Saturday, April 5, 2014


Going to the banya with a bunch of Russian villagers is an experience. It deserves a blog post.

(Sorry ladies, no pictures :) )

So it wasn't a true Russian banya, since we didn't have any birch branches with which to beat each others' backs, but some Russian dude loaded a furnace fool of wood and 9 of us packed into a room made for three people and sweated it out.

These Russian athletes consider the banya a critical part of their training. The way that we used ice baths at William and Mary, they use a brutal 2 hour steam session. Ice baths supposedly help your body recover - a banya supposedly cleanses your body of toxins via sweat. What is it with Russians needing to be warm all the time!!??

So, John Muller, what's worse, 12 minutes in an ice bath 3-6 times a week, or a 2 hour sentence inside of an oven once a week?

In any case, we basically took turns sitting in the banya (I couldn't take more than 5 minutes at a time). The twins kept throwing more water on the coals (I swear it was hotter every time I walked in there). We all turned into pruney sweat monsters, and in the intervals we would try to cool off. I would pour cold water all over my body, or sit in the cold bath in the "pre-banya room," or stand with the door open to the cool air of the free world in the foyer.

I felt like a bit of a woos, but damn, it was hot! I just couldn't keep my mouth shut. I said it was too hot and no need to put more water on the coals, but the Russians just kept saying "Нормально, нормально" (Normal, normal), which they literally say about everything. They say normal for boring things, they say normal for exciting things, they say normal for impressive things, they say normal for really good things, just their inflection and intonation changes slightly. But a Banya where it hurts to breathe is "normal."

So is washing yourself out of a bucket, apparently. I guess I'm a bit spoiled, since I expected a shower out of this banya. As it turned out there were just a couple of buckets in the pre-banya room and we brought some soap and you just "нормально" wash yourself.

So I guess if you go to the banya with Russians you better do as the Russians do, so you know I stripped down and washed myself in one of those little wash basins with one of the twins. It's basically just a process of splashing yourself repeatedly. Not quite as good as a shower, but it works well enough. That said, I do miss America a little bit today.

I have to say though, afterwards I felt pretty darn refreshed. The banya left me in this really exhuasted, relaxed state. It's 9:30 now and I'm considering going to sleep. Had a nice long run today, a nice nap, a nice breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a survivable banya experience. It was a nice day.

Tomorrow, we are going to the Sunday market (bazar), and then hopefully I can find a mountain close enough and small enough to climb, but they don't exactly have Colorado style trail systems here (oh, Boulder, I need to go come back someday!)

5 more days in Kyrgyzstan, and then I have to find a way home. Interesting, I wrote that without thinking about it. Novosibirsk has become home, in a way. But my next thought was, damnit, I have to go back to Novosibirsk. I've about had enough of that place - I'm ready to travel and move on.

1 comment:

  1. Better be going BD in that Banya. But the nod may go to the ice bath although both are better than Vincent but none are as effective as the laser.