Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A road trip to Central Russia and authentic Russian banya experiences

I could not have asked for a more perfect holiday, driving around the Golden Circle of Russia where we saw birch tree forests and small wooden houses with delicate paintings and lattice work, until we reached the landmark towns in Russia, full of history and architectural beauty overshadowed by colorful Russian Orthodox churches and massive Kremlin fortresses.

A stay in a farm in Yaroslavl, Russia


After exploring the thousand-year-old town of Yaroslavl, right by the mighty Volga River, we drove in search of a farm where I’d booked a simple log cottage for a night. I’m not really into spartan lodgings, but these were just about the best accommodations in Yaroslavl we could find.

Our 60-square meter wooden cottage costs $60 along with a buffet breakfast and afternoon tea. In cities like Tokyo or Paris, this is the equivalent of a modest lunch for two; so you can understand my initial trepidation at having nowhere else to lay my head down on unless I preferred a bed at a nearby monastery in the town of Rostov or a small room with a shared bathroom in a private guesthouse.

A stay in a farm in Rostov

Well, this farm stay in Rostov Russia provided me with a new perspective. We also stayed at exclusive resorts favored by Moscow’s elite on this particular trip, you see, in mind blowing contrast to this farm; interestingly, it is this little place with chickens and goats that made me happiest.

A stay in a farm in Rostov


I loved this experience of ordinary Russian life. We walked in quiet fields and paddocks of no particular beauty, and then we had homemade cheese and fried bread with fresh herbal tea picked from the garden on our porch

A stay in a farm in Rostov

In the evening, we sat outdoors very happily with Russian vodka and a tray of hearty appetizers including brown bread, pickles, sour cabbage, dried meats, and pâté. Even sleeping on rough cotton on a plumped up mattress on a hard bed was not as dreary as I expected.

Russian appetizers to eat with vodka


The next day, we rented the farm’s sauna cottage for my first authentic experience of a Russian banya. The farmer had already fired up the sauna with logs when we walked over, and so the place was ours. 

Inside was a table with fresh tea and beyond this was the famous Russian sauna clocking in heat at 120 degrees. 

We were to sit in this sauna for several minutes with felt caps to protect our heads; then we were to get out and quickly stand under an improvised shower that was really a wooden bucket filled with freezing water, with a string attached to it. You get the picture.

Extreme heat, extreme cold. And then back again for more. Afterwards, I felt ever so fine in Russia, living a #Travelife.

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