The town of Rakvere organised their first ever Eesti Saunafestival (Estonian sauna festival) last weekend.
Mayor Marko Torm told us that they wanted to see how the first event goes before deciding whether to make it an annual celebration, although they are likely to be pleased with how it turned out.
Despite extraordinarily hot weather, people came from around the country and beyond for the festival. We even met an Australian traveller who had taken a detour to Estonia just because of this event.
All the photos in this article were taken by Ain Liiva.
There were more than 20 saunas that were brought to Rakvere from around Estonia.
This meant the event was focused on mobile saunas, but there was wonderfully weird selection — including a smoke sauna inside a fire truck, a military sauna belonging to Eesti Kaitseliit (the Estonian Defence League), and the now infamous SaunAudi.
The sauna rituals took place throughout the two days inside the largest tent sauna in Estonia.
It could fit 50 people at a time and needed six large stoves to keep it heated. The saunamasters included notable figures, including a couple of Members of Parliament. Indrek Saar, for example, was hosting a sauna session there on the Saturday before being elected the new leader of his party on the Sunday.
During the festival, we first wrote about the sauna that had impressed us the most: SaunAudi. It’s an old 1984 Audi that’s been converted into a surprisingly cosy wood-fired sauna. The story quickly went viral. It was first picked up by Estonian World before international media outlets started contacting us, including BBC News.
Estonians convert old car into sauna
A sauna festival in the Estonian town of Rakvere over the weekend had some unusual steam room conversions on display…
After that, even the Estonian media were reporting about the international attention that the event was receiving.
Eestlaste ehitatud sauna tõmbab taas rahvusvahelist tähelepanu
Nimelt on punt eestlaseid teinud kollasest Audist sauna. Põneva välimusega saunast kirjutas loos ka BBC…
The event demonstrated that there is so much to enjoy and celebrate about Estonian saunas — and people around the world want to celebrate it with us.
Watch: The Estonian Sauna Festival 2019
If you weren’t at the festival and want to see what you missed — or you were there and want to relive the weekend, here’s a video we made:
About ‘Estonian Saunas’
Thanks for reading. The Estonian Saunas blog is run by Anni and Adam, explorers and exporters of Estonian saunas.
Anni is a green building specialist who grew up here in Estonia immersed in sauna culture, while Adam is a väliseestlane (‘foreign Estonian’) whose family were exiled to the UK during Soviet times but he has now returned and is still trying to understand the sauna — and everything else about his Estonian heritage.
Together, we love finding weird and wonderful saunas all over Estonia and telling the world about them. Check out our plan to make 100 Estonian saunas more famous around the world.
We also offer two saunas in Tallinn that you can visit. Both are based on the best of Estonian design and technology, although in very different ways. The first is our smoke sauna, Rangi saun, which combines an ancient sauna heating technique with a contemporary Estonian design. The second is our WiFi-controlled e-sauna, Tondi Saun, which is part of our apartment that you can book through Airbnb.
In addition to reading our blog, you can follow Estonian Saunas on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There’s also a Facebook group for fans of Estonian saunas where you can share advice and stories.
Finally, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.