This past weekend was a holiday here, Russia Day, so we were invited to our friends dacha with a few other couples as well. Read here and here about going to a dacha before. We met another family at the train station in the morning, rode the train about an hour to the dacha and then the family who invited us picked us up at the station. We had a fun day of eating, talking, sweating it out in the banya (even the girls did for a little bit!), taking a walk, and playing in the grass. We weren’t sure if we wanted to go at first because we have a lot of work that needs to be done before we leave here, but it was a very nice and relaxing time.
This past week we were invited to go some some other Russian friends of ours to their дача (dacha) which is their home out in the country. It is common for Russians who live in the city to have a place in the country where they may spend their summer and sometimes part of the winter. Theirs is about an hour outside of Moscow, away from the hustle and bustle of everything. It was really quiet and just so nice to have a mini vacation for a couple of days.
This is also very common in Russia, to have a баня (banya) which can be compared to a sauna. Inside their banya they have three different rooms. The first one is the room to undress and relax between going into the really hot room. But the room next to the first room is a little shower room. Next to that room is the hot room. And I mean hot! Our friend likes his banya really hot. He has a thermometer in there to keep track of the temperature and it was between 80 and 90 degrees Celsius which is about 176-194 degrees F. But the whole point of the banya is to sweat.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia … “The high temperature in the banya has many health benefits. Excessive heat stimulates sweating, thus removing unwanted materials from the blood and improving the work of the kidneys. Sweating also releases excess water and salt from the body and opens the skin pores, cleaning it and making it softer and fresher. The process helps rid the muscles of excess lactic acid. Dilated blood vessels increase the flow of oxygen to muscles, reduces swelling and aids in the repair of tears. Steam bathing also stimulates protein circulation, improving digestibility of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and mineral elements. Because harmful bacteria and viruses can only survive within a narrow temperature range, the use of banya to create an “artificial fever” may aid the body in protecting against them. Finally, endorphins are released due to the increase in cardiovascular activity.”
We are only in the hot room about 10-15 minutes then go out into the main room to cool off and drink some tea. After a bit we go back in for another 10-15 minutes, this time you lay down and the other person, or you can do it yourself, “beats” you with birch leaves and twigs to open pores and improve circulation. After that you run outside quickly and cover yourself with snow to cool down quickly. After that you go back into the hot room, this time you repeat the the birch twig “beating” and run back out into the snow. And then you go back into the hot room once more and sit for about 10-15 minutes and that’s about it. After you finish, you can take a shower to rid yourself of any birch leaves that are still stuck to your body.
Going to banya is really common here in Russia. It’s just something everyone does and considered very good for your health.
It was so nice being out in the country. There were some nice rolling hills that reminded us of PA. It was so so pretty, especially with all the snow. We were very thankful to Sasha, Lena and Andrei for inviting us.