Amazing Facts About Latvian Saunas

Amazing Facts About Latvian Saunas
28 January, 2016

Amazing Facts About Latvian Saunas

If you go to Riga, then you should try to get to a Latvian Sauna. If you have been too long in Russia (I assumed you have tried the Russian Banya). First of all, I’m going to explain you from where the idea came from.

Sauna Then and Now

The sauna that we know today worldwide was invented in Finland as an acient form of bath. This method has witnessed all the joys and tribulations of its acients settlers; for example women used to bring their babies to sauna, any feast day usually meant a sauna the evening before.

People have been using some form of a sauna since ancient times. Steam baths were the cornerstone of Greco-Roman civilisation and for centuries the Native Americans purged their bodies of sickness in sweathouses across North America. Bathhouses were among the first buildings erected by the Ottoman Turks when they occupied Budapest and modern-day Finns would probably rather endure a life without alcohol than one without a good sauna. The ways of using the sauna have changed over the centuries, but a sauna still is an essential part of the daily life. The most important benefit of it, is the complete relaxation of mind and body and the feeling of well-being that you get from the sauna. It works as an antidote against the pressures of todays’ hectic lifestyle.

Part of the Tradition: Pirtīžas ritual

Steam seems to have been an integral part of many cultures throughout history and the Latvians and their ancestors were no strangers to its ‘magical’ properties. According with pagan beliefs, sauna meant a symbolic act to ensure health and prosperity when mother and her baby washed together for first time. The pirts, as a sauna is known in Latvian, served not only as a washing facility and temporary smokehouse for meat and sausages, but also as a birthplace for many Latvian babies in years gone by. The warmest and cleanest structure on a Latvian farm was also the location where mother and baby celebrated the pirtīžas ritual.

A traditional sauna out in the countryside is usually a small wooden cabin with a dressing room on one side and the sauna on the other. A large wood-burning stove covered with large stones is stoked for several hours to bring the room to a respectable temperature, usually about 75 – 95°C. A large metal pot filled with water is also left on the stove. Basins of cold spring or well water are later combined with the hot water to be used for washing.

A suitable sauna temperature is between 60°C and 100°C. You can choose the sauna temperature you enjoy most. The humidity of the sauna air is regulated by good fresh air and throwing water on the hot stones: the water changes into smooth invisible steam and increases the humidity, called “löyly”.

Check our article about Russian Banya.

This blog was brought to you by Eliant, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz

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