Quick: What’s Finland best known for?
If you said sauna, then you just made 5.5 million Fins cringe a little. You see, Finland should be known for many other wonderful things you might use every day. But there’s no denying the strong association between sauna and the Nordic country. In fact, sauna is the only Finnish word in the English lexicon. Because of this, organizers of Finland’s centennial celebration in the U.S. decided to take the old country’s best-known export on the road to teach Americans about some other distinctly Finnish contributions.
Ever use orange-handled scissors? Made in Finland.
Do you like to play Angry Birds? Thank a Fin.
These are just some of the things people learn when they step inside the Traveling Sauna, developed by Finnleo. The building measures about 7-feet wide by 18-feet long and features a changing room and multi-level sauna room with a wood-burning stove.
Corporate sponsors such as Finnleo, and a small grant from Finland officials, got the project rolling.
The sauna — named Sisu, which roughly translates to perseverance — launched her maiden voyage in January from Finnleo’s manufacturing plant in Cokato, Minn.
The Traveling Sauna will cover approximately 12,000 miles, concluding in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Finland’s official day of independence on Dec. 6.
For many people, it will be their first time enjoying the steamy sensation of an authentic Finnish sauna. It’s a different experience than you’d encounter at an American spa or health club. It’s wood-fired, not electric — better for producing the löyly, or steam, said Risto Sivula, president of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota chapter, and one of Sisu’s pilots. “When people take a sauna, they all come out with a familiar expression on their face. It’s kind of a smile, just a relaxed smile … just enjoying the moment,” Sivula said.