Take a look inside the ‘Red Hot Sauna’, which will be appearing at this week’s 49th Estonian Cultural Days in New York.

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“Estonian culture starts and ends in the sauna,” explains Mairo Notton in New York as he prepares for the city’s 49th Estonian Cultural Days.

Originally from Harjumaa, Mairo moved to New York in 2000 but brought his love for sauna culture with him and is now ready to open up his own unique Estonian sauna experience to the American public.

“My initial idea came years ago when I saw decommissioned ambulances here,” he says. “I noticed that the shape and ergonomics were already a good starting point for building a sauna.”

Then he found something even more appropriate: A New York fire rescue truck that had been retired from duty in Massachusetts. …

We don’t want to alarm you, but…

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You’ve probably got enough things to worry about right now. Nevertheless, we need to inform you that the witches of Estonia are up to something.

An ancient underground sauna beneath the 3,000 year old settlement of Tuhala in northern Estonia is currently in use by witches.

Just to clarify, no one has actually seen the sauna, but local folklore explains that the witches are there beating themselves with birch branches (known in Estonian as vihad) when the water begins ‘boiling’ up and spilling out of a local well.

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This is the first time that the “Witches’ well” has boiled over since 2016. This picture was taken yesterday, but there is no way to tell how long it will continue boiling as the witches’ saunas here in the past have lasted anywhere between days and weeks. …

We jumped into ice cold water during a sauna session to vote in Estonia’s Parliamentary election. Just because we can.

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Estonians can do almost anything online from anywhere — including choose their government in just a few clicks.

As President Kersti Kaljulaid recently explained in Quartz, Estonia is a genuinely digital society and Estonians expect their state to continuously innovate and offer services as efficiently as Amazon sells books: no physical presence, no cost of application, no opening hours.

Voting is currently taking place online for Estonia’s next Riigikogu (Parliament) so instead of queuing up at a polling station, we enjoyed a sauna at home and thought it would be fun to demonstrate how easy it is to vote securely online while cooling off in ice cold water. …

Lauri Palumets built this floating sauna cabin in Tartu as an affordable place to live while studying to be a teacher.

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“Rüsijää”. It’s a beautiful word that rolls off the tongue — or at least it would do were my teeth not trembling while trying to say it.

Anni Oviir and I were continuing our quest to visit the weirdest and most wonderful saunas across Estonia when we arrived at a floating sauna cabin in deep winter surrounded by what she pointed out was called rüsijää in Estonian.

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Fresh snow crunched beneath our feet as we carefully made our way along a narrow wooden path above the Emajõgi. This river flows east out of the centre of the country from Võrtsjärv, the largest lake entirely in Estonia, and eventually spills out into Peipsijärv, an even larger lake that is shared with our Russian neighbours. …

The 10th annual competition featured new technology, more nationalities and crazier outfits.

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Nearly 800 competitors from 16 countries in 188 teams visited 19 saunas around one Estonian town on Saturday for the European Sauna Marathon 2019.

It was the biggest and craziest competition in its 10 year history, as well as the most high tech.

Registration began at 9am with queues stretching down the snow-covered street until noon in Estonia’s winter capital of Otepää. Once inside, each team was given a wrist band with a tracking chip and instructions to download a mobile app with a map of saunas across the area that they had to visit.

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The European Sauna Marathon 2019 will include teams representing Mexico, Japan, the UK & Italy.

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Yushi Nakashima has a passion for extreme races. The Japanese athlete has previously competed in a 251 km ultramarathon across the sweltering Sahara Desert, as well as a nearly 200 km run across the grueling Rocky Mountains in America — while dressed as a Samurai in long black robes.

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His next challenge won’t be quite as tough, but it will still require team work, determination …and silly outfits.

This Saturday on 2 February he will be among 800 competitors from around the world taking part in the ‘European Sauna Marathon’ 2019 in Estonia.

Competitors are given a map of the Estonian winter capital of Otepää along with a list of saunas on it, which they then have to track down in the fastest possible time. Teams of four must spend at least three minutes in each leiliruum (hot room), tünnisaun (wood-fired hot tub), and nominate one team member to jump in each ice hole. …

The bizarre competition is held in Otepää (as always) on 2nd February.

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The European Sauna Marathon – one of the few sports in which Estonians regularly emerge as world champions – will take place for the 10th time on 2nd February 2019. Tickets are now on sale.

Despite the name of the competition, there’s actually only one country (Estonia) and only one city in that country (Otepää) that’s crazy enough to host this competition each and every year.

The rules are simple. Competitors set off at noon with a list of saunas in the area and at each location must spend at least three minutes in each leiliruum (hot room) and tünnisaun (wood-fired hot tub), as well as nominate a team member to jump into each ice hole. …

You’ll need a new hat for a start.

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David Beckham revealed on his Instagram page this week that he’s bought a sauna for his home in the UK, while thanking the Estonian company that manufactured it, Iglucraft.

The eye-catching wooden sauna was built in the small village of Leie, which is in Viljandimaa along the northern shore of Võrtsjärve, the largest lake entirely in Estonia.

This made headlines both in the UK – where the press marvelled at his seemingly extravagant purchase and its unusual igloo-style design – and in Estonia where saunas are a way of life and there is enormous pride that it will be part of his life too. …

You’ll get the chance to eat insect ramen noodles and take part in Estonia’s first Fundoshi championship.

Update: This event is now taking place in Vene Maja at Saunaküla, which is about a €10–15 Taxify ride from the centre of Tallinn.

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Japanese and Estonian sauna fans are joining forces in Tallinn this Saturday (6 October 2018) to offer a very unique sauna experience — and anyone is welcome to join.

Tallinn resident Yushi Nakashima has invited two notable personalities from Japan — an acclaimed chef and a sporting champion — who are going to demonstrate their skills in-between enjoying the ロウリュ (leil).

Good food is an important part of a good sauna experience in Estonia, but we’re quite sure nothing like this has been served here before. …

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In Estonia, even a sauna can be developed like a startup.

Six months ago, I asked some friends in Estonia if I could take pictures of them naked to put on the internet.

“It’s really not as bad as it sounds though,” I tried to explain to them over the phone. “We’re starting a new company and we want to get some nice pictures. And we’re starting the company inside a sauna.”

“OK,” came one response before I’d given any more information. “That makes sense.”

Only in Estonia, perhaps.

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My partner (in business and life) pictured with me is Anni Oviir. We actually met through a mutual love of saunas and have since travelled to saunas all over Estonia and the world together to find the weirdest and most wonderful of them. …

About

Adam Rang

I'm a big fan of Estonian saunas. I also have an e-Residency profile here: https://medium.com/@adamrang

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