Russian banya – Sanduny
Russian banya is kind of sauna with the main difference it has high humidity (steam) inside. But for Russian people banya is not just a place for getting hot session and relaxation, primarily it is one of the oldest national traditions – lifestyle with its own rituals and customs. It could be as public bathhouse or private one located in country home (dacha). The most historical and famous place for taking bath procedures in Moscow is Sanduny (Sandunovskie Bani).
The classic Russian banya is heated with firewood. In the 18-19 centuries often it was not even equipped with a pipe and all the smoke went inside the room, it was called – «black» kindle. Of course elite bathhouses Sanduny from the date of foundation in 1808 was built according to the latest technologies of that time. In contrast to the modern European tradition of visiting sauna in Russia is strictly divided on male and female, even different entrances.
In public bathhouses there is usually a bath attendant (banschik) who monitors the temperature and brews the bath with special herbs infusions, which gives an excellent smell. So the process divides on special sessions of preparation bath room after which everyone comes in absolutely naked with a special hat made of felt on the head and doesn’t come out until it finishes, usually its lasting 7-10 minutes. No less important element of this procedure special bath broom called venik – a bundle of oak or birch leafy branches, during bath session people smack themselves or each other. Just after the steam room people dive into the cold font or pool, preliminarily taking a shower.
During the breaks people drink tea or beer in small quantities seating on the sofa in the lounge area. The bathhouse is usually visited by the company of people for interact on a common level or discuss business matters. Banya is more about communication than taking baths.
Tips & tricks
Take into account that public baths in Russia are strictly divided into male and female, boys goes to the right, girls to the left. Sanduny is not the exception – women’s door separate from men (except private bath rooms). Bath room everyone enters absolutely naked just special hat and sheet to set on, no swimming trunks or swimsuits. In front of the entrance you can buy hat made of felt, sheet and special broom (venik). Take the towel with you, so it will be more hygienic. The broom needs to be soaked in a basin (provided) with cold water right in front of the steam room and just 2 minutes before use put in hot water. When the bathhouse attendant prepares the steam room you cannot go in, you need to wait until he calls everyone, do not miss this moment.
Sanduny Bath has three different classes for male and two for female which differ in their pomposity and price. All of them are good and each of them has its own charm.