Adam Rang and Anni Oviir are on a mission to boost Estonia’s original social network. Forget Skype: when Estonians really want to connect, they head to the sweltering confines of a traditional sauna.
“There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the kind of social bonding that takes place in a sauna has a far greater positive impact on human health than any of the detoxing claims made by the wellness industry,” says Rang. “You can actually trace the story of Estonia itself — both the good times and the bad — by exploring how the designs and traditions of our saunas have evolved through the ages.”
The couple have already opened their own Estonian smoke sauna, Rangi saun, in Tallinn. But as tourists and journalists flooded in, the pair decided that they wanted to keep bringing Estonian culture to an international audience. Working with photographer Ekvilibrist, they are documenting 100 of the most beautiful, unusual, and historic Estonian saunas — both online and for a forthcoming book. Read from start to finish, each entry will form a larger story that weaves a narrative about Estonian design and tradition through the ages.
“We use English to explain Estonian saunas to the world, but we also drop in Estonian words with a translation where we can,” says Rang. “Our dream is to get the Estonian word leil (sauna steam) into common English usage.”