Sauna, rinse, repeat in a Finnish mokki

Finland isn’t as cold as you’d expect, according to Trevor Corson in The Atlantic Monthly. It’s far enough north that, on this side of the ocean, you’d freeze your ass off on the best of days. But, thanks to the magic of the European climate, it feels a lot like Maine. It’s in this part of the country that the locals find the perfect vacation spot.

Nudity abounds, though of course behind closed doors. Find a mökki (really just a cottage), and spend your time sweating in the local sauna. Apparently, this is fun. It must be, because there are around half a million mökki in Finland – roughly one for every 10 people in the country.

There’s a catch … as there always is. Life in a mökki involves forsaking running water and electricity, and the manliest of men look forward to digging ditches. There’s more than just mileage, it seems, between the exclusive parties of Southampton and the Finnish recreational ideal.

The sauna aspect is something that I’ve never been able to understand. Extreme heat just doesn’t work for me, and when invited to partake of this ritual last summer, I declined (not as politely as I probably should have). But, the Finns swear by it, roasting their bodies and subsequently jumping naked into nearby lakes … rinsing before they repeat.

It’s not for me. Not only do I not hang out in sweat-boxes … I need the rhythms of the city to rock me to sleep.

Are you into this stuff? Not sure? Check out the video after the jump.

Chillin’ in the Stockholm Archipelago

I had a little too much fun when I visited Stockholm at the end of last summer. After sampling more than my fair share of Swedish meatballs, downing some aquavit and partaking in the city’s surprisingly debaucherous nightlife, my liver and my body needed a break.

My salvation came in the form of a wonderful five-syllable word you might remember from grade school geography class – the archipelago. For those not familiar with the term, an archipelago is a word typically used to describe a small cluster of islands (extra points if you pronounce it correctly). The city of Stockholm sits on a string of 14 islands that form a small part of the vast archipelago that stretches out into the Baltic Sea. For no more than the price of a Swedish crayfish lunch, a fleet of ferries will transport you to one of the many sparsely populated, pine-tree covered islands that populate the chain outside the city center.

I decided the island of Vaxholm sounded interesting and hopped on a late morning ferry. The ferry trip is a pleasant one, offering a visual smorgasbord of the many sights that make Stockholm famous. As our ferry steamed out of Stockholm, I was treated to panoramic vistas of the harbor behind me, the city’s brightly-hued orange and yellow structures glowing against a luminous sky dotted with clouds. Along the way, we passed all manner of sailboats and cruise ships, each one flying the famous blue and gold cross of the Swedish flag. The views on the ferry trip alone made the journey worthwhile.

Less than an hour later, we arrived at Vaxholm. Vaxholm is one of the more populated islands in the archipelago, boasting its own fortress and a small city center. The visit proved to be the perfect antidote to busy Stockholm. I strolled around Vaxholm’s tiny downtown with a few friends, stopping to return some Swedish fish to their native habitat. After a leisurely lunch at a cafe along the island’s rocky shore, we were ready to head back to the city.

This non-event of a day trip is exactly why I liked Vaxholm so much. Just like my ferry trip, I found the island visually striking, dotted with colorful wooden cottages and scenic views of the sea beyond. And unlike Stockholm, there’s no must-see tourist site, making it the perfect spot to find a nice rock in the sun, grab a cold beer and watch as the sailboats pass you by. If you’re really looking to get away, you can even head farther to the north or south, where you’ll find plenty of wild, sparsely-inhabited islands where you can live out the Walden fantasies of your dreams.

If you find yourself in Stockholm this summer, set aside a day trip to visit the archipelago – you won’t be disappointed.