The banya, or bathhouse, is a cultural tradition in Russia that dates back to the 12th century, but became popular in the 17th century when communal bathing was the only way for many Russians to stay clean. Today it is still believed to have therapeutic benefits. It is also a great place to relax and socialize. And is often looked at as the Russian's take on the golf course - a great place to do business. Visiting a banya is often one of the highlights of vacations in Russia.
Visiting a banya is an invigorating experience with temperatures exceeding 200 degrees F and self-flagellation with wet, dried branches alternating with a good dunk in a bucket of icy water. The banya is not only invigorating, it is said to have many health benefits. Excessive heat stimulates sweating, thus removing unwanted materials from the blood and improving the work of the kidneys. Sweating also releases excess water and salt from the body and opens the skin pores, cleaning it and making it softer and fresher. A host of additional health benefits come from visiting a banya including the release of endorphins due to an increase in cardiovascular activity.
Steps to visiting a banya: 1. Check in. 2. Sweat it out for 10-15 minutes. 3. Engage in some healthy self-flagellation with a bunch of soaked veniki, or birch twigs. 4. Cool Down in the pool, barrel or bucket of icy water provided. 5. Grab a beer (or a glass of water) in the antechamber before repeating the process.
Other Info: Before checking into a banya make sure you do not have low or high blood pressure, a heart ailment or any other health issue. Pregnant women and asthma sufferers are advised to do the same. A banya hat, a special felt hat, is often used to protect the head from the intense heat. Bring along a towel and flip-flops.
Visiting a banya is often one of the highlights of vacations to Russia. Travel to Russia with Celtic Tours World Vacations.