Sauna in Europe
©1997 Mikkel Aaland All Rights Reserved
The work of Pasteur and Lister in the late 19th century, inspired
Europe to improve its hygienic conditions. "Rain Baths" or showers
began to appear in cities and towns as public cleansing stations.
At the same time, the sauna began to spread.
The Norwegian Medical Association championed the Finnish sauna,
which they called the badstue, as effective in preventing the
spread of certain contagious diseases. By 1926, Norway had built
185 public saunas; today there are thousands in homes, hotels
and factories. (When I worked in a Stavanger shipyard, the company
badstue was a welcome relief after a day's grinding and welding.)
Even the Norwegian parliament has a badstue in its basement for
members and guests.
Carl Curman, a Swedish balneologist, encouraged a sauna (badstuga)
revival in Sweden. In 1944 the Swedish Crown appropriated generous
sums to the thousands of sports centers to establish or improve
their sauna facilities. The Swedish business community took a
lively interest. Their ambitious promotion has led many to believe
the modern sauna is a Swedish institution.
Germany took interest when a sauna was built for Finnish athletes
during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Impressed by the conditioning
of Finnish athletes, the Germans swiftly included the sauna into
their own athletic programs.
Visitors to the German sauna are struck by their formality. Most
German saunas are equipped with sand timers; precise instructions
for bathing procedures are posted on each sauna door. Since Germany
has no long history of sauna bathing to refer to, they seem to
need examples to follow.
The yellow pages in Amsterdam advertise 35 public saunas, each
claiming to be the most authentic Finnish model. Not listed are
many others, built explicitly for the sex market. Some straight
saunas are equipped with closed-circuit TV to discourage promiscuity.
France has its share of saunas. Parisian saunas are usually adjoined
by a therapeutic spa, but haven't yet attracted popular public
use. (High rates and irregular hours convinced me to shower at
the train station while I was there.)
The sauna in Great Britain is becoming an integral part of sports
and recreation centers. Auxiliary services such as massage, aerotone
treatment, solarium, and gymnastic equipment have been added wherever
possible to offer the highest benefit to a session in a sauna.
Over 100,000 English people regularly enjoy more than 1000 saunas
in their land.
[Author's note: This material on Europe and the sauan is clearly
dated back to 1978 when my book was first published. Updates are
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