Mid-winter. The cold air embraces you and it feels like you don’t have any clothes on. Wait a minute – you DON’T have any clothes on, and you’re standing at the edge of a big hole in the ice, on the shore of a frozen lake. Have you gone mad?!
Some might call you mad, but maybe you’ve just heard about all the health supporting factors of the Finnish tradition of avantouinti – taking a dip in a frozen lake. It enhances the blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, is the ultimate tool against cellular ageing and loss of skin elasticity – it is like a hormone jab, eliminating stress and leaving you feeling extremely fresh in spirit and body.
Usually Finns go to the sauna first, then step out and let the body acclimatise a bit, standing in the fresh (cold) air before venturing further towards the below 0°C water. A quick dip in, head under water, then back up from the water and calmly towards the heat of the sauna again. I know you want to run and by now you might be yelping as you go, but mind the slippery ice and snow! If you’ve been in Finland long enough to go a bit bonkers, you can even try the traditional making a snow angel in the nude, and roll around in the snow before or after the dipping, if there is snow to roll in. And then, back in the sauna, you will enjoy the tingling sensation on your skin when it slowly starts to warm up again.
There are several places in Tampere to try the hole in the ice, combined with a sauna or without, as some Finns prefer (some really do). The newest addition to the sauna selection, the Sauna & Restaurant Kuuma right in the city centre, offers a chance to dip into the lake in the winter as well as summer. Other winter swimming places with a sauna and not too far from the city centre are Rauhaniemi and Kaupinoja, and without the possibility to use a sauna there’s Mältinranta. A bit further from the city centre, you can find Suomensaari sauna, Kaukajärvi sauna, Suolijärvi sauna and Tohloppi barrel sauna with a winter swimming possibility.
After the daring extreme experience it is essential to wrap up warm – it’s not the freezing water that might give you a cold, but the lack of warm clothes afterwards!