The Land of Hot Springs and Banyas… Russia

My first experience of natural hot springs was way back when I visited Budapest in June 2014, the starting point of my on-off gypsy lifestyle. I say way back, but really only two years has passed… and yet so much has changed.

Still gunna go to a hot spring if there’s one nearby though.

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Much to the disgust of many of my students, I never made it to the springs during our snowy winter. Sure, floating around in a gigantic shared bath would have been pretty badass if the air temperature was a nipple teasing -25C. But my winter was packed with all sorts of events, so I didn’t reach Verkniy Bor until the early days of spring.

The water temperature at the natural springs can reach highs of 50C and the water is kept clean with a special system, affording you the benefits of natural water without catching Dysentery.

Despite my late arrival to one of the top things I wanted to try, I still had a good time. It wasn’t grossly expensive to visit (around £12 for as long as you can stand the heat) but I remember feeling a little duped because it was expensive in comparison to everything else you can do in Tyumen. ALTHOUGH, I would like to add that my skin literally felt like silk the next day.

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Thankfully, I did visit a traditional Russian banya during the winter. By winter, I mean the snow was easily up to my knees. We gathered some supplies (various smoked foods and beer) and headed to a friend’s country house. Here I got moderately tipsy, moderately naked and moderately punished with birch leaves.

It sounds horrendous to be smacked about with the branches of a tree but it was one of those times where pain doesn’t just mean pain and instead equals amazing skin and a good nights sleep.

After being beaten with half a tree, by a half naked man singing Russian folk songs, I ran my little Russian hat outside and jumped in the snow. Squealing ensued… but this was tradition (and it felt amazing, really).

Russia is pretty bitter in the winter, so banyas, saunas and springs are more or less a necessity. Some areas, even whole towns (I’m looking at you Khuzir) don’t have running hot water and the standard method of bodily cleaning comes in the form of a wash in the banya – with buckets. Which is just plain difficult after so many years of showers.

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Having experienced the miracle qualities of Tyumen spring water, I am tempted to visit one of the other outdoor baths. Follow me on instagram for further spa themed pictures.

 

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