Monday, September 20, 2010

More Beautiful Produce, and My First Russian Bath

I just love all the beautiful produce at these farmers markets; I want to photograph each and every thing there! Here are a few pics to get your mouth watering. J

I also wanted to tell you about my first experience at a Russian bathhouse. I don’t have any pictures because it was dark outside when I went there, but since it was my first time in such a place I thought you might like to hear about it.

If you’ve never been to a banya, allow me to explain what it’s all about. Apparently medicinal bathing has been all the rage for a long time, as many Asian and European cultures have valued the practice since ancient times. A banya is the Russian version of the hot and cold baths that are typically used in the therapeutic experience. You alternate between sitting in a hot tub or steam room for a while (this is where the medical risks come into play, as temperatures can reach 200 degrees), and then dunking your whole body in ice cold water. Doesn’t that sound like fun? The alternation of hot and cold is supposedly very good for the skin and circulatory system, and the sweating excretes toxins and bacteria from the body. How lovely - sitting around with a bunch of strangers, stewing in the collective cesspool of toxins. And as if that weren’t enough, traditional bathing is done naked. And coed. So very European.

By now you’re probably surprised that I even went to this place, but in the spirit of adventure I agreed when my friend Tomoyo invited me to the banya with her. The place I went to is named Banya 5, and thankfully, it is NOT a nude sauna (Tomoyo said there is one in town, but it’s just for women); everyone was properly clothed in bathing suits – a downright prudish alteration of the traditional bathing experience that I for one appreciated. Before I even entered the sauna I had to read and sign a rather scary agreement form, warning me about all the high temperatures, hot surfaces, and medical risks I might encounter once I entered the doors to the sauna. I signed the form somewhat dubiously, wondering what exactly I was getting myself into, but as it turned out the sauna wasn’t nearly as intimidating or scary (or disgusting) as the form made it sound. In fact, I actually enjoyed myself. I took to the waters repeatedly, trying out the medium-temperature tub, the hot-temperature tub, the wet steam room, the dry steam room – pretty much everything except the icy cold tub (I did stick my toe in, but just couldn’t bring myself to submerge more than that).

People usually spend at least a couple of hours there, alternating between the tubs and steam rooms while taking occasional breaks for water or tea. They’re pretty stoic about the whole ordeal too, solemnly dunking themselves into the icy tub or sweating profusely without so much as an expression on their faces. Maybe they have other things on their mind.

Personally, I wasn’t at all solemn or expressionless. How could I be while trying out a banya for the first time? A couple hours later, I emerged feeling invigorated and relaxed at the same time – and also quite worldly. I can see why those Europeans like their saunas! It would be a great place to escape the dreary Pacific Northwest winter weather that I hear is on its way. Some saunas also have more rooms with various herbs infusing the steam, so you can really sweat out those toxins and enhance the therapy with special herb combinations designed to boost the healing effect. I might have to try that out. Maybe I’ll even try solemnly flinging myself into the ice-cold tub. My friend made it sound like it’s all the rage, so who knows, maybe I’m missing out on something. Ooooh, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!


Anonymous said...

Wow, what an experience. Love your writings! Mama

dangerousaphrodite said...

Sounds like an exciting and fun experience! It sounds similar to the hot springs here in Virginia. I love keeping up with all your adventures on here! Love you!

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to solemnly fling myself too, then laugh maniacally! ;)

Anonymous said...

Ti govereesh po-russkie?

Kristen said...

Ya gavarue chut-chut pa-russkie!