The stories of saunas in Sauna Village
At the end of the 1970s, there were once beautiful old smoke saunas all over Finland. One might even say that these saunas were personalities, works of art in their own right. However, these truly unique saunas were threatened by rot, decay and destruction. Fortunately, at that time there just happened to be Vuolle-Apiala, a provincial architect from Jyväskylä who understood the soul of the old smoke saunas. He decided to rescue them by creating a sanctuary on a peaceful peninsula, where the saunas could live out their days. Thus was born a place in Central Finland, where visitors from all over Finland come to see and enjoy the old-time sauna atmosphere. Here, each sauna offers its own measure of tranquillity and care. The saunas have made their way from the original Sauna Village in Muurame to Jämsä, where they are now enjoying a peaceful retirement in a spectacular setting.
Siparila, an underground sauna, often speaks of how President Mauno Koivisto presided over the inauguration of the Sauna Village in the 1980s. The peat walls thrummed with excited praise emanating from deep inside Siparila. Then, he coughed and sputtered, and the peat cladding thrummed all the more. In actuality, Siparila was not even on hand to witness the President’s visit. Mähönen is yet another personage from the 1800s, who has been through hard times and see it all, but still retains the folksy charm of a Savo local. He takes his friend Siparila’s flattery and exaggeration with a healthy grain of salt.
Part of a younger generation, Korpilahti demands perfection from his steamy performance and holds true to the old rule that no soap shall be brought into the sauna chamber itself. Joining the ranks from Ruovesi is Korpela, who survived the Finnish Civil War in 1918 and still needs you to shout a bit if you want him to hear you. You see, hundreds and hundreds of rounds had whizzed past him on several occasions because the poor thing just so happened to be standing right on the front line. Often lost deep in his own thoughts, the philosophical Korpela will even pontificate at length long after his audience has packed up and left. The Forest war sauna and Korpela get along quite nicely. War is a familiar pastime for both, as war saunas were once built in the forest behind the front lines.
Leppäjärvi (nicknamed “Leppis”) comes from Enontekiö and comes across a bit tough and harsh on the outside. But, deep inside, Leppis is actually something of an aesthete, as you might guess from the simple beauty of his woodwork. And then there’s Virpiö from Multiala. Rumours have it that Virpiö was born in the 1700s. But, this sauna doesn’t seem too bothered by his age – in fact, he is one of the liveliest saunas of the bunch. Some even say that Virpiö’s steams are the most invigourating. Right next to Virpiö is another arrival from Multia – Lampila. Lampila’s self-esteem has been tested over the years, having once been used as a storehouse. That might explain why he is somewhat humble in nature. Deep down, though, both Multia transplants are well aware of the fact that they represent the cream of the sauna crop.
Palojärvi is the venerable elder of the entire village, dating back to the 1700s. As the oldest member of the community, he also boasts the wisest timbers. If any disputes arise between the other saunas, Palojärvi will settle the matter by getting in the last word, which usually goes something like this: “C’mon now.”
In addition to these saunas, several other very personable saunas found a sanctuary at Jämsä’s Sauna Village, helping to preserve the peaceful atmosphere. But, the saunas also enjoy their guests. If you approach one of these grizzled old gems quietly enough, you just might hear their tales whispered between the timbers and from beneath the benches.
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