The Russians love sauna the same way Japanese love onsen (bathing). The sauna in Russia is also known as “Steam Bath” due to its high humidity. In urban settings, there are also rooms just big enough where “sauna is for one person”. Let’s look at the features of the Russian style sauna and the Russian sauna landmark, the Sanduny Bath House.
Japanese are also surprised by the Russian style sauna
For Russians, sauna is almost like the Japanese bath. Russians are very fond of sauna so much so that many install private sauna rooms in their houses that are as large as a lavatory.
The time spent in the sauna can be rather long, with the typical staying time ranging between three to four hours. The reason for this is due to the uniqueness of the Russian bathing style. You can easily enter back and forth the steam room while taking meals and having tea in between.
Russians follow what is known as the “naked bonding”, which is similar to the concept of public bath in Japan. So on top of having a sauna, one can talk to their colleagues, drink tea and play games in between sessions. There are darts, billiards, and other recreational activities available to enjoy at the break areas.
There are three essential items in a typical Russian sauna – “felt hat”, “rug” and “birch leaves”. The Russian way is to fill up the place with steam from water poured on top of a very hot stone. This leads to a very high humidity that is even higher than the Finnish sauna. The temperature is normally set between 90 to 100℃.
Because of a high humidity, the temperature gets even hotter. This is where the felt hat comes useful. Without the felt hat, your head is unprotected from the intense heat and your hair can dry out fast. Rugs act like small cushions and are used for sitting on the hot benches while the birch leaves are used to promote blood circulation. It is Russian custom to hit the body with these dried leaves. At the Sanduny Bath House, there are even “knockers” who can help patrons by the hitting and they are as good as massages.
Similar to Japan baths, Russians too take a cold bath after sauna. However in Russia, they take a cold shower or jump into a cold pool or snow instead, if it is during winter.
What is the sacred place of “Sanduny”?
In 1808, Mr. Sanduny built the sauna house as a private club for the rich aristocrats then. This old heritage bathhouse has since taken the number one position that has remained intact for more than 200 years. There are three saunas for men and two for women as well as eight Jacuzzis and private rooms with pool in the huge complex.
Although it is opened for private members, you can get access to the “Luxury Sauna” for about 5600 yen (USD 50.91). There are also towels and other essentials for rent for about 400 yen (USD 3.64). Many patrons also buy the sauna felt hat with the popular Sanduny logo for about 600 yen (USD 5.45) for memories.
Sanduny was built during the peak of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Its interiors are tastefully furnished and visually stunning to fascinated visitors.
Bonds between friends and family deepen in the sauna
The Russian style sauna has a deeply relaxing effect that is obtained by making the bather perspire intensely as well as for detoxification. Furthermore the high humidity is good for the throat and is believed to cure ailments like cold. In addition, its unique style and recreational spaces for bonding is splendid. You will have a good time with friends and family.
Bonding in the nude is known to the Japanese, but that was quite a long time ago. This comes as a surprise that this is still practiced in Russia on a daily basis. So the next time you visit Russia, do not forget to go to the sauna for a jolly good experience.