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Every weekend, hundreds of semi-nude people gather in the new heart of Norway’s capital to sweat it out – and cool down in icy water. This Easter, Sauna Day will be celebrated for twelve hours in five different saunas.
Published: 27 March 2018
In short time, extraordinary things have happened along Oslo’s harbor basin.
The ambitious new district Fjordbyen (“the fjord city”), stretching from Frognerkilen in the west to Sydhavna southeast, aims to open the city to the Oslo fjord, providing new residences, businesses and recreational areas where port activity and traffic once was.
In the centre of this gigantic project, otherwise esthetically dominated by clean lines and strict architecture, a massive structure made of wooden drying racks stands tall.
This is the home of the cultural institution SALT, which – in addition to art, music and culinary experiences – offers what literally may be the hottest ticket in town right now: The sweet sauna life.
SALT defines itself as “a nomadic art project”, and has become one of Oslo’s central meeting places for the city’s culture scene, with daily arrangements of various types. The most popular is probably Sauna Sessions, which takes place every weekend.
“A Sauna Session at SALT may include anything from in-depth interviews with artists and storytelling to movie screenings and concerts. But it may also happen in silence, SALT’s marketing manager Tonje Hjelmerud Sørdal says to Visit Norway. She elaborates:
“The building containing the largest sauna is named Árdna, which is Sami for 'the pursuit of a treasure or a secret'. Árdna invites to conversations, reflection and generally a great ambience.”
Unlike most places of its kind, SALT possesses not only one, but three saunas, each with its own distinctive appeal, according to Sørdal.
“Árdna has room for approximately hundred persons in an amphitheatre with a view of the fjord and the Opera House, with a comfortable temperature between 60 and 80 degrees. On the outside, we have a 7000 litre aquavit barrel converted into an intense sauna with a temperature up to 120 degrees, surrounded by fresh- and saltwater ponds and a shower."
On Easter Saturday, both these saunas as well as Naustet, which ordinarily can be booked for private sessions, is open to the public between 11 AM and PM. In addition, two floating saunas – one of them by the dock and the other cruising the fjord – are available on Sauna Day.
All in all, there are room for 300 people at the same time in these five saunas, with drinks from four bars, food and snacks readily available.
“There are activities for kids as well, along with venues with normal room temperature. The day starts with mindfulness and breathwork, and later there will be live music and face painting for the young ones. There’s no better way of celebrating Easter Saturday”, Tonje Hjelmerud Sørdal insists.
The large drying racks enclosing SALT is not a coincidental choice of material, but rather an extension of the concept’s roots in nature, she says.
“The drying racks hail from the North of Norway. They’ve been used to conserve large quantities of fish, one of the main Norwegian export articles for more than 1000 years. Only two elements are utilized to dry the fish – temperature and wind. In environmentally concerned times as these, we should look to the past and how people used nature back then, with leaving much of a footprint. So the drying racks really are a memory bank”.
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