It is also praised that the mind becomes just as clean and light.
Usually, the smoke saunas are next to a body of water and after staying in the steam it is common to bath in open water. In winter, a hole is made into the ice that covers the water body in order to enable bathing. Between series of stays in the hot room people rest, drink herbal tea or water.
Every smoke sauna is a little different and sauna customs can vary from one family to the next, so it would be wise to ask for assistance and observe the local customs carefully.
Although the native inhabitants consider the smoke sauna to be the ‘right‘ kind of sauna to this day, Estonians also ‘heat up’ a pretty decent Finnish sauna. For the sake of clarity - Estonians market wood-heated stove sauna with a chimney under the name ‘Finnish sauna’, but these kind of saunas are just as much as smoke sauna a part of Estonian sauna history and it would be more correct to name them using the word ‘leilisaun‘ (a sauna with a wave of steam and heat).
Despite the fact that local people cherish the sauna rituals and kindly introduce them to guests, at the same time going to a casual modern sauna with an electric stove, which you can find in many hotels, guesthouses, sports club or SPA ́s, is also wide-spread in our region.