Banya (an outdoor sauna with a twist)

A banya uses steam and operates best at 95-100C with a humidity level of 80%. In comparison, a Finnish sauna runs at low humidity levels and is referred to as a “dry sauna”. Whereas, the Turkish sauna operates at 50-55C and 100% humidity and is known as a “wet sauna”.

According to the Ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus in the 5th century BC, the banya appeared in different cultures at about the same time. Interesting the word banya is Greek in origin. It means “cleansing of a body with the help of steam.” Some linguists believe the word originated from the Latin balneum — “something that makes pain and sadness go away.” 

Multiple stories retell the origin of the banya in Russia. The first recorded mention of it dates back to 1113. The banya was built for personal hygiene and was also a symbol of wealth. Peter the Great was a fan of the Russian banya and when he founded St. Petersburg in 1703, he allowed everyone to build a banya without having to pay taxes on them. In 1733, authorities gave a special order to build “a healing banya” and warned the owners to keep prices low to make it available to as many people as possible. Later, Slavic settlers to Canada would clear enough land to build a banya. Then, they would live in it, bake bread, give birth, etc. until their regular home was built. Today, all that is needed to enjoy the two-millennium old tradition is a venik (dried leaves bundled together), shapka (woolen hat), bathrobe and the desire to try something new.

NOC’s finely-crafted banya is woodstove-heated with triple the normal amount of granite cobbles for steam generation. Experience the tradition and get all the benefits here in Quinte West without needing to board a plane!

Still confused about the banya? Please review the following Youtube videos for more information.

 

The Process

When you arrive, the banya’s steam room (parnaya) will be operating at ~ 95C. You are expected to add firewood to maintain this optimal temperature. There is a guard around the woodstove, but be careful, it could be hot. The 10L watertank attached to it acts as a heatsink and moderates the internal temperature of the parnaya. It also provides ample hot water for showering.

Put on a shapka or toque before entering the parnaya. It will help you keep your head cool ! Put the hand towel on the bench or stool for sanitary reasons and to protect yourself from the hot cedar planks. Remember, the room can be quite hot, so focus on controlling your breathing and just relax! Use the lights (or not) and timer provided. NEVER leave these in the parnaya, as they will melt. Damaged lanterns or the timer are subject to full reimbursement.  

The ideal heating cycle is 5-7 minutes. Never exceed 10 minutes. When going outside cool yourself by whatever means you wish depending on the season. Brave souls pour a pail of cold water over their heads. Others roll in the snow. Cooling cycles mirror heating cycles in length or can be lengthened to improve your recovery from the heat . Repeat the hot-cold cycles two more times. Then, enjoy a 20-30 minute break to replenish your fluids. Your host will provide you with jams, honey and tea as per tradition.

Afterwards, your group will be provided with a venik to be used during the next 3-4 heating cycles. The host will demonstrate how to use. Follow closely to unlock the secret of the banya. Don’t tell anyone!

After the final cooling cycle, enter the “Dosh” (bathing room) to wash yourself . Take half a pail of cold water from the wine barrel and mix it with the hot water from the woodstove tank. Stir with the spatula. Lather up and rinse in sailor-style. Shampoo, conditioner, soaps and towels are always provided.

Benefits

  • boosts the immune system
  • detoxifies the body of salts and toxins
  • increases blood circulation
  • promotes exfoliation and improves the health of the skin (i.e., ideal for teenagers)
  • aids in Rheumatism, joint pain and relaxes sore or overworked muscles
  • combats depression
  • guarantees a good night’s rest

BANYA PACKAGES

THE BASIC

($99/person + HST)

Includes use of banya (3-4 hours), towels. shampoo, bodywash and one venik per group.

Access to all forest trails.

Tea, jams and honey are provided. Allow 20-30 minutes for the tea break.

Afterwards, you can experience all venik benefits for further heat cycles.

THE MEAL PLAN

($130/person + HST)

“The Basic” + traditional Slavic meal and an optional shot of vodka before eating. Meat is marinated 24 in advance. Seasonal vegetables are from the garden. Plates, utensils, ets., are all supplied.

First-timers will be shown how to, but regulars can cook the meat to their own desires.

Give yourself 4-5 hours to experience.

THE ULTIMATE

($145/person + HST)

“The Meal Plan” + tennis court.

Most will use the court beforehand, so a shower can be had after using the banya.

Private tennis lessons can be arranged.

A Playmate ball machine (with remote) is available for 15$/hour.

Allow yourself 5-6 hours.

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