Saunas, That’s Hot!

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Scandinavia is known for its saunas.  While we were there, we indulged and I developed a new addiction.   They are amazing.  I want one,  maybe we should build a home sauna in our basement bomb shelter

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Traditionally, Saunas are wood paneled rooms (sometimes in cabins like the one below) with wooden benches that are heated with wood fired stoves topped with rocks.  Today, many of the stoves are electric (for the heating unit).  Infrared saunas exist, but the steam is part of what makes it so good.

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You ladle water onto the rocks/stove to create steam.   We saw shops selling fancy buckets and ladles all over Scandinavia.  Since warm air rises, the higher the bench, the hotter the temperature.  It gets really hot and you sweat out all sorts of toxins.

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Locals claim that slapping the skin with birch branches enhances circulation.  They also believe that the chlorophyll releases opens your sinuses.   Being American, we didn’t beat each other with branches or didn’t go in the buff  (although locals do both).

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We did, however repeatedly cool off.  Many take a cold shower.  If there is snow, people will go roll around in it.

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Our favorite way of cooling off spot was on the island of Grinda in Stockholm’s archipelago.  We started by walking tentatively into the Baltic Sea and ended by taking giant leaps into it.  Even though I hate Polar Bear swims, I’d jump in from the sauna every day if I could.

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Tschäggättä Masks

It’s Tschäggättä time again!  Last year, we went to see the Tschäggättä parade in Switzerland’s Lötschental Valley during Carnival/Fasnacht.  The costumes and the masks amazed us in particular.

Until the 1900’s, only the valley’s inhabitants knew Lötschental’s masks.  Over the next four decades, Tschäggättä masks gained recognition as works of art and a unique cultural heritage.  After WWII, with recognition, the Lötschental Valley’s increased contact with the world, and greater demand, there was a golden age of Tschäggättä masks.

Tschäggättä masks are instantly recognizable.  Their distinguishing features include:

  • Large, smiling mouths, either with carved wooden teeth, or toothless (sometimes they have animal teeth
  • The mouth is either s-shaped, curved up or rectangular
  • They usually feature bulging, uneven eyes

 

Got Wood? The Swiss Stack A Strong Woodpile

Whenever we hike in Switzerland, we see woodpiles…everywhere.  In typical Swiss fashion, they are neatly stacked and very organized.

The OCD part of me loves that this family had their stacks numbered by year.  You can see their dividers in the photo below.  Strong.

I think that daily life in Switzerland can keep you pretty active and people seem healthier than other places I’ve lived.  Perhaps chopping all of this wood is part of their fitness plan?

This time of year is the perfect time to cozy up in front of a fire, so go ahead and knock on wood.

 

How To Buy Cookies From A Convent

In Las Adventuras De Los Gringos En Madrid, I mentioned we bought cookies from a convent. You don’t step up to the counter and order like you do at McDonald’s.  We were buzzed in to the ancient convent, walked down dark hallways and came upon a wooden alcove containing a giant lazy Susan

To ensure that the cloistered nuns have no direct contact with the public, they have this contraption. Press the buzzer, ask the nun for cookies, put your money on the lazy Susan and turn it.  The lazy Susan will turn and cookies will magically appear.  A few turns later, your change appears.

For several reasons, asking for cookies is not as easy as it sounds:

1. You ask in Spanish
2. The nuns are hidden from view behind the large wooden lazy Susan (that works just like the round doors that help the warm/cold air from escaping in public buildings) so you can’t rely on nonverbal communication.
3. The wood in between you makes it hard to hear.
It was worth it though.  Those nuns can bake!