No trip to Russia is complete without a stop at the Banya (boy, I sound like a guidebook don't I?). This was a true Russian experience and we loved it! Usually people will go in public rooms, but we got a private room just for us which was nice. It conisisted of three rooms, the first room had seating and and a table, The second room has a shower, a bucket of ice cold water, and a cold pool. The third room is like a sauna, but much, much hotter. You first go in the sauna, and you have to wear a wool hat so your hair doesn't burn. It was very, very hot, so hot I was too scared to go in at first, your body has to accumulate, so you go in for a bit, come out and sit down, then go back in. Eventually a guy comes in and you go in one at a time and he beats you with some branches that have different leaves, that have been soaked in some kind of herbal water, not sure what it is, but it smells amazing! You lye down on your stomach, the dude whacks you, not too hard but hard enough, with the branches until you get too hot and you tell him to stop. Then you come out and either dump the bucket of cold water on you or get in the cold pool. I had a hard time immersing myself in the cold pool, but I did pour the bucket of water on me once.
We brought tea, sandwiches, cucumber salad and some other snacks to munch on during the process. It was so fun! And it felt really good too, it's good for your body, you sweat out toxins and all that good stuff. I loved it! I wish we had something like that in the states. After it's all over you feel so relaxed all you can do is go home and sleep. We were all too embarrassed to have our picture taken so these are all of cannon.