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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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To Do in Moscow Top

Top 3: Unusual Things To Do in Moscow

Tourists, tourists and again tourists… tourists are everywhere! Taking pictures of the same buildings and bringing home the same “so original” souvenirs. But you’re not like them. No, you’re a true explorer. Someone that wants to do what locals do, and bring home truly unusual objects and memories. You’re not a redneck and neither are we, so follow this top and experience another Russia!

In St Petersburg? Check this unusual top 4!

  • Take Height at 354 ‒ Restaurants & Observation Deck

You were considering in taking a “Russian tea” at Caffé Pouchkine ? Seriously ? Well, first, Russian tea doesn’t exist. Second, Caffé Pouchkine is amazing but kind of Moscow’s must-do. Instead go take a cocktail at Ruski at the 85th floor of OKO Tower. More than diving into contemporary Russia by exploring Moskva-City, you’ll jump into the highest restaurant in Europe and in the very heart of Moscow’s “hypeness”. Take height and enjoy some fresh air, by letting your kids in the children’s room and entering the highest ice bar in the world! With its set of restaurants and bars, the terrace in summer and the highest skating rink of Europe in winter, the 354 will offer you an unusual and magnificent view!

Ruski Restaurant - 354m Height in OKO Tower
Ruski Restaurant – 354m Height in OKO Tower

But maybe, you’ll prefer to stay down-to-earth and visit Moscow by night in a soviet military van (called UAZ) or even enroll for a pub-crawl!

  • Mystic Moscow & Russian Superstitions

You may know that if you whistle inside a house in Russia, it’ll bring misfortune to that household… As every city, and because it’s the former Soviet Capital, Moscow has many legends, stories, tales and dark secrets to deliver. Diving into these will require bravery, strength and abnegation (act of renouncing) in order to explore the dark secrets and stories of Moscow and its famous people. It probably also requires a good guide whether by enjoying a walk, or using transport. But be careful, in the end you’ll never know which are tales and which are true stories…

Picture: Mystical Moscow
Mystical Moscow
  • The Dark Secrets of Lubyanka 

Remember when your parents threatened to put you in the cellar without light if you didn’t calm down? (or is it just mine?) Well, explore Lubyanka around former KGB headquarters and you’ll regret your cellar. For those who don’t know, Lubyanka has been the black heart of the Soviet secret intelligence, enforcing “security” inside and outside USSR. For this one, bring your own kinds. Stories of torture, prison and disappearance will give you a real and efficient leverage on these monsters. And well, except you already know all these dark secrets, you’ll need a guide!

Picture: Moscow - Lubyanka Square & FSB Building (former KGB)
Moscow – Lubyanka Square & FSB Building (former KGB)

Want to know more about Russia? Read more on our Travel Blog!

Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!