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Exploring with Ellie

Observations from a semester in Copenhagen

Saunas and the Unbearable Heat

Last Thursday, the Green LLC took a trip to Butchers Heat, a sauna in Refshaleøen. After hopping off the bus, our maps led us down a sidewalk that suddenly transitioned to a dirt path, hardly visible through the night. Trees surrounded us, and we morbidly joked back and forth about being kidnapped or murdered en route to the sauna, reassuring each other that things like that don’t really happen in Denmark. As suddenly as we entered the woods, they parted to reveal two small huts tucked against a small bay filled with sailboats. In the rich blue sky, Venus and Jupiter were so close they appeared almost to touch. While our instructor prepared the Sauna, we walked down to the deck, staring at the dark, icy water, debating who would be brave enough to jump in.

For about an hour, we rotated three times between the sauna and the cold outside– air or water. A collection of hot rocks sat in the center of the room, and we all crowded around them, perched on wooden seats. Upon first entering the room, I started to panic internally almost immediately. The instructor closed the door causing the air to rise in temperature. My lungs tightened and froze with each pouring of water over the rocks. Every pore on my body dripped, and I cringed from the heat. I felt hot and sick, and miserable. The urge to wipe my nose grew incessant until I looked down and realized I was actually bleeding.

The instructor ushered me out of the room, and I stood outside, plugging my nose, and watching steam rise from my skin. My bloody nose saved me this round. But my introduction to the sauna was rocky. I considered asking to sit out for the rest of the visit. Soon, the blood flow slowed, and the rest of the LLC came running out of the sauna, haphazardly grabbing cups of water and booking it towards the bay. Only a few made it into the water with loud shouts and screams. “The body reacts in strange ways,” the instructor said, referring to my bloody nose. My roommates reported that the instructor gave them heat hats and advised them on where the best seats were in the sauna for staying cool. Armed with these hacks, I decided to give the sauna another shot.

Choosing a new seat further from the rocks and putting on the silly little heat hat, I took deep breaths in preparation for my second round. One of my housemates asked the instructor to play Lana Del Rey while we were in the sauna, and he agreed, but only if we stayed silent for the rest of the session. As the heat rose, I counted my breaths in a series of eights, soaking in the Lana. This round, I fought off the panic for far longer. In the last few minutes, as soon as it became so unbearable that I wanted to run out and scream, the instructor cracked the door, and I felt sweet relief. Feeling a little weak, I opened my eyes slowly and looked around at my friends. Some were already blurry flashes sprinting out the door, while others were still blinking their eyes open. “I don’t know where I went just then. I saw shapes and colors,” someone said wearily.

The last round went the same, and before I knew it, we were being ushered out by the instructor. In a daze, I followed his instructions to drink water and munch on a few pork rinds. The steam billowed off of me as I clumsily changed out of my bathing suit in the mud behind the hut. Everyone was still giggling and letting out deep sighs of wonderment at what we had just done. Following the same dirt path we took on the way, we admired the moon and jabbered about each of our experiences, what we saw, and what we felt. The piercing polar plunge, and the thickest, hottest air imaginable. All still woozy and dizzy, but accomplished nonetheless.

Sponsored by Heat Hats
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