3.31.2009

Russian Banya

Kurt and I, drinking honey wine in the banya.

In Russia, we spent two days in Suzdal, a tiny medieval town just a three hour train ride North of Moscow. We stayed in a small bed and breakfast owned by a talkative man named Oleg who laughed at all of his own jokes. Each morning, his Babushka cooked us delicious homemade breakfasts of blinis and tiny cottage-cheese filled pancakes. On arrival, she had a warm Sharlotka waiting for us on the table (a buttery and slightly sweet apple cake, served with tea. I have the recipe!).

Anyway! The best part of our stay was the banya, a Russian sauna. A lot of people have private banyas on their property and there are public ones in the city. In medieval times, the banya was a way for villagers to cleanse their bodies. In Moscow, I am told that they even open the banyas up to the homeless once a year for a good steam cleaning. (!) The heat and humidity is said to aid in blood circulation and increase metabolism. And it feels amazing.

Our banya was a small wooden cabin, built by Oleg himself, located behind the main house. The entry room had a sitting area with a shower stall and bathroom. The steam room was two rows of tiered benches situated next to a brick chamber filled with large stones arranged over a wood burning stove.


Beth excited over a tea pot.


This is how it's done:

  1. Take off all of your clothes. Wrap up in a towel and put on your Chapka, a felt hat that's meant to protect your hair from the hot hot heat. You may look like a dork (as pictured).
  2. Post up in the entry room and drink copious amounts of honey wine. ::Hiccup!::
  3. Enter the steam room. Splash water on the hot rocks to emit the steam. Herb-infused water may be splashed on the banya walls to create a soothing vapor. Commence sweating.
  4. Vigorously beat your banya partners with bundles of Birch branches. This part feels better than it sounds.
  5. When you can no longer stand it, run outside and roll in the snow! In my case, I fell in the snow (honey wine?) and Kurt pelted me with snow balls.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

Beth and I, before beating each other with birch branches.

9 comments:

  1. I wondered what those pictures were about on Facebook...hehehe, wow, that sounds great...I dig stuff like that...

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  2. Ack I miss you! Everything looks and sounds so good when you describe it. It makes me wish we were doing it ALL OVER AGAIN.

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  3. It sounds good because it was good! We should go on another vacation together, for sure.

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  4. Let's take beth and andrew on our hut trip

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  5. Let's take beth and andrew on our hut trip

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