Tuesday 7 December 2010

Scrubadubdub - it's off to the Banya for you...

This morning I went to a Russian banya for the first time.

Sitting here now, I don't think I've ever felt cleaner. I also feel minus a layer of skin or two, but it'll grow back, won't it?

So here are some learnings from my trip this morning...
  • Swimsuits are not required. Nerves of steel, a devil-may care attitude, and previous form as a hockey player used to nakedness in an all-female changing room are good substitutes if you have them. Otherwise, just grin and bare it (boom boom).
  • A fading mark from your g-string bikini suntan is acceptable, however (note: this badge of honour is unrelated to size of the woman concerned).
  • Take your own towel. In fact, bring two. Especially bearing in mind my previous comment about swimsuits not being required. You have to sit somewhere in the sauna, and I didn't notice the attendant sluicing down the wooden steps after each new shift of customers came in... (Plus, that bright red spot on your buttocks from sitting on a too-hot step is not attractive, really).
  • Listen out for the warning call that they are about to lock the door of the sauna from the inside. (yes, you can get out). If you don't then race into the industrial-sized facility and secure a spot you will end up having to wait another half hour to do so. And if you don't get there early enough you will end up having to sit next to the furnace (ow), or on the step below a lady with - how can I put this - rather less inhibitions than you. Should that happen, do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES turn around to glance behind you.
  • Make sure you have your own very attractive felt flower pot hat to wear whilst in the sauna to protect your hair from the heat. (These can be purchased in a range of fetching pastel colours and with appliqued motifs from the check-in desk at the entrance). I know, it's counter-intuitive to sit there naked in god knows how many degrees whilst wearing a hat - and obviously, it looks hilarious - but trust me, it works. I still have hair.
  • Said hat also gives you some degree of protection when the sauna attendant (invariably rather impressively muscled in the upper arm region for reasons which shall become apparent by the end of this post) flicks water over the assembled masses inside. Well, I say water; it also contains some kind of pine-scented herbal brew that helps to 'cleanse', but which also stings like crxp when you misunderstand her instruction to close your eyes just before she throws the mixture about in a manner worthy of the pope at high mass.
  • Try not to sit too close to the sauna attendant, both for the reason mentioned above but also because, when she whirls a damp towel around to move the hot air around the room (hence the upper arms worthy of Madonna), that thing goes at quite a pace.
  • When one of the friends you are with dares you to stand under the cold water splash situated outside of the sauna, just say no. That's all. If you do take her up on her dare, however, make sure you have firm hold of her wrist so she can't step away as she pulls the cord...
  • When another friend suggests it would be a good idea to have a body scrub, and you decide 'in for a penny, in for a pound' and go for it, do try not to act all surprised when you realise that the lady giving you the all-over scrub will also be unclad (see how I'm trying to avoid using the 'n' word here?). Apart, of course, from her gloves, which feel as if they're made from a slightly less abrasive version of wire wool - but only slightly.
  • And when she walks towards you holding a hose trickling warm water, keep calm. It's not what you think... (unless you're thinking soap doesn't work without water. In that case, you're spot on).
  • Do not laugh as she scrubs your feet and your toes tickle - remember, you still have to roll over so she can do your front. All of it. (Like I said - never been so clean).
  • And finally, do not speculate with the friend lying on the next table who is also having a scrub about just how unlikely the 'naked client, naked scrubber' situation would be to happen back home. The ensuing giggles are not dignified. Although, of course, neither is lying starkers on a table whilst being scrubbed all over by a naked woman wearing gloves made of wire wool.


This post has been nominated as 'Funniest Post' on the BMB Brilliance In Blogging Awards. If you like it, I would very much appreciate your vote; click here to register it. Thankyou!


  1. Brilliant I have the pictures in my mind as I type!!!

  2. That's brilliant (although rather you than me, obviously)

    So will you go back?

  3. Love it. I think those experiences are especially great if you're having body issues, it's just so good for you.

    I spent some time in japan and was going to the onsens. Some girls actually asked if they could take my photo! Excellent. So am in some random japanese family photo album, totally starkers. Or on the internet somewhere.

  4. What about the prolapsed uterus....? I remember being told never to squat in a banya in case your uterus fell out. Seriously. Can't imagine it's medically correct, and I certainly managed to avoid it in Russia, but it is what I thought was happening in the second stage of labour...those rumours (not the drugs, obviously) have a lot to answer for!

  5. Chris, they can't have been as funny as the reality!

    MAM, thanks, and yes I definitely will. When my skin has grown back, obviously.

    M30'sLife, excellent indeed!

    PlanB, thank heavens my Russian was not good enough to understand THAT instruction... (Mind you, squatting was not high on my list of priorities...)

  6. I love that you're fully going for the Russian experience. And sharing it with us as well.

  7. When in...Russia, I guess ;-) Glad you are bringing the Russia to us as I wouldn't do very well in a Banya. I like not being naked!

  8. You are VERY brave, and you have made my evening. I've been chuckling over the thought of you naked in a hat in a sauna. Sorry.

  9. You paint a vivid picture ...particularly of the lady with no inhibitions, ewww I am wincing ...

  10. Mwa - like I said; in for a penny...

    DG, funnily enough that really wasn't a problem. Perhaps because some of the other ladies there had far more to bother about than I did, and they didn't care, so why should I?

    Iota, I'ld offer to show you a photo, but...

    DD - it's burned onto my retina, I'm afraid.

  11. Good for u , I did the same think in Budapest. It's just having to rearrange yrself mentally isn't it.Mind over matter as it were. Great post. Rather TOO vivid perhaps but hey ho;o)

  12. Oh my god I do not want to think about it but I can't help it!!!! ARRRGGHHHHHH!!!


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