Estonians brave steam and ice for glory
Otepaa, Estonia - Hundreds of people popped into as many saunas and ice holes as possible on Sunday in an all-day marathon event in Estonia.
A total of 600 participants in four-man teams took part in the annual European Sauna Marathon in the southern town of Otepaa, with a goal of visiting every sauna in record-time.
“Fantastic event. We took part in the sauna marathon because it's a great way to see so many tourism resorts here in one day, so we know what to pick when we return for a longer holiday,” Joosep Merelaht, 22, told reporters.
Competing for gift certificates to saunas and spas and concert tickets, participants had to visit 22 saunas and could also hop into nine ice holes and five outdoor warm and cold pools.
“The more places they visit the more points they get, so the target for the teams is not just to reach the finish line sooner,” organiser and Otepaa cultural official Sirje Ginter told reporters.
He said Estonia, an EU member of 1.3 million people, has a long sauna tradition, but the marathon is a relatively new fixture.
“It all started in winter 2009 when a group of friends - 60 people - organised a sauna marathon at Puhajarve spa and today we have 10 times more participants.”
The day was mild for an Estonian winter, at just minus two degrees Celsius, after dropping to minus 20 degrees Celsius a few weeks ago.
According to the elaborate rules, all team members must stay in a sauna for at least three minutes, with a time penalty for any steam room left unvisited.
But participants could also shave off minutes by chilling in an ice hole or roasting in a hot tub. - Sapa-AFP