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Steam of Life

Premiere Date: August 2, 2011

'The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition'

The Hanka savusauna is the best example in the region of a Finnish immigrant bathhouse. The wooden shaft that vents through the roof is a distinctive feature of savusaunas of the past.

On Erick and Sophie Bajari's 1870s farmstead, the sauna had many important functions beyond bathhouse: it served as a laundry in the winter, it heated a cauldron of water for butchering and other important needs, and both meat and fish were smoked and cured within. "If one was not careful while bathing, he would need an extra scrubbing to wash away the soot where he had touched the wall," Ludwig recalled, for these early buildings were all savusaunas. Unburdened by the extra expense of a stove and chimney, this immigrant structure was perfectly adapted to a pioneer economy.

Text excerpts and photographs taken from The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition by Michael Nordskog, photography by Aaron W. Hautala. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 2010. Copyright 2010 by Michael Nordskog. Photographs copyright 2010 by Aaron W. Hautala.

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