How to sauna like a Finn

Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki

Over Christmas and New Year, I spent my days leaping in and out of saunas like a lemon into a G&T in Scandinavia. My first dip was in the Allas Sea Pools on Helsinki’s waterfront.

Dashing from the sauna to the outdoor pools is an exercise in fortitude when there’s a stiff wind coming in off the Baltic Sea, and you’re clad in nothing but wet swimmers. I then worked up to dashing out of the sauna and rolling in the snow, further north in Oulanka National Park. And finally, in Stockholm, cooled off by leaping into a lake at Hellesgarten, on the Stockholm archipelago.

Never have I been so clean. I also learned a few tricks and faux pas – for a start, you can ditch the swimmers inside the sauna, though most people slip on swimmers to go into the pools or snow.

I took the chance to chat with Maia Söderlund, of Allas Sea Pool, for the fine print on sauna etiquette.

Click here to read my The Knowledge column on how to sauna like a Finn, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, and online at Traveller.com

 

 

 

Six of the best: Stockholm’s family-friendly attractions

stockholmgronerlund
Stockholm fun fair Groner Lund.

I’ve visited Stockholm as a freewheeling adult, and also as a parent toting tots in midwinter (“Why?” I hear you ask. Trust me, I was asking myself the same question one deep, cold November. But family and the Northern Lights were calling. Both were in good form.)

Anyway, should you find yourself in a similar position of travelling in Stockholm with the brood in tow, there are plenty of fun free and pricey options, many gathered on the city island of Djurgården, including Junibacken, which celebrates Nordic writers of children’s fiction including the beloved Pippi Longstocking, Groner Lund fun park and the absolutely unmissable Skansen.

I took the 3-year-old to Skansen on the last visit, and while she slept blissfully in the hired pram, I spotted rare Arctic animals, chatted about Sami culture with Swedish guides and watched old-school weaving. When she awoke, she rode fat ponies and mainlined traditional Christmas pastries. Win-win all round.

You can read my top six Stockholm adventures for kids’ here.

The feature first appeared in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age newspapers’ Traveller section. Enjoy!

Six of the best: Stockholm’s family-friendly attractions

Stockholm fun fair Groner Lund.

I’ve visited Stockholm as a freewheeling adult, and also as a parent
toting tots in midwinter (“Why?” I hear you ask. Trust me, I was asking
myself the same question one deep, cold November. But family and the
Northern Lights were calling. Both were in good form.)

Anyway,
should you find yourself in a similar position of travelling in
Stockholm with the brood in tow, there are plenty of fun free and pricey
options, many gathered on the city island of Djurgården, including
Junibacken, which celebrates Nordic writers of children’s fiction
including the beloved Pippi Longstocking, Groner Lund fun park and the
absolutely unmissable Skansen.

I took the 3-year-old to Skansen on
the last visit, and while she slept blissfully in the hired pram, I
spotted rare Arctic animals, chatted about Sami culture with Swedish
guides and watched old-school weaving. When she awoke, she rode fat
ponies and mainlined traditional Christmas pastries. Win-win all round.

You can read my top six Stockholm adventures for kids’ here.

The feature first appeared in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age newspapers’ Traveller section. Enjoy!

I shopped the world’s largest IKEA and survived: Stockholm icons

This is not IKEA, this is Nybrokajen, one of Stockholm’s beautiful
waterfront streets. Far more picturesque. Photo: Belinda Jackson.

It’s been pretty wet here in Stockholm. I’ve traded Cairo’s sun for snow, Giza ponies for Dalarna horses. The people in both Egypt and Sweden both wear a lot of black, but instead of busting my chops to exercise in Ahly Sports Club in Cairo, today I did my daily walk in the world’s largest IKEA, in Kungens Kurva, in southern Stockholm.

The trip was an essential one for my brother, in the midst of renovations, but yes, I was keen for a perve.

Let me report back: the store layout is just as confusing as any other IKEA store, they really do eat meatballs and it was packed with families on a wet Sunday afternoon. One of the ninth hells? Quite possibly. However, some may be appeased by the revelation that they serve booze in the cafeteria with those meatballs. 

I was going fine until I split from the Swedish speaker and on the hunt for bathroom hooks, when I realised there are no English signs, a marked absence of staff and my shabby Swedish doesn’t include the word for ‘bathroom’.

Yes, it was big, mighty big. But I survived, and recuperated with the classic cinnamon bun, kanelbullar (dreadful version from a supermarket, here’s a recipe for a real one) and the delicious-sounding, but absolutely revolting saffron buns, lussekatter as well as västerbottensostpaj (a super-rich, super-fabulous cheese pie that rivals anything I ate in Cairo for cholesterol).

Next stop on a quest for all things Swedish: the new ABBA museum. Oh yeah, I’m ticking the boxes…