The Banya

The Banya

When I first envision a banya, it looks something like this. Humble. Weathered. Even ramshackle. (see extensive photo gallery – and banya-related music!)

 

Veniki

Veniki

  Venik is a word that doesn’t translate well into English. A venik (VYE-nik) is a broom, or whisk broom. It also is a bundle of …

 

The Steam-maker

The Steam-maker

“In the banya all are equal.” “In the banya there are no generals.” “In the banya there are no epaulets.” These proverbs about the Russian steam bath – …

 

The Field Banya

The Field Banya

A friend once recounted for me a rafting trip he took one summer, with friends, among the Ural Mountains. One day, after making camp on …

 

The Black Banya

The Black Banya

More Russians have seen the yeti than have steamed in a black banya. Black banyas are nearly extinct. They just barely exist. They are the truest …

 

Gulag Banyas

Gulag Banyas

“The banya is a negative event, a burden in the convict’s life. The dream of getting clean in the banya is an impossible dream,” writes …

 

Banya Folklore

Banya Folklore

For centuries Russian folklore has spoken of the bathhouse possessing a spirit. More to the point, the bathhouse is possessed by a spirit. For a …

 

Mobile Banyas

Mobile Banyas

Banyas on wheels. Banyas on pontoon boats. Really.

 

Between Steams

Between Steams

In my chosen bathhouse in Moscow we would rest between steams, our hair wet, our skin flushed, our backs slumped against benches, our chests rising …

 

Veniki Gathering

Veniki Gathering

Every spring, during the “green holy days” that follow the Trinity, the Russian Orthodox holiday marking the appearance of Jesus to the Apostles after his …