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Experiencing a Banya in Ukraine

Banya

Experiencing a Banya in Ukraine

I arrived into Kyiv after a long bus journey from Warsaw which involved multiple toilet and cigarette breaks on the way. Oh and also being kicked awake by Polish or Ukrainian border police. I’m not sure which. It was an absolutely filthy afternoon with the rain just pouring down from all sides. I had no money on me and had to find my way to where I was staying. I eventually made it to an ATM (bankomat) and to where I was staying for a well needed washup. Rather than staying in, I met a friend from Russia that was also visiting Kyiv and went to a banya. If you don’t know what a banya is, it is a small sauna style room or building. I was advised that I will probably feel like I’m about to die at some point. They were correct…..

 

The Process

The first stage was to get completely naked and staying in the banja room for 10 minutes to warm up. After that I was given a massage with a brush made from birch or oak leaves. Just when I had cooled down, the heating was turned up again and the process was repeated a few times. Then it was time for a warm massage using the leaf brushes with the heating turned up again.

At the point where it felt my back was on fire, it was time to stop and jump into an ice bath and to fully dunk myself under the water at least three times. This done the trick and I was instantly cold, so you can guess what came next. Back to the banja for more heat. This time I was washed clean with warm soapy water and more of the warm massage using the brushes. It was at this point that my head was boiling hot. I was relieved and slightly worried when an ice cold balaclava was put over my head. The same gentleman then poured (threw) a bucket of cold water over me while whistling and singing ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. Refreshing!

It was time to get very hot with the temperature increased again and again and more hot massage until I could take no more. After 10 minutes it was time for the ice bath again but this time I had to stand in it ‘until I feel pain’. After 30 seconds it didn’t feel too bad but after 2 to 3 minutes I started to get dizzy. ‘2 more minutes’ the guy said. I began to lose the feeling in my legs and my arms started to tingle. I could still see but everything was moving fast and all a blur.

After the 2 minutes it was time to get out but not before I was moved (shaken) from side to side several times and was fully dunked again by the helpful gentleman. I have never felt cold like it before and was stumbling a little as I climbed out. I couldn’t feel my feet but the instant heat of the banya room felt fantastic. The heating was turned up and I was given a massage using huge ice cubes and with green tea poured over me. Then, after the heat was turned up again, I was massaged with salt and what smelled like orange oil. I was then washed (with lukewarm water) and able to dry off before having a more traditional style massage.

Needless to say I slept like a baby that night! If you are ever in Ukraine I highly recommend it. Possibly the best £40 I’ve ever spent

 

Go Yourself

If you’re in Kyiv and you want to go the same place, you can find information on their website. You might need to use a translator website though. Good luck!

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Alex
    September 22, 2016 at 03:19

    I had a chance to try the banya experience in Russia – certainly a thing to remember…:)!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:55

      I couldn’t agree more. I will try it again for sure.

  • Reply
    Helena
    September 20, 2016 at 23:42

    Oh wow – intense! I have done something similar for athletes (I am not an atheists, I was just testing the facilities), where you jump in a plunge pool (ice bath basically) and then a sauna. It’s not my thing but I wouldn’t mind having the massages in between!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:55

      Yeah it is pretty similar and I dozed off during the massage 🙂

  • Reply
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren
    September 20, 2016 at 00:46

    Not sure if I could do this – I have anxiety just from reading this, ha! Thanks for sharing though. Sounds like a very interesting and memorable experience!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:56

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply
    Elisa
    September 19, 2016 at 23:22

    Oooh, I had never heard about this! Cool to have some explorers like you to tell us 🙂 Thanks for sharing

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:56

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply
    Marie
    September 19, 2016 at 19:52

    I’ve never heard of this before either! I’m not sure I would enjoy it – I hate both the heat and the cold! 😉 Haha, but I would totally be down to try it out! Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Fit Two Travel
    September 19, 2016 at 18:42

    Wow this sounds really interesting! Sounds like an experience to try while there!

  • Reply
    Nathan
    September 19, 2016 at 14:48

    I was recently in Ukraine but I didn’t try a banya. It looks really interesting- I hate that I missed it. Next time for sure! Did you make it to Lviv at all? That was by far my favorite city in Ukraine.

    http://www.foodieflashpacker.com

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:58

      Yes I did go to Lviv, which I also enjoyed. Although having come from an overnight train from Kharkiv in the east with no tourists to lots of them in Lviv, it was certainly a change in scenery.

  • Reply
    Ferna
    September 19, 2016 at 13:52

    wow. This is my first time to hear about Banya.. and never heard this one before. Thanks for sharing, and you had a good-interesting experience.. loved it!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:56

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply
    Tara
    September 18, 2016 at 19:27

    Sounds like an interesting experience, although I didn’t get the sense that you enjoyed it at first, and I’m not sure I would either. Still, I’d at least give it a go and form my own opinions. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Reply
    Carmen's Luxury Travel
    September 18, 2016 at 08:06

    Wow…what an experience! I would definitely try this at least once. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      October 5, 2016 at 13:57

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    September 18, 2016 at 02:41

    How unusual,, not familiar with a Banya. I’m not sure I would be that brave but I never say never!

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    September 18, 2016 at 01:36

    I had never heard of a Banya before. No wonder you slept like a baby after being hot and cold and hot and cold. It sounds very good for you, but I’m not sure I could make it through all that. Kudos to you!

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