Day 21: Another Banya – Siberian Style


After a very good night’s sleep, utterly undisturbed by the rumbling trolley buses that make the hostel shake as they thunder past, I woke up thinking I would never raise my arms again.

This was potentially something of a problem

Tonight I catch, guess what, another train… this time to Ulan-ude which will be my last stop in Siberia and therefore Russia.

After a walk to the Znamensky Monastery… Actually, I have described it as a trek on Instagram and it felt like it… after said pilgrimage, I decided to use one of the local banyas to relax my aching muscles.

Off I went to the Basninskiye Banya. Price wise, it was a bargain after Moscow but, frankly, everything is.

For 1600R (just under £20) I had the sole use of the facilities for three hours. There were two women there when I arrived but they left after an hour.

Between steam rooms and buckets of icy water I had the relaxation room and its Russian magazines to myself with a large pot of very spicy tea.

There was also one book in English, all about Irkutsk called ‘The Queen of Siberia’. I flocked through it checking I hadn’t missed anything.

Is a Siberian banya different to a Moscow banya?

Yes. For one thing there were no attendants. I was briefly shown the ropes but then left to my own devices.

Other differences… well… first of all, you scrub yourself down with handfuls of ice before entering the sauna.

I have my doubts about this though I really appreciated the heat once I entered the heat.

Ice, ice, baby

Next, the broom, this time made of spruce, rather than dried birch leaves.

No attendants, so self-thrashing is required. One of the other banya-users did so. I considered it for a whole… five seconds. No.

It’s not dried. Think of the needles dropping off the drying Christmas tree in January. Imagine being beaten with one of its branches… that’s right, the needles would get EVERYWHERE.

And once you leave the sauna, it’s into the steam room. After two sessions that included the steam, I gave up and embraced my wuss status.

I cannot deal with the high temperatures that the Russians seem to enjoy. It’s not the heat on my skin, it’s breathing it in.

Any head cold have met their match in here.

After the steam room… the bucket of cold water.

I wasn’t joking about it being a bucket.

And then… have a tea break or start the process again.

It may not sound like it, but it really is a relaxing way to spend a few hours. My arms are now rucksack ready.

*Featured Photo: The banya’s tea and relaxation room.

Categories: Russia, Trans Siberian Express, TravelTags: , , , , ,

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