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Travel for mind, body and spirit: Skin Sweating in Russia

  • @SimonCalder
There is a bath house in Novosibirsk that will also open your pores. Here, the best bit is when the beating stops. Not just because your skin is given a respite from being flayed with Siberian birch (see the man pictured right), but because the cessation signals the race to the front door of the banya, from where you plunge into a vast pillow of fresh snow, rolling around in the drift, urgently trying to extend the rush. The ambient temperature 10 seconds ago in the sauna was about 50C; outside, the winter is frozen, stuck at -30C. How can your body cope with the sudden change? Quite easily, thanks to the sense-numbing shots of vodka provided by the burly bath attendant prior to the birch-battering. It starts with a tickle, as he brushes the leaves against your bare soles, then he moves up to your calves, thighs and back, circulating that vodka ever-faster through your veins.

Simon Calder

Novosibirsk is on the Trans-Siberian railway line or you can fly Siberia Airways from Moscow.