In the north, winter is a time for embracing outdoor activities from swimming to skating. aBoVe the outside air feels much warmer after a winter swim at rastila. Far rigHt, toP young ice skaters show off at the railway Square skating rink. Far rigHt, BottoM Sauna enthusiasts chill out in front of the kotiharju public sauna. saunas on the first floor and a wood-burning sauna that's on the second floor. Prices start at 4.40 euros for adults. For more information on opening hours, prices, and services visit: www.hel.fi. PUre SaUna Located just north of the city centre in Kallio, a traditional working-class neighbourhoodcum-trendy quarter for Helsinki's young bohemians, the Kotiharju public sauna is the place to experience sauna in its purest form. When the sauna, located near the Sörnäinen Metro Station, opened in 1928 there were many public saunas in Helsinki. But nowadays as most apartment blocks have their own saunas, Kotiharju is one of the few public saunas left. It has remained unchanged over the years. The spacious saunas (as per the Finnish custom, separate saunas for men and women) seat up to 30 bathers and have huge wood-burning stoves that take five hours to heat up the more than 1,000 kilograms of stones. The heat from these massive stoves is richer and deeper than that produced by a tiny electric sauna even if the actual temperature is the same. That's why many of the regular visitors return to Kotiharju even if they have a sauna at home. "Kotiharju is the best sauna in Helsinki," says Lars Svartström. "I've come here two to three times a week for the past 20 years," he says. Svartström is like many of the sauna enthusiasts at Kotiharju, friendly and more than willing to advise sauna novices. Adult admission costs ten euros. For more information on opening times, prices, and services visit: www.kotiharjunsauna.fi. aVanto aVant-garde If experiencing an authentic Finnish sauna is not radical enough for you, you may like to experiment with another Finnish winter tradition swimming in a hole in the ice, or avanto. At the Rastila seaside camping site in the eastern suburb of Vuosaari, winter swimming is available from October 1 to April 30. A short walk from the Rastila metro station, the facilities include a shorefront sauna and a carpeted pier that juts into the small tree-lined bay of the Baltic Sea. Dipping into freezing cold water seems to 34 BlUe WingS DECEMBER 2009
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