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Visit to a Russian Sauna

Sunday, Sept 8

Note: Travel Moscow is one of many posts available from Luxury Tours Worldwide, a global travel information provider.

Moscow Travel: I flew in to Moscow from New Mexico six days ago on Aeroflot (Russian Airlines), on a Ilyshin IL-96-300, with 235 seats an airplane of Russian manufacture. I sat next to a plasma physicist returning home from a visit to the University of California at Santa Barbara.  He told me the plane has a perfect safety record.  It was a very comfortable flight with excellent food.

Today is Sunday.  It rained all last night, then stopped this morning.  The celebration of Moscow’s 849th Anniversary is continuing today, with an open air music programme in Red Square.

I didn’t get up until after midday.  It was cloudy and I failed to even realize how late it was.      My friend Vardan woke me up right after he and his mom got up.  They also slept late.  We ate breakfast, and then went to the public bathhouse, that was located across the street from Vardan’s school.

It is a spa with a cool water pool and showers.  It cost us roughly $12 for 2 hours.  We received bottles of mineral water.  According to the bottle the “Indications and Usage” (printed in English as well as Russian) of the water are “chronic gastritis, stomach and duodenum ulcer, chronic colitis.  Chronic lever sic, biliary and urinary ducts diseases, metabolism disturbances.”  Certainly these are all things that imbibing plenty of mineral water could help!

Vardan additionally bought 2 bunches of oak branches with green leaves, which were for whipping the skin while in the sauna.  The men’s and females areas are divided, as everyone is going into the sauna and swimming pool naked.

As soon as you initially enter there is a very big space for often clothes with 17 cubicles, each approximately 5X6 ft big using side benches constructed with brown leather cushions and wood legs.  There are also mirrors, hooks for garments and a bottle opener hanging on the wall, and a area rug on the floor.  Really pleasant.  Immediately outside the entry was a shop in which you can purchase refreshments, including beer, that can be consumed within the bathhouse.

When taking off clothes, you leave them hanging inside the cubicle and get a towel which is supplied by the spa.  And then go inside the shower area, which is a large area about 50 feet square with shower cubicles along one side and four rows of marble benches evenly spaced across the space from end to end.  Every seat is about 2×3 foot made of two in . solid marble supported on cast iron legs.  You receive an empty plastic-type pan about 20 in . in diameter and 6 in. deep and you fill it with hot water from taps for that purpose which are located along the length of two sides of the room.  Then you put your bunch of oak branches into the hot water. When you enter the sauna you take your oak branches along with you and employ

it to beat the body, which is supposed to stimulate the opening of the skin pores and be beneficial.

The sauna itself is a room approximately 40×100 feet.  There are a couple of levels, the lower one where one enters, and the upper level, which is six steps up and about six feet above the lower.  Many people go to the upper level.  A person on the lower level opens a furnace door that is located approximately five feet off the floor and tosses some water inside, resulting in a sudden build up in the moisture level of the sauna.  Then he takes a round fan about two feet in diameter at the end of a three foot handle and moves it up and down making the hot moisture to permeate the atmosphere of the room.  The result is to make the body feel abruptly very hot so that the skin prickles.  It also makes it hard to breath.  About this moment everyone grabs their oak leaf branches and starts beating themselves, that is each person beats his own body.  This produces a lot of noise, sort of like a strong gust in a forest of trees.  After a while of this everybody files out to get fresh air and go into the swimming pool.  The pool is cold and feels good after baking in the sauna.  The walls of the pool room have mirrors on three sides and there is a 4 ft . walkway around the pool.  The swimming pool itself is about 30 feet square.  It is made specifically for cooling off, and is not really a swimming pool.  The water is almost 4 1/2 ft deep.

There are no signs notifying the users of the polices and liabilities as you see in U.S. spas.  Evidently Russia is not plagued by liability attorneys.

On the opposite side of the shower room from the shower stalls are massage stalls.  Vardan bought us both a massage for $17 that lasted about thirty-five minutes.  A male masseur worked over all the muscles of my feet, legs, arms, lower back, back, neck, head, chest and abdomen.  It was the first such massage I had ever experienced.  It reminded me of the muscle therapy treatment I got once in L.A., which was temporarily painful for the muscles, but supposedly removes toxins from the muscles.  It was sometimes painful, sometimes relaxing, and by the end it was exhausting.

Following this we went home and had a evening meal of chicken with rice, served with tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, pumpernickel bread, cheese, ham and mineral water.

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