This past Saturday Mark and I participated in Estonia’s XI European Sauna Marathon in Otepää, Estonia’s winter capital. 150 teams of four in various states of undress competed to visit each of the 19 saunas located in the region.
How did you learn about the event?
We learned about the event from our friend Adam Rang. He is the owner and operator of Estonian Saunas. Tickets were limited and sold out in an hour and 15 minutes. There was a lot of buzz leading up to the event and we were lucky to get tickets. We went with our friend Irina and her friend Mari.
How did the event work?
Each team lined up at their respective start time and received a map with the locations of the saunas. It was at the team’s discretion to determine the order in which to visit the saunas. Teams were required to spend at least 3 minutes in each sauna and had a tracker that they used to check-in and check-out at each stop. Those that visited all of the saunas by 5:30PM were entered into the drawing for the grand prize, and wait for it…a sauna.
Some teams wore costumes and themes varied from daring to inventive. My favorite was the group of women dressed as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.
What was your team’s strategy?
The No Theme Dream Team decided to venture away from “city center” in hopes of avoiding the masses and we drove counter clockwise. This worked for the first few stops but eventually the saunas got crowded. We didn’t have a designated driver/fifth team member but parking never became an issue.
What did the saunas look like?
The saunas varied in size and shape. Some saunas could fit several people seated comfortably while you could only stand in others. Our friend Adam and his partner Anni debuted ZiL-131 SAUN, a former Soviet truck that had been converted into a sauna. He served us vodka that was stored in the truck’s rear ammunition box.
Some locations had a hot tub or cold plunge. Mark braved the weather and walked into the pond outside of Puka Pritsimees.
Who were the winners of the event?
Kirepi saun was voted the favorite sauna of the event. Organizers approached the community last minute when a sauna dropped out. The village accepted the offer and built the temporary sauna in less than a week.
We were fortunate to have visited the sauna and enjoyed garlic bread fries, roe deer, and a shot of Jagermeister.
Would you participate again?
Probably not. As the day progressed and the participants got drunker while the saunas got muddier, the event became less enjoyable. I’m still happy that we went though. I want to make the most out of my experience living in Estonia and this event contributed to that.