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Tallinn's first public smoke sauna to open this winter

Oviir and Rang are hoping to introduce the Estonian sauna tradition to a much broader audience.
Oviir and Rang are hoping to introduce the Estonian sauna tradition to a much broader audience. Source: Ekvilibrist/Estonian Saunas OÜ

Launched in an authentic Southern Estonian smoke sauna, Tallinn couple Anni Oviir and Adam Rang's new startup is planning to open the first public smoke sauna in Tallinn by winter this year.

"As more people discover Estonia, we've found that more people from abroad want to visit Estonian saunas," Oviir said. "We conducted market research with tourism agencies and international visitors which shows that there is a lot of interest in Estonian sauna culture but not enough opportunities to experience and learn about them. Unfortunately, the closest that most visitors to Estonia get to a sauna is the electric one in their hotel. That's because they find it daunting to visit public saunas, don't get invited to Estonian homes, and rarely leave Tallinn. We need to make real Estonian saunas more accessible."

Smoke saunas are the oldest type of Estonian sauna, and are still considered the best by many sauna fans, but most today are located in Southeastern Estonia's Võru County, where they have been granted protected cultural status by UNESCO.

There are currently only three public smoke saunas in all of Northern Estonia, none of which are located in the capital city. According to Visit Estonia, meanwhile, 75 percent of visitors to the country never make it past Tallinn.

"The market for Estonian saunas is as big as we can make it, because we want to reach visitors who would otherwise never get the chance to visit a real Estonian sauna, as well as Estonians who may not have tried a smoke sauna before," Rang said. "We are working together with sauna masters and sauna makers across the country who would benefit from this increased interest. When visitors learn about saunas, they are really learning about the people who use them, so they provide a fascinating insight to the history of Estonia itself."

Oviir and Rang gave the launch of their new business a special spin, taking the combination of national heritage and Digital Estonia PR to a new level by registering their business inside a smoke sauna near the southern Estonian town of Otepää.

"The process was completed at about 40 degrees Celsius in less than ten minutes, before their laptops and phones overheated," the company said in its first press release on Friday. "They then celebrated by putting their technology away, pouring water on the stones, and then jumping into the half-frozen pond outside with friends."

Oviir and Rang are running their new compay in their spare time and do not intend to apply for any funding. Oviir works as a green building specialist helping companies calculate the environmental impact of their designs, while Rang is part of the staff of Estonia's e-Residency program.

Rang has previously participated in the European Sauna Marathon for ERR.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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