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UK and Norway: 25 saunas in 9 days

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As an inspiration for your own sauna travels, here is a travelogue of my recent trip to UK and Norway, where I enjoyed these 25 saunas in 9 days.

Sunday, May 19 2024

Arriving at Gatwick Airport and whisking myself via Underground to the Hampstead Casa of Emma O’Kelly and Mark Lamb. Emma is the author of The Power of Deep Heat, and recent guest on the Sauna Talk podcast. Though they were within hours of hosting responsibilities of the first British Sweat Summit, they both graciously welcomed me and served a healthy lunch in their garden. Timing was perfect, as I was able to break my 16 hour fast as a cure for jet lag, as prescribed by Steam Master Andrei Formin, Banya No. 1.

Emma O’Kelly and Mark Lamb in the garden (not misty wet with rain)


Mark and I took a swim in Hampstead Heath Primrose Hill natural pool, before I headed off to..

#1 Hackney Community Sauna: new event Sauna. Built by Tom Saunaverse. 21 people in hot room symmetric triple benches left and right. 20(?) kW electric Narvi. 4 aufguss sessions with Mexicalli influenced aufguss meister. Sideways thinking and Aufguss-izing:

#2 Hackney Community Sauna – Charlie’s original. This sauna was brought to Hackney Community Sauna from Charlie’s backyard to help launch the facility. You can listen to my Sauna Talk with Charlie here. Spiritual patina: 8.4. Wood burning Grill’d. Barrel.

#3 Community Sauna, 3rd on left. This sauna is typical for many of the several saunas on site. As you enter the hot room, wood burning Narvi at the back. Symmetrical benches, left and right, upper lower. No changing room. Enter right into the program with sauna in the public domain.

Community Sauna Baths, Hackney, London

Monday, May 20, 2024

British Sauna Society Sauna Summit. “Look around the room. We are about 175 people. For every one of us, there is one of us outside who couldn’t get in.” (SEPARATE REVIEW LINK COMING SOON).

British Sauna Summit agenda with Mark Lamb

#4. Netl 360 #3. Small anti chamber (a plus) tight fit with 3 on left and 3 on right symmetric benches. Electro stove at the back. Full glass window looking out over City of London. I was the first attendee at the Sauna Summit to get on the bench, and missed most of the team photos.

Post conference, pre sauna with Glenn, Biruté, Mikkel, Katie at the British Sauna Society Sauna Summit

#5. Netle 360 #2. Same set up as #3. I like the private cool down zone and private shower right out the cool down room.

#6. Netl 360 Sauna Tent. Morzh with Intent wood burner. Just adjacent to two bucket showers. Great terrace area to recalibrate the endorphins.

Tuesday, May 21

#7. Finnmark world headquarters. (dry sauna, no sweat) inside building & also Jake’s house but it was midnight and a younger me would have twisted Jake’s arm to fire up his wood burning backyard sauna. Enjoyed a dinner and brewski with Max, Jake and his wife, and wood burning efficiency and soapstone with Tulikivi.

Wednesday, May 22

After Sauna Twins Podcast. Rainy. Rush to train back to London. No sweat on the bench. (But almost sweat on forehead as Jake dropped me off just in time to not even break stride to get on the train, door closing behind me).

Sauna Twins Podcast with Jake and Max
Sauna Twins Podcast with Jake and Max

Greeted at King’s Cross station by Earric Lee, Mika & Wendy. Finding a semi quiet spot for Earric podcast. Wishing for more time to visit w Wendy & Mika to talk more about contrasting differences UK to USA. Hints: gate keeping, number of Finns, good löyly, Sauna Bros.

Earric, Wendy, Mika: the sauna greeting committee
Earric, Wendy, Mika: the sauna greeting committee, Kings Cross station, London

(EARRIC LEE SAUNA TALK PODCAST LINK SOON)

#8. Banya no. 1 Huxton Private banya. Hosted by Andrei Fomin, owner. Joined with Stelian Iacob, founder Therma, and his wife, and Earric Lee.

Earric Lee, Glenn, Stelian Iacob & partner (Therme Group), and Andrei Fomin getting revved up for banya action

Here, I earned all about the intricacies of banya (lower hot room temp. Hot dry steam – vs saturated steam. No wet noodle syndrome).

Banya stove. Wood or gas wear out the cast iron steel. 30kW Electric heat source.  Fantastic steam.About $50 electric cost to run all day. No ventilation in the hot room. Door is opened after to allow used steam to escape.

#9. Banya no. 1 Huxton Group sauna. A full round with steam master moving air with soft fan. 3 level benches.

#10. Banya no. 1 Huxton Private venik treatment sauna. 10 pm private steam master treatment from Andrei.  Steam rating: 9.45. Double electric Grill’d heater ? Stack stone outside.

(ANDREI FOMIN PODCAST LINK COMING SOON)

Thursday, May 23

Awake in London. Marveling at the tube, how I could have been sitting in the same seats 40 years ago. Sheesh. 40
Years. I was a student in London in 1983.

Too much on the go to let the emotions well up inside me. I did have time to make it to Covent Garden. Noting how the area had become more commercial. Like weeds, stores have popped up and filled in all the cracks of commerce.

But I did find a haven of familiarity, where my visiting brother and journalists of Time Out magazine would share pints.

The Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden, London UK

Flight: Stansted airport to Oslo. Jake warned me to get there early, and that Stansted is is a security training airport. Sure enough, I got caught up in that mess. Barely made my flight to Norway. My calves were sore from hot stepping it about a 1/2 mile down to the gate. Phew, made it.

Greeted by Lasse Erikson at Thorpe Airport.

#11 Farris Bad Alda Sauna. Massive 3x36kW stove surrounded by Larvikit, (Larvi Stone of the region). Alda means wave. The sauna was crafted by Lasse Eriksen for Aufguss. It can hold 70 people, easily. Three levels of benches (stratification is a virtue). I partook in a 5 round full moon aufgus session lead by Sauna Master Jerome, a former Montessori teacher turned Aufguss master.

Friday, May 24

Walked the town of Larvik. Nature and architectural history. Returned for lunch with Lasse and podcast by the water’s edge at Farris Bad.

Sauna Talk with Lasse Eriksen, Fjord sauna in background

(LASSE PODCAST LINK COMING SOON)

#12 Farris Bad Finnish Sauna. clear sauna benches. Full glass. In the heart of the spa.

#13 Farris Bad cooler, more ambient sauna. Good for guests coming from or heading to the underground cave thermal mineral pool build entirely from Larvikit.

Can I wear the robe to get something to eat? “Of course. This is a spa hotel.”

(LINK TO FARRIS BAD REVIEW COMING SOON HERE)

Saturday, May 25

#14 Farris Bad Fjord Sauna. 18 kW Eos. 4 levels of benches. 80c. 200 mile view south to Denmark out the full glass windows.  Sauna is suspended over the water. Steady flow of sauna bathers down the stairs into the sea for cool downs. Reggae dub Aufguss session “it fits”.

making löyly with Lasse Eriksen, Fjord Sauna, Farris Bad, Norway

Picked up by Mikkel Aaland. Had a great visit and coffee with Lasse and Mikkel. Advanced discussions regarding Sauna Aid, the Sauna Research Institute, and global collaborative connectivity. Numb with joy with my great fortune to be standing between two thermal heroes. Considering Norwegian citizenship at this moment.

Mikkel Aaland and Lasse Eriksen discuss what it would take for Glenn to become a Norwegian citizen.

#15 Mikkel Aaland’s private sauna. We enjoyed a rigorous hike through Norwegian Woods (for a couple of grey hairs), talked about global sweat bathing, and our common satisfaction of connecting good people. Returning to his third generation home in the idyllic town of Ulefoss, we settled into his architecturally unique hot room, re-designed and reimagined by Swedish architect Anders Berenssson. I encourage you to read Mikkel’s story about this sauna here.

Also, I am pleased to report a lämpömassa rating of 9.3 within this sauna. I was so inspired by the mass-ification concept that the concept of “Mikkel Mass” was born on this day. More to come on this initiative, as I will be helping others achieve higher levels of lämpömassa thanks to their DIY abilities to adding Mikkel Mass to their own saunas. This is something that anyone can do as an “after market” enhancement to their saunas. Form driving function, multidirectional radiant heat that helps get right to the bones.

“Mikkel Mass” within Mikkel Aaland’s century old, now redesigned hot room.
Let’s tour Mikkel’s Norway sauna “radiant heat is very good!”

Sunday, May 26

I hopped on the afternoon express train from Ulefoss to Oslo, Norway. Emerging from the Oslo central train station, I was immediately drawn to the Oslo harbor, where many floating saunas were set to greet me. My first sauna session was Oslo Badstuforening (Oslo Sauna Association). Sukkerbiten area, where there are several floating saunas clustered together in the Oslo Fjord.

#16 Oslo Badstuforening’s Albatrossen. Biotrope Architects design. Full glass double door. Electric

#17 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Skarven. Triple bench. Wood Narvi. Full glass.

#18 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Aiken. Electro Huum. Talking sauna with the younger guys on the bench. Igloo Estonian design.

#19 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Ulka Curie. Sauna boat, with duel electro trolling motors. Named after the first woman to win the Nobel Prize.

#20 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Måken. (The Seagull). The original, that started the fleet of 19 saunas (currently). Polycarbonate. Wood Narvi. A lot of spiritual patina.

After these 5 sauna rounds, I thought I would be wiped out, but I had some good adrenaline flowing. Everybody was super cool. It wasn’t crowded. Much like how people commuting to work on the train at the same time can start to recognize the same faces, I found myself in a similar position. During my 1.5 hr. session, there was a nice flow of silence and casual conversation. Here is where community sauna shines. Solo silence mixing nicely with casual, easy conversation. Familiar faces sharing a similar journey to happiness.

#21 SALT àrdna. Large eent sauna with collection of electric and wood fired saunas. Law of Löyly compliant, yet a lot of the good heat is left on the table up in the triangle. It’s ok, though, it’s the bold effort that counts.

SALT àrdna

Monday, May 27

So much for adrenaline. As if my body knew it was my last day, I began feeling a weight of fatigue from this aggressive sauna journey. I met Ragna for our Sauna Talk podcast. She let me in behind the curtain as to the Association’s history and operating model. Jaw dropping statistics: As of this writing: 15 floating saunas, 4 mobile saunas. 51 employees, mostly Sauna Masters who tend to the saunas. And get this: 300,000 bookings in 2023. Time for a few Wim Hof breaths to let these numbers sink in. Oslo Badstuforeng is part of the tapestry of Oslo.

Sauna Talk with Oslo Badstufening

(RAGNA PODCAST LINK COMING SOON)

#22 Mad Goats Floating Sauna. (dry sauna, clothes on, AM cleaning). How cool to meet up with the Dean, the founder’s brother. In this video, you can attest to their dedication to helping keep the Oslo harbor clean. Each Sunday, Mad Goats donate sauna sessions to volunteers. The sauna putzes its way around the harbor. Volunteers pick up floating debris as they go. He and I talked stoves and buoyancy, and all the goodness of floating sauna businesses working together in Oslo. Counter cyclical business: kayak rentals in warmer season, and sauna action in the cold.

#23 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Snipe. Made out of old boats. Click the link to see more photos, but the focus is on reuse. Wood fired Summit stove.

#24 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Bath Machine1. Full glass view of the Opera House. Narvi Wood burner. Great heat. Great vibe. I was told that the glass windows were up-cycled from the dumpster to build this sauna.

#25 Oslo Badstuforeng’s Bath Machine2. Same as above, but this is a naked sauna. Not a big deal. We sit on a towel and have a towel to cover our private parts or not. Nothing like jumping into the cool Oslo Fjord unencumbered by fabric of organic or non organic compound. And easy to shower off adjacent.

Pointing out a cluster of floating saunas in Oslo harbor.

#26 Kök Sauna. Anyone who may ask “Do I really need a changing room?” may be best to check in for a sauna session at one of the Kök saunas floating in the Oslo harbor. Nick can talk us through the virtues of the “third space” especially when rescuing people bobbing in the icy waters. Here are 15 minutes of fame with Nick: “The most Norwegian thing ever.” Rescuing two wayward drivers from Oslo harbor who drove their self driving Tesla into the icy water.

It was actually 26 saunas in 9 days, but one was a “no sweat” sauna, so I guess that makes it officially 25.

I hope this inspires you to embark on your own sauna travel. I can offer some suggestions. Top on the list is to lay out everything you think you may need for your journey, and cut out 3/4 of your gear. An attribute of many for your own sauna travel is that you don’t need too many clothes.

When you sauna like crazy, you are always clean. Every sauna travel trip, I find myself bringing less. And for me, less is more. A couple shirts, one pair of pants, and a couple pair of Troxers is pretty much all that I wear, and bring.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the kind, warm hosts who helped reaffirm not just the fact that when you feel good heat, it’s all over, but that good sauna AND good people know no borders. Travel on!

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