Canadian Geographic - - THE CONCIERGE -

Right — down to the nitty-gritty. In a tra­di­tional Fin­nish sauna — don’t you dare go elec­tric! — wood-burn­ing stoves heat rocks that you throw water on to cre­ate löyly (steam). So far, so sweaty. The real fun comes when you ac­ces­sorize — ide­ally with a vi­hta, a birch-twig whisk that you gen­tly whip your­self with; it’s good for the skin, ap­par­ently. When you’re fin­ished, cool off by go­ing for a dip in a lake or the ocean. In a ham­mam, you sprawl across the göbek taşı and sweat in the steam be­fore — and here’s where things get more hands-on than they do in a sauna or on­sen — a masseur ex­fo­li­ates you, washes you, then rubs you down. You’ll leave feel­ing like a pam­pered pasha. In an on­sen, scrub your­self clean be­fore en­ter­ing the water. When you do, don’t splash or be rowdy, don’t let your hair touch the water (no one wants to see your sod­den strands float­ing past), keep the small towel you’re given atop your head or pool­side and, if you have tat­toos, try to cover them, as many Ja­panese as­so­ci­ate them with the yakuza, Ja­pan’s ver­sion of the Mafia. A lot of “don’ts,” I know, but once you’ve sorted them, all you need do is have a good long soak and let the ther­a­peu­tic water do its work.

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