Relaxing in Russian banyas
В бане помылся — заново родился. (Washing yourself in the banya is like being born again.)
The term “banya” (баня) in Russia refers to a local type of Sauna. Banya is a Russian tradition that started centuries ago, but it is still very popular today. There are banyas in large cities and in small towns, and there are many of these saunas in Russian summer cottages, dachas (дача).
The Russian banya is composed of different rooms: in the steam room, called “parnaya” (парная), hot steam is created thanks to water and hot air. In that room, people sit or lie on wooden benches along the walls. The other room contains a pool of cold water, where you dip after you are enough warmed up. During the winter time, it is common to walk directly from the parnaya into the snow.
A tradition in Russian banya is to smack your body with special bath brooms. Those brooms are called “veniks” (веник), and are made up of branches put together. A special person, called “banschik” (банщик) is responsible for whipping you with this broom. However, there’s often no need of him, since groups of friends often have fun smacking each other with veniks.
Veniks and hot steam are useful in order to prevent sickness and to smooth your skin. However, a banya is positive not only for your health, but for your social relationships as well. The atmosphere brings people closer together and makes them interact. They share memories, views on life, or just have fun joking with each other.
Now that Autumn is coming, be sure to pay a visit with your friends to a Russian banya. It’s a beautiful and exotic experience that you surely will not forget.