Steamy charm in the heart of Berlin at an exhibition by the Embassy of Finland
No Finns without a sauna. At the Embassy of Finland in Berlin, you can get to know the Finnish sauna culture, both via photos and films as well as through a real sauna experience. Embark on a journey of relaxation and rejuvenation and discover the essence of the Finnish cultural heritage. The exhibition is open until 14 April 2024.
Die Sauna exhibition enlightens the Finnish sauna culture
Where there are Finns, there’s also a sauna. The Embassy of Finland in Berlin has an exhibition once a year in Felleshus, the common house of the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. This time, the topic of the exhibition is sauna, which is an integral part of the Finnish culture.
‘Die Sauna. Echt heiß. Echt Finnisch.’ exhibition opens Finnish sauna culture through photos, videos and installations. Susa Junnola and Liisa Takala's urban sauna photos and Alexander Lembke's summer cottage sauna photos show the viewer Finnish sauna of today, while the documentary archive recordings transport the viewer to the past. The accompanying program of the exhibition also includes various discussion sessions and film screenings. Naturally, you’ll be also able to experience the authentic Finnish sauna.
The opening of the exhibition was celebrated on 25 January, and 300 guests had signed up to participate. Kai Sauer, the Ambassador of Finland to Germany was also present at the opening event. Along with the sauna, Goldielocks and DJ Farrél Ferrera provided great music and guests got to enjoy Finnish Kukko beer, Nordic Koivu organic birch water and drinks made by the Finnish Kyrö, along with some Finnish licorice from Kouvolan lakritsa. All in all, around 20,000 visitors are expected to the exhibition during the spring.
The exhibition is curated by Jaakko Blomberg and Karoliina Gröndahl, and it’s produced by the Embassy of Finland in Berlin in cooperation with Visit Finland and the Finnland-Institut. The exhibition is also supported by Finnair, Finnlines and Suomen Saunaseura ry, and the Finnish sauna experience is provided by Hetki-sauna. Die Sauna is on display until 14 April 2024.
The people in the North born to go to sauna
You hear a whishing sound as the water hits the sauna stove and turns into steam. The embracing heat spreads rapidly into the small space. Some beads of sweat rise on the surface of your skin. Within seconds, the most intensive heatwave is gone. You feel both your body and mind relaxing. When repeated enough times, the heat becomes too much and it’s time to cool off – either in the crispy and fresh air, in the cool water (be it summer or winter) or for the bravest, by dipping your naked body in the snow.
Sauna is an essential part of Finnish culture, and wherever Finns go, they tend to find there a sauna – or end up building their own. It’s estimated that there are more than 3.5 million saunas in Finland, which might just be slightly more than there are cars in the country. The number of saunas is considerable in a country of about 5.6 million inhabitants. Moreover, the number is the largest in the world relative to the number of inhabitants.
The Finnish sauna is estimated to be a 3,000–8,000-year-old invention. Today, saunas in Finland include home saunas, public saunas, saunas by the beach in summer cottages, tent saunas, trailer saunas and everything in between. In Helsinki, you’ll find several excellent sauna options, and in Rovaniemi's Arctic SnowHotel you can even try a sauna made of snow!
The significance of the sauna in Finnish culture is enormous, and for many, sauna is an essential part of both Christmas and the midsummer celebrations. In 19th-century Finland, sauna was a common place for women to give birth, and on the other hand, it was used to treat illnesses and prepare the deceased for their final journey. The fact that sauna is the first Finnish entry included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List also talks about its importance.
For Finns, a sauna is a place where you can relax and breathe and purify yourself both mentally and physically. Sauna also has proven health effects: it can reduce stress, help recovery and improve sleep quality. Blood pressure lowers in the sauna, and frequent sauna sessions may even be helpful in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
In search of Finnishness in versatile Berlin
In addition to the sauna, another thing that Finns love to consume a lot is coffee: in fact, Finns are the biggest coffee drinkers globally on a per-person basis. The Populus Coffee (at Maybachufer 20), founded by Finns Sari and Henrik Haavisto in 2015, offers Finnish flavors in addition to their high-quality coffee. Taste a traditional Finnish cinnamon bun or try a seasonal specialty Runeberg’s tart. This cosy café popular with the locals is located along the canal in the lively Neukölln area, where you can stop and marvel at the world while enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee.
Different types of Finnish drinks you can find at the VOIMA bar in Schöneberg (at Winterfeldtstrasse 22), founded by Barbara Ettel. The owner’s enthusiasm for Finnishness truly shows, as there’s a Finnish flag at the door, the place is decorated with Nordic minimalism, and the classic cocktails have a Finnish twist to them. The trendy icebreaker-themed bar invites you to also enjoy non-alcoholic options, Finnish music and its excellent service.
If you are craving Finnish candy, including the controversy salmiakki that Finns tend to love, head to Herr Nilsson. Finnish design you can find in Western Berlin at the KaDeWe shopping mall that sells Iittala tableware and decorative items. If you love Marimekko, be quick and hurry to Berlin’s UNIQLO stores, as two of them sell the collaboration collection launched on 11 January 2024.
Finnish architecture you can admire in the Berlin Embassy of Finland, completed in 1999. The building has a truly Finnish identity, as its design combines simplicity, clarity and modesty, offering the embassy a timeless look. The furniture used in the premises is from Finnish designers and manufacturers, and the curved profile of the wooden meeting room on the top floor is a reference to the long traditions of Finnish wood construction.