All photos in this post taken with the Samsung Note8
I’m a cold weather kinda girl. I suffer a lot in the heat and humidity, and Im not just saying it – my body temperature is actually half a degree higher than average, which meant that when the nation was doing fever-testing during the SARS outbreak, I got called out, like, every day. So i flourish, basically, in the cold, and I think my love for cold weather was a big part of why I adored Helsinki so much, and got way too excited when I saw Allas Sea Pool on the list of iconic places/experiences in Helsinki!
I generally like pools, bodies of water, onsens, etcetera, and the idea of splashing around in a 28 degree heated pool in -8 degree weather basically sounds like my idea of heaven. I expressed my enthusiasm accordingly when our guide mentioned the sea pool, causing the rest of my press group to look at me in ways that I felt betrayed some kind of dubious sentiment re: my sanity. To be fair, I was prancing around in a sweater and skirt trying to taste a falling snowflake while everyone else was bundled up and rushing to the next available cafe with indoor heating, so I think everyone there had different interests/ priorities in life, and perhaps theirs was not to catch hypothermia? I dunno. But I was the youngest in the group, and at twenty five, I believed I was invincible. So, swimming in negative degree weather? YAS PLEASE.
We arranged to meet at the sea pool at 4pm. I was the first to arrive, to the amusement of my guide. Actually I was about ten minutes early. I asked if I could go in first but she said no. Anyway. The rest trundled up the snowy hill in trickles at about four, with varying looks of apprehension on their faces. Also, only half the group showed up. I think everyone else had very real fears regarding freezing. This made me way more excited, I think because I was overcompensating and absorbing everyone’s share of excitement, and by the time we entered the building I was practically bouncing on my feet. LETS GO! I said. Paw, a guy I had just met the day before, from PIN Prestige, stared at me and mumbled something about being young and excited about stuff, which I 100% took as a compliment.
Actually, the pool reminds me a bit of the Bondi Icebergs Pool in Sydney, but for cold weather. Entry is twelve euros if you’re over 12yo, but if you’re a student or unemployed you get in for eight. As I have not yet graduated from my Masters programme (convocation is in August), it’s the eight buck life for me baby! Tee, hee. You get a little electronic waterproof bracelet that you use to enter and exit the pool area, and you can use it for lockers inside the changing room as well. You have to rent towels though, so I kinda wish I had thought of bringing my hotel room towels over since Hotel Lilla Roberts, where I was staying, was only a five to ten minute walk away. Oh yes. Lastly. Your ticket is valid for TEN HOURS. If I had my way I would have stayed for ALL TEN, but I was on a schedule so I only stayed for two! Ah well. Next time.
I hurriedly changed and headed to the pool because I didn’t want to waste any time. The walk to the pool is the worst part, I think, because it’s freezing. Also, because everyone is dripping wet and going back and forth (saunas are in the shower rooms, pools are outdoors), the floor gets a bit icy and slippery. They have anti slip mats, but sometimes the ice just freezes right over that. So you just gotta be careful!
Once you get into the pool, it’s absolute heaven. We went about sunset timing, so we caught a really gorgeous sunset while treading water in the pool, which was absolutely sublime. The pool is cut right out of the sea too, so there was a huge ship that blared past us as it was coming in. I wish I took a photo, but I had put my phone in the locker by that time.
Some photos before I stowed my phone away:
It’s compulsory to wear a swimsuit in the pool, by the way. Some public heated pools in Europe are nude pools, but not this one! There’s also an exercise lane in the pool so you get people swimming laps up and down there. It’s probably super good for your circulation to be swimming in that kinda weather. Which brings me to my next point..
As we were touring the building, before getting to the pool, our guide pointed out a separate pool at the other end of the platform. Unlike the main pool, it was completely empty, had no exercise lanes, and kind of just looked like someone built a pool by accident then forgot all about it.
I cant really remember her exact phrasing because I was in shock but the gist of what she said was that this was a freakin Baltic sea pool!!!! It is basically a pool linked to the Baltic sea right outside, filtered and UV-treated before being pumped in through cleaner currents so you’re not swimming in direct harbour water. But you are swimming in the freakin sea. The temperature in the Baltic sea pool is the same as that of the sea outside, and so the day we were there, it was a 1.5 degree pool. Suddenly everyone else’s fear of hypothermia seemed pretty legitimate. Most people straight up laughed, like it wasn’t even a consideration for them. Me, I was pretty half half. On one hand, I didn’t want to freeze. On the other hand, yolo. One of the guys on the trip, Patrick (the next youngest person at 28) from the NYT looked at me. You doing it?
I know he didn’t mean it that way but it was like a DIRECT CHALLENGE. And ever since watching the Jim Carrey film Yes Man in 2008 I seriously cannot say no to any kind of challenge. Actually I think I may have gotten the wrong takeaway from that film, but that’s another story. I was like, lemme think about it, and after a minute I was like YOU KNOW WHAT, YOLO.
So we ran and jumped into the pool.
The run from the heated pool to the sea pool is the worst. Bear in mind you’re dripping with 28 degree water which is rapidly trying to freeze on your body. You’re running through -8 degree air. You’re trying not to slip and fall down. Everyone is staring at you because you are crazy, and also because your presence is a challenge to them – if a small asian girl can do it then everyone else there better be able to. I learnt this from jumping into a 8 degree pool in Budapest with Shane, which greatly irritated an italian man who then had to jump in because he wanted to also impress his girlfriend or something, who stood by the side and watched. Ha Ha Ha.
Once we got to the pool I thought to myself I’d better do it now or lose my guts forever. But it really looked freaking cold, and there was a lifeguard who had appeared out of nowhere looking kind of concerned and amused, and I decided against straight up jumping in. I lowered myself down using the ladder and immediately started muttering curses under my breath the minute my toe touched the water. JUMPING DONUTS IT WAS COLD. I got all the way in and started making a lot of incoherent noise to stay warm. My greatest mistake was telling Patrick it was his turn while I was in the water because the minute he started descending using the only ladder in that corner of the pool I was trapped treading water with no way out. Every second he took to descend that ladder (very slowly, I may add, because it was COLD and also I think he was afraid of slipping since the ladder was icy) was like a LIFETIME to me. This entire time I was still making a lot of noise, I think I was so cold that my body had shut down and I was just shouting to generate heat. Actually, I may have yelled at him to HURRY THE HELL UP, which is something I retrospectively regret given that it was the second day we’d met. Then he was in the water and said: yeah, nope and immediately scurried up the ladder and ran back to the heated pool.
I was in such a hurry to get back to the heated pool that I actually jumped in, forgetting that my beanie was on my head. After that I put it on a rack to dry and it completely froze into an icicle. It was pretty ridiculous.
It’s actually pretty common to wear a beanie in the pool if you’re not swimming laps, just so you keep your head warm.
Anyway back in the heated pool I think we were pretty proud of ourselves, and I immediately forgot all about the intense cold I had just experienced because I promptly started peer pressuring Juliana, the PR rep from Small Luxury Hotels, to do the same. Goooo, I told her, we flew allllll the way here and you’re not gonna do it? It’s like, when are you gonna come back to Helsinki? And then, in a moment I will question forever, I said: I’ll even do it with you.
So we did it.
The second run from heated to sea pool was even worse than the first one. Plus my theory on challenging other people must have been somewhat correct because these two Finnish girls overheard me and then followed us to the sea pool. So now there was pressure, because if I chickened out I would have disappointed my entire country, or something like that. I had to power through! So I took a step down the ladder, and the ladder was so cold that I just fell in.
DONKEY BUTT. IT WAS SO COLD I THINK MY MIND BLANKED OUT FOR A MOMENT BECAUSE MY NEXT MEMORY WAS RESURFACING WITH A MOUTHFUL OF SALTY WATER. IT REALLY WAS FREAKING SEA WATER.
Juliana was staring down at me. How was it? She called.
WAIT. I said. LET ME COME UP FIRST
(I’m glad that even while my brain was blanking out I had learnt my lesson from, like, five minutes ago.)
And then because I had peer pressured Juliana into dipping into the sea pool and thus felt personally responsible for her experience, I was hopping from one foot to the other while she went into the pool, waiting with a towel so i could wrap her with it when she emerged. After which we ran back to the heated pool, basically numb by then.
I think I really have short term muscle memory or something because once I got into the heated pool I shouted WHEEW! THAT WAS AMAZING! Then I set my sights on Adrian, aka superadrianme, and I was like, YO SUPERADRIANME! TIME TO GO!
To his credit he wasn’t even fazed, he looked at me and went, Siao.
So the grand total of sea pool dips I did remained at two.
By this time I was happily in the heated pool so I felt pretty pleased with myself all over again, and I texted Roz (waterproof samsung note8 thank u very much!) to tell her that i JUMPED IN THE SEA! And sent her a photo. Then I put my phone in the locker and went to swim. When I collected my phone again it was to a flurry of messages from her telling me not to be stupid and fall sick because the week after we were supposed to go to Niseko to snowboard and if I were sick I wouldnt be able to do anything. And then after that, a lone message from her, timestamped an hour later: Actually yohei says its really good for your circulation
So, fears of hypothermia allayed, I guess. After some time in the pool we headed to the sauna (they’re split male/female) and showered, then all met again in the cafe. I had a pretty epic local tap beer from the cafe bar which was made even better because I had just come out of the sauna, and everyone who has done an onsen before will tell you that a post-onsen beer is the best thing ever. This isnt an onsen, but it’s pretty similar I guess, so it was still pretty epic!
Overall I’d say this was easily one of the best swims of my life. 10/10 would recommend, because yolo, am I right? My only regret is not having time to go again on this trip, but if I’m ever in the area again, you know where you’ll find me – shrieking all the way from the heated to sea pool x
Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki
Mon – Fri 07:00 – 21:00
Sat 09:00 – 21:00
Sun 10:00 – 20:00
Swimming ticket (children over 12) €12
Children’s ticket (children 3-11) €6
Children 0-2 for free
Discounts for: students, conscripts, pensioners, the unemployed €8.
(The card or certificate proving eligibility for a discount must be presented on arrival.)