$30 an hour to get beaten with sticks. Not long ago the "Fark Boys" and some friends from Pravda.ru were able to experience a tradition that dates back over one thousand years. It's called "banya" in Russian. It's the Russian bath/sauna and it is considered necessary for maintaining good health not only in Russia, but also in Scandinavia. There's a definite ritual involved which we knew little about except that the sauna was hot and one goes there to sweat. We were right about the heat and sweat, but it involves much more; lots of beer, shrimp and naked men being beaten with sticks.
Once the sauna has been prepared and is hot enough to steam a lobster, you lie on a bench naked with your face buried in some sort of herb while a male employee slaps your entire body from head to toe with branches of this same herb. He massages you and makes it feel as if you are literally cooking inside of that cedar crock pot. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, he splashes you with cold water and the process continues. You are told to turn over and a new pile of herbs is placed over your face while the front of your body is spanked with these branches. The secret herbs do help you breath in the hot air of the sauna. They will also remain a secret because there doesn't seem to be an English translation as to what they are.
After your spanking is complete, you must immediately jump into a pool of ice cold water and swim around in it for a while. As you do this the branchmaster asks if your heart is alright. That didn't seem kosher to us, but what the hell, we felt all right.
Now the fun begins. Once you're out of the artic kiddy pool, you are treated to hot tea with honey. The honey must be eaten separately and cannot be mixed with the tea in the cup. Don't ask. Then you're invited to drink as much beer as you can hold. After every Russian you are with asks how you liked the banya, platters of shrimp arrive. You once again eat and drink until it's time for another trip to the banya.
After four such trips we decided to stick with the beer and shrimp for the rest of the night. As we were leaving one of the guys accompanying us said the cost was $30 an hour, not including food and beer. We were there for three hours and went through quite a bit of the latter. But as has been the case with everything else, the boss picked up the tab and we went on our way.
Poka until next time.
David Misselt PRAVDA.Ru
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