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Did you know? Russian Culture To Do in Moscow To Do in Saint-Petersburg

5 reasons to visit and try famous Russian Sauna in 2020

It is probable that at least once in your lifetime you have heard about Russian Sauna, or so called “banya” and its traditions. It was created long time ago and converted into a real cultural phenomenon with its own rules. Let us give 5 good reasons to try genuine Russian Banya in 2020:

1. Try an activity that has 2500 y.o. How was the banya created?

The origins of the banya date back to the 5th century BC. We trace its birth in Ukraine, where the banya was made of pieces of wood used as a structure to hold a felt cloth. At the middle of this space was a kettle filled with water where heated rocks were plunged.  Slowly, this sauna culture became a part of the Slavic life. It was celebrating religious events and family traditional holidays such as birthdays and weddings.

Banya was accessible for the richest and the poorest. The richest had their own banya area allowing them to have more comfort and privacy. The poorest who did not own a banya, heated their ovens and wet the walls of their houses to create a slight sensation of humidity.

The access to the banya became widely democratized thereafter. Common and public spaces were created to bring the entire population together in one place. Luxury banyas were opened for the richest, such as Sanduny Baths in Moscow, for example. These spaces offered to their customers exceptional furniture and more comfort as well as better customer services.

Sanduny Baths - Moscow
Spectacular Sanduny Baths – Moscow

2. Learn how to do the Russian Sauna and teach your friends!

As Russian Sauna is a real tradition, it has to be done the good way. Today the banya is composed of a wooden space with a wood-burning stove. It is important to prepare the banya in advance so that it can be very hot. When the temperature reaches between 80-100 C degrees, you can begin the activity.

Put on your bathing suit and sit on one of the benches along the wall of the banya. Watch out! The higher you sit, the hotter you’ll get! So, if you’re not sure you can stand the heat, start by sitting on the lower bench. Once on your bench, you can sprinkle water with essential oils on the hot stones placed above the stove to warm and humidify the room.

Shake your towel over your head if you want the heat to circulate in the banya.

A session lasts between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on your resistance to heat. As the banya is much hotter, the sessions are shorter than those in a classic sauna.

The goal at the end of the session is to cause a thermal shock to your body. You can jump in the cold pool, or spill the bucket with cold water on your head or, if you are in winter, roll in the snow or jump into a frozen lake.

Cold jump after banya
Jump into a frozen lake after Banya session in winter

3. The benefits of Russian Sauna

The advantages of the banya are worldwide known and confirmed by specialists:

  • From inside: it cleans the body by eliminating toxins
  • From outside: it removes dead skin and cleans pores
  • Russian Sauna is the best cure to insomnia and daily anxiety
  • Banya helps human lungs to recharge and work better

The extreme change in temperature also allows the body to gain strength and develops the immune system. There’s no doubt that after a banya session you’ll sleep like a baby!

Russian Banya with friends in winter
Russian Banya with friends in winter

4. The reason why Russian Banya should be done in groups of friends or with family

Visiting Russian Sauna is highly recommended to do with closest friends or family. Banya is, all in all, a limited space where you are almost naked.

Between each session, it is common to get together to drink tea and eat some fruits or to drink cold beer with snacks while playing cards or just chatting.

According to lots of stories, in business, many contracts are discussed and signed in banya and the agreement is usually concluded by drinking one shot of vodka! In Russia businessmen and political figures are usually going to the Russian Sauna together, in order to discuss important matters in complete privacy.

If you travel to Russia, it’s a legendary activity to organize with your family or friends! Don’t hesitate to check our traditional banya tour !

5. Russian Sauna = connection with Nature. Why is Russian banya so priceless?

If Russians regularly practice banya, it is also because it allows them to reconnect with nature and put everyday worries aside. In St. Petersburg, we can organize for you a traditional banya in the forest, after a dog-trekking hike!

Banya is practiced naked and people are surrounded by the simplest elements of nature: wood, heat, water, snow, stones… Banya is considered to be a way to enjoy the wonders that nature offers to recharge one’s batteries.

Russians also have a tradition of whipping themselves with bouquets made of birch or oak branches. This bouquet is called “Venik”. It is plunged in a bucket of cold water and then used to whip itself. This process has many benefits:

  • Reactivates blood circulation: because of the heat, the vessels are “asleep”. Whipping them with the Venik – reactivates.
  • Accelerates sweating: the contact of the Venik on the skin activates perspiration.
  • Removes dead skin: the contact of the leaves and branches will allow the dead skin to peel off.
  • Venik process is not painful. Vice versa, it feels amazing – especially after!
Banya Tour - Russia
Doing Russian Sauna with Venik

You want to try banya when travelling to Russia? Book your tour with us on www.tsarvisit.com !

 

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Hidden places of St. Petersburg

Saint-Petersburg is full of surprises… From surprisingly beautiful sights to surprisingly small prices. You will enjoy this city even if you visit just the main tourist attractions, but believe us, a lot of amazing places are hidden on those streets..

Here is our top!

  • Nelson yard
Picture: Nelson Yard, Saint-Petersburg
Dvor Nelsona, Polozova Ulitsa, 6, St Petersburg

Bard Nelson fought gray routine and created in the yard area of the house on a small Polozov street a bright colorful atmosphere. The musician managed to create the most amazing courtyard of the Petrograd side with the help of a spray paint, applying imagination and using all the trash that had been gathering dust on the mezzanine for many years.

  • Chufalnya on Aprashka Market
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Chifanka (Chufalnya), Sadovaya Street, 28, St. Petersburg

” Chufalnya ” is in the third house on the right, if you go on Apraksin Market through the gate with Apraksino lane. Here, as before, (in 90s) the authenticity is turned to the maximum: the owners and cooks are Chinese, the wall menu with touching mistakes in translation, the complete lack of interior, ridiculous prices and a whole rack of Chinese goods — from bamboo rugs to wood mushrooms. However, because of the increased attention on the part of students and fashionistas the titular nation in the room appears in a noticeable minority and the place is becoming not that unknown.

  • Kabinet bar
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Kabinet, Malaya Sadovaya Street, 8, St Petersburg

The establishment of the famous bartender in the city is made in the style of a closed poker club or an illegal casino of the 30s. Entrance to the” Kabinet ” is through the diner Grill Brothers: you need to find the door with the inscription” only for staff ” and go down the stairs to the basement. However, to get to the bar itself is possible only upon prior reservation, contacts for which you have to search in social networks under the hashtag #вкабинетпожалуйста.

  • The house of Buck
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Kirochnaya Ulitsa, 24, St. Petersburg (currently in restoration)

Apartment house of Buck, whose name has become an integral part of the name of the building, is interesting from all sides: its amazing facade is one of the dominants of Kirochnaya street, in the front it is still preserved part of the interior decoration, which can be judged on the solvency of the former tenants. Unfortunately, the house of Buck is in a depressing condition, but also on the dirty marble stairs, broken in places stained glass, apartments, first 15-room, but later given to the communal, as well as dusty twisted railing bars can restore the image of the former splendor of the house.

  • Rotunda
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Fontanka River Embankment, 81, St. Petersburg (Gorokhovaya Street, 57А, St Petersburg)

In the house on the corner of Gorokhovaya street and Fontanka embankment you can find the most mystical city object — Rotunda. The house is not noticeable, it is a typical structure for St. Petersburg. It’s all about the Rotunda — a round building with six free-standing columns. The curves of the walls repeat the stairs, as if striving endlessly upwards. The rotunda received the title of a cult place in the 70-80s of the last century – the time of the emergence of informal movements among the Soviet youth. Representatives of different subcultures gathered here — rockers, hippies, punks.

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The Space Race

From 1957 to 1975 the United States and the Soviet Union fought a war without bullets (but still with deaths). It was the race for space, a competition not only for the control of space but a real clash between two ideologies. In less than 20 years, humanity was able to go out of its birthplace and dream of space conquest. Quite ironically, peace greatly slowed this race for the star. Let’s dive into this adventure made of heroes and engineers, “поехали!”(“let’s go”) like Gagarin said before the flight that made him famous.

Probably one the most exciting adventure of the XXst century. The Space race took place between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a competition between Engineers and scientists of both sides, and it all started… from the military. Both countries were looking for new ways to send each other some nukes. Their research programs were inspired by the Germans V2 weapons of the Second World War (and they also “took” some of the German scientists wo made it to work on their respective project). Sending satellites was already in the boxes for a long time, but the cost of it was often dissuading (and they didn’t see any strategic advantages).

But it all changes the 4th of October 1957, in the newly built base of Baïkonur in nowadays Kazakhstan. The team of Korolev had been working on intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, and it’s using one of those that they launched the first artificial satellite from earth, Sputnik-1 (which means “companion” or “satellite”). The repercussion, both political and on the opinion, were colossal. The excitement of this success in the USSR was comparable to the deception felt in the USA. The first battle of this war was a Soviet victory. This first satellite had very basic instruments on-bor$ard, mainly to measure things like temperature or pressure.

Sputnik_asm
Copy of Sputnik-1 the first artificial satellite

The Soviet did it again one month later by sending the first being in orbit, Laika, a female dog. Unfortunately for her, this satellite was quickly made to celebrate the 40th birthday of the revolution, and she died, probably of heat due to some misconception, inside the satellite during the flight. Nevertheless, it showed that inhabited flight was possible. The following years the two superpowers invested massively in space exploration and both got several achievements.

On the 12th of April 1961, The USSR bit the USA a second time by sending the first human into space (and bringing him alive by the way). Youri Gagarin then became a national and international hero. The test pilot was chosen among several other pilots for… being small (1.60 m). And I still don’t know why they needed a pilot since he did more or less no piloting, everything was commanded from Baikonur. For the anecdote, he didn’t land with his capsule but was ejected 7 km above the earth and continued with a parachute. Becoming a hero in a few days, he was forbidden to fly, fearing he would die in a crash… Which he unfortunately did, he convinced his chef to let him flight again and die 7 years later in the crash of his Mig-15.

RIAN_archive_628703_Soviet_cosmonauts,_Heroes_of_the_Soviet_Union_Pavel_Popovich,_Yuri_Gagarin,_and_Valentina_Tereshkova
From left to right Pavel Popovitch, Youri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space)

Did you know? There are two different words to designate people traveling in space in Russian and in English, respectively cosmonaut and astronaut (and now way for Europeans, Chinese and Indians). It’s the only work that uses different terms depending on the nationality of the person. Ironic considering that space is literally borderless.

Death is also a part of this race. You already know Laika, the first animal to go to space, many other dogs died for space exploration. And in 1967, for the first inhabited flight of the Soyuz spacecraft (further versions of this spacecraft are still used to service the International Space Station), it had a problem while re-entering the atmosphere and crashed at full speed, killing the Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. He is the human to die during a space mission. One of the reasons for this tragedy is the haste of the Soviets in order to stay ahead of the Americans.

800px-Soyuz-19_-_Side_View
Soyuz 19, during the Apollo-Soyuz mission, Spacecraft from Soyuz family are still used today

The first real failure for the Soviet Union happened when Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. The success of the Apollo mission was a kind of revenge for Sputnik. Nevertheless, the race continued, and after the first man on the moon, the Soviet sent the first robot (and the expertise gained will then be used in other circumstances, especially during the Chernobyl catastrophe). They also launched the first orbital station “Salyut 1”, which paved the way to the International Space Station.

The “Space Race” officially ends in July 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz mission. A co-joined mission of the two great powers, two spaceships, one American and the other Soviet, docked in space. The crews exchanged gifts and visited each others spacecraft. They conducted scientific experiments and spoke in each other language.

749px-Portrait_of_ASTP_crews
From left to right: the Americans Slayton, Stafford et Brand, and the Soviets Leonov et Kubasov

With the success of the co-joint mission started a kind of cooperation (they were still enemies, but a bit less). During this time, new space powers emerge such as Europe (European in space are called Spacionauts) or China (Chinese in space are called Taikonaut). If you want to learn more about all those great deeds and way more, you should visit the Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow, there you can find different reproductions of satellites and rockets and even a real size Soyuz spacecraft!

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Looking for free internet?

Did you know? In Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities across Russia, there is free wifi in the subway!

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro - Komsomolskaya (3)

It’s not a secret that Moscow and St Petersburg subways are stunning. They really are amazing, clean and travelling through the different stations is like visiting a museum. These subways are so beautiful and peculiar that we even organise guided tours of them

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro (3)

But when you’re living in Moscow or St Petersburg you (unfortunately) get use to it and forget to appreciate the work of art that are these underground palaces. When you’re living there, you appreciate another characteristic (in addition to the extreme cleanliness)… the free wifi! It can sounds like I’m an internet addict, a geek or a true representative of my not-understood and under-considered generations. But trust me, when being in the metro for 45 becomes something absolutely normal and a short time, having access to internet isn’t something small.

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro (4)
In facts, in the last years Moscow and St Petersburg set free internet in their subway (and public transports). You only need a Russian number and hop! Here it is! You watch an ad each time you enter the subway and you have full free access to internet! Magic and life-saving!

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro - Kievskaya

 

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Religion in Russia

Did you know? Religion remains a discussed topic in Russia, or at least when speaking of Russia.

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Kremlin - Cathédrale (3)

From the Soviet times during which religious activities were forbidden, to the current reemergence of the Orthodox Church on the public scene, religion is a thing. Currently, whereas 34% of the Russian population says that religion (so not only orthodoxy) is important in their life, about half of the population thinks that religious organisations should support public morals and ethics, and 30% that religious organisations should help to preserve cultural traditions.

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Cathédrale du Christ Saint-Sauveur (3)

Therefore religion remains important in Russian lives and culture but according to them it doesn’t have to be imposed in private spheres or even influence the government decisions. And if orthodoxy is the first religion in Russia, and the most visible and influential one, it is crucial to remember that due to its multi-ethnicity, vastness and cultural richness, Russia knows a high percentage of islamic, buddhist and catholic believers!   

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Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood

Did you know? Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood isn’t an usual church (despite its name) but rather a memorial!  Do you struggle identifying Church on the Savior on Blood and Saint Basil’s Cathedral? Well, no worries, in fact the architecture of the first mentioned was inspired by the lattest, which explains why they resemble each other so much. You’ll get more comfortable with it by reading about both of them.

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Saint Sauveur-sur-le-Sang-Versé (4)

The Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood cathedral has been built in 1907 following the orders of Tsar Alexander III. However, it has been erected as a memorial and mourning place following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the Liberator, on March 1st 1881.

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Saint Sauveur-sur-le-Sang-Versé (12).jpg

In fact, and even if weekly requiem and sermons are given to remember Alexander II, Christ the Savior on the Spilled blood became a cathedral only in 1923. It has been closed about nine years later on the orders of the Soviet leadership to become a garbage dump. Nowadays Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood is an annex of St Isaac’s museum due to its stunning mosaics. That’s why if many believes that this world-known building is one of the most important church of St-Petersburg, it rather is, due to its history and architectural style, a memorial symbolising the Russian dilemma between liberalism and conservatism. And of course, it demonstrates (if needed) the Russian savoir-faire when it comes to architecture and religious art.

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Saint Sauveur-sur-le-Sang-Versé (10).jpg

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