In Estonia, a 'Scavenger Hunt' for People Who Love Saunas
Eestlased Eestis 11 Mar 2013  EWR
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Racing in Groups of Four, Dressed or Not, They Try to Win More Time in the Hot Seat
Liis Kängsepp, WSJ.com
OTEPÄÄ, Estonia—Winter is a busy time here for sports as competitors come to this usually sleepy town on Estonia's southern tip. Sometimes, the scene is exactly what you would expect, like 8,500 bundled-up skiers sliding through town on a cross-country ski trek one weekend last month.

Other times, though, you might see a different breed of competitors, one decked out in skimpy bathing suits—or simply in their birthday suits. That's because Otepää is home to the European Sauna Marathon.

"It is a real Estonian smoke sauna with a sweet and juicy steam," boasted local businessman Tarmo Tamm, who owns one of the sweltering saunas that dot the unusual competition and are a source of national pride.

For the past four years, Otepää has played host to the sauna marathon, where hundreds of competitors sweat to visit as many of the outposts as possible in the shortest time.

The contest has been good for business at Mr. Tamm's Sokka Holiday Resort, with its cavernous sauna about five miles out of town. He was beaming with pride on a recent Sunday afternoon when the marathon took place. "We finished taking a steam in this sauna last night at half past midnight to have a proper warm-up for today," he said.

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