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An authentic Finnish sauna is an obligatory experience, and not hard to find: there are 1.6 million saunas in this country of just more than 5 million people—even the parliament has its own sauna. The traditional Finnish sauna—which involves relaxing on wooden benches, pouring water onto hot coals, and swatting your neighbor's back with birch branches—is an integral part of cabin life and now city life, as apartments are outfitted with small saunas in their bathrooms. Almost every hotel has at least one sauna available free of charge, usually at standard times in the morning or evening for men and women to use separately. Larger hotels offer a private sauna in the higher-class rooms and suites. Public saunas (with swimsuits required) are becoming increasingly popular, even in winter, when sauna-goers momentarily leave the sauna to jump into the sea through a large hole in the ice (called avantouinti). Public swimming pools are also equipped with saunas that can be used at no extra charge.
Finnish Sauna Society. For information on saunas and the sauna tradition, contact the Finnish Sauna Society. Vaskiniementie 10, Helsinki, 00200. 10/439-5600. www.sauna.fi.
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