The Artisan Travel Blog

Time to "Man Up" (Part 1)

Time for my Fellow Northumbrian to "Man-Up"

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the recent program on ITV called The Land of the Midnight Sun featuring Alexander Armstrong but felt little empathy for his winter swim in the Norwegian Sea near Tromsø.

Tromsø’s position on Norway’s west coast means that thanks to the Gulf Stream it is generally warmer than other towns and cities located at similar latitudes. As Armstrong stripped down to just his swimming trunks, the temperature was -4°C and as he strode purposefully into the icy, grey waters the sea temperature was an admittedly chilly -1°C (the salt content means that sea water has a lower freezing point than fresh). That’s pretty cold by anybody’s standards but compared to what goes on elsewhere in Northern Scandinavia, this was a walk in the park on a balmy late summer evening.

Armstrong and I both hail from Northumberland in North East England where the coastline is staggeringly beautiful but the sea can be bone-achingly chilly. Growing up in Northumberland as he did, I'd be gobsmacked if Armstrong has never endured a few revitalising dips in the often unpleasantly nippy North Sea so it occured to me that the Tromso swim was probably nothing particularly new to our affable presenter.

"What Mr Armstrong needs to do" I thought to myself "is man up."

in Finland, they really know how to embrace bracing

To do so, he needs to once again head north but this time to Finland because in Finland, they really know how to embrace bracing.

The Finns are the absolute masters when it comes to exposing themselves to extreme temperatures. Introduce me to a Finn who doesn’t love 30 minutes sweating it out in a sauna and I’ll show you a person who needs to re-examine his or her ancestry.

Ali Sauna (6)

It is said that when designing a house in Finland, the first room on the architect's draught is always the sauna


the sort of temperature at which you might slow cook a leg of lamb!

Saunas are big business in Finland and people are known to have safely endured very short bursts in temperatures as high as 160°C. That’s the sort of heat at which you might slow cook a leg of lamb!! There’s even a World Sauna Championship although sadly, five time champion Timo Kaukonen collapsed and was hospitalised with severe burns during the 2010 final. Inexplicably, he had spent six minutes at 110°C when it happened, a temperature he had coped with comfortably when winning the same event in 2003. Tragically, Kaukonen's sole remaining opponent, Russian, Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, died!

“Normal” Finns prefer their saunas somewhere between 60°C and 80°C and use them as a time to reflect or socialise and it is a fabulous way to clean out the pores and, in effect, steam clean.

Ali Sauna (2)

The Sauna - A favourite place to hang out in Finland


However, not content with being subjected to extremely high temperatures, there is nothing some of these very hardy folk like better than to cool down afterwards in rather dramatic fashion. There are two ways of doing this:

  1. Go directly from the sauna into an icy plunge pool
  2. Go directly from the sauna and roll in the snow


The first option sounds like it might be marginally the more manageable but the reality is somewhat different. Find out why in Part 2 of Time for my Fellow Northumbrian to "Man-Up"

Read 2730 times Last modified on Thursday, 22 February 2018

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