Russian Banya experience – Moscow August 2003

I came across some travel notebooks from previous adventures. This is the second from a trip to Russia visiting an old school friend who was working there.

Gypsy cabs – Lada car owners making extra cash.

400 roubles gets you a cubicle for clothing – all 5 of us in one. Into main area – marble like benches, large plastic bowls. Towels and modesty off and shower. Into hot room lined with pine, pine steps and staging – heat rises. Varying sizes and shapes – many with super tans. Women in charge opens metal door in the wall to the fires of hell and adds water to raise the temperature and humidity. She throws essential oils at and around us. After a while more water is added to the hot coals and the humidity soars – all bar the most hardy exit fast. Head to the ‘pool’. Very cold, a shock but welcome exhilarating experience after next hot session. In main hall pampering begins. Body scrubs, face masks, hair conditioning, scrubbing. Option to gently and not so gently hit all over with ‘bring your own’ birch and juniper branches. Silky smooth skin and clear nasal passages. Must be a welcome escape and relief from the bitter winter cold. Fur coats and jackets abandoned for towels and tea-cosy hats. Coming out would be awful.

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