"A Russian banya?" I replied incredulously. "Like, where you sit in a sauna and then jump into an icy pool and then they whack you with reeds?"
"Exactly," he said, and we both had a good laugh, and that was the end of it.
Well, imagine my surprise when I was going through a coupon mailer a few weeks later, and I spotted a 50% off coupon for the very banya that Ryan had seen near our house.
I couldn't resist.
Ryan knew that I had a surprise belated-Valentines outing planned for his day off of work, and on Monday, he woke up to this:
|"Open me to find out what you're doing on your special date."|
|Each doll had part of the message:|
"We are going to a Russian crepe cafe and the banya!"
That evening, we left Noah Bug with my dad, and Ryan and I made our way to the infamous banya.
Now, I know what you're all thinking--because it's the first thing that I thought when I heard the word "banya." Will I have to be naked?? Just typing that word makes my cheeks red. Before I made the appointments, I wanted to make sure that no one would see me in the nude, but I didn't know how to ask the question, and I felt too stupid to actually utter it over the phone, so I sent the manager an email and asked, "What would I be wearing during an appointment?" Hahaha...prudish American! She responded that Russians do not wear anything while at the banya, but that I was welcome to wear a swimsuit (problem is, I only have one-piece suits with shorts). She also said that, "should you choose to be nude," the facility is completely private--only my husband would be anywhere near me during the appointment--and any time the "sauna therapist" came into the room to heat the stones or to do the "oak leaf treatment" (AKA whack us with reeds) we could cover up with the towels that are plentifully available for such use.
I know this is going to shock a lot of you, but Ryan has seen me in the nude before, so I decided I could probably handle this little adventure and decided to live on the wild side and give it a try.
Here we are, fully clothed and headed out for our date, wearing Ryan's stylish уша́нка hats (yes I just used a Russian word--thank you Wikipedia!):
|Also wearing my Russian matryoshka doll apron. Didn't wear that out of the house.|
Despite its location in a tacky strip mall, the banya itself was actually extremely nice inside--so surprising. It was super classy and relaxing. We were greeted at the desk by a beautiful and exotic Russian woman who looked like she should be in a spy movie, and then we met our "sauna therapist" Vladimir who had the thickest accent I've ever heard. He explained how the evening would go, but I couldn't understand a word that he said.
He showed us to our changing room, where Ryan put on another stylish hat that was waiting for him:
|Translation: 100% Man. |
Then, as Vladimir put it, it was "plunge time."
Outside of our sauna, there was a totally private little pool--about 8 feet x 8 feet x 8 feet--full of ice cold water. It took me a few moments to get my courage, but then I dropped my towel and cannon balled in.
Ryan and I couldn't stop laughing.
Basically, this process repeated several times. We baked, then we plunged, then our legs and backs and arms were whacked with a bunch of oak leaf branches, then we were slathered in a honey mixture, and we baked some more...
it was super funny...and super fun...a little bit refreshing...a little bit bizarre. Definitely worth trying once in my lifetime.
And the best part? I got through the entire experience without anyone seeing me in the nude who had not seen that sight before.