“Pure water? It’s a spiritual thing for me.”
Mona Svensson loves saunas and bathing. She bathes
the whole year round regardless of the temperature.
“The water here is so fresh!”
When the world has just three per cent freshwater
– and we know that the figure is getting smaller –
it seems exotic to dive in from a raft in the middle of a lake.

  • Sept, 4 2017

The sauna raft glides out from the quay at Kraja holiday village. We are on Sällá, a part of Hornavan, Sweden’s deepest lake. This is the municipality with by far the most water in Sweden. It is also where the rivers Piteälven, Skellefteälven and Laisälven flow.
“It doesn’t have to be summer heat for me to bathe. I like doing it just as much in the winter. Mona Svensson is a keen sauna bather, and when we decided to take a trip on the raft, she came along. She grew up in Arjeplog and works there today as a preschool principal. For many years she lived in Västerås. The things that made her come north again were the water, the mountains and the changing seasons.
“I love water that’s clear and pure. It doesn’t matter that it’s often cold.”
And the water is certainly not very warm in Sällá, maybe twelve degrees, but if you have warmed yourself so that your skin glows, it’s no problem to jump in. The sauna raft moves close to the church and the Silver Museum.
A little bit further and we come to flowing water. It is not unusual to see anglers here. Grayling, whitefish, pike, perch and trout can be caught from the shore or from a boat.

Very soft water. That is how the water in Arjeplog is described. Soft water is better for the environment than hard water. Softer water means, for example, that you don’t need to use as much detergent or washing powder to get the same effect. Clothes have a longer life if they are washed in soft water because less calcium sticks to them as they dry. And what about the suds? With soft water, soap gives more suds, your hair and skin get softer. This is one major reason why many people think freshwater bathing in the north is so wonderful. As for saunas, we know from research, as published in Jama Internal Medicine, that saunas prolong life and improve well-being. The study de-scribed how people who took a sauna four to seven times a week had 48 per cent less risk of fatal cardiovascular diseases and 40 per cent less risk of premature death by any cause. Need it be said that the study was conducted in neighbouring Finland?

Some facts:
Sauna culture had an upswing in the interior
of northern Sweden in the 1960s. Before that
few people had showers in their homes, let alone saunas.
In Arjeplog there were public baths with
a sauna in the old fire station by the square.
That was built in 1951. Here and there in the municipality,
different forms of sauna were used. Further back in time
people could use a big barrel with a water container emitting hot steam.
Then you could throw yourself in the snow, into
a hole in the ice – or if it was summer – straight into the water.

Text: Maria Söderberg
Translation from Swedish to English: Alan Crozier

Mona Svensson is a true sauna lover. Being able to plunge into pure water to cool off is a great plus.
Other enthusiasts are Therese Svensson (right) and Linnea Eriksson (left).
Photo with drone: Johan Fjellström