Bathhouse master Ivan Tkach creates a wonderful atmosphere of relaxation just several miles away from Krasnaya Polyana, where Olympic Games tale place.
Russians feel so strongly about the banya, a ritual of sweating it all out in a steam room and whipping each other with bunches of leafy branches, that even a crucial game between the old rivals can’t stand in the way of this weekend tradition. Bathhouse master Ivan Tkach starts his preparations late in the afternoon, at least three hours before the bathing party arrives. He chops the wood, heats up the stove in one room, builds a fire for the sweat lodge, and ignites the blaze beneath a Japanese hot tub, which swings on chains from wooden poles.
“The most important thing about the banya is to have a good spirit in the body,” Tkach explains. “When people come to the bathhouse, it is not only about warming up the body, but more importantly about relaxing, getting the toxins out of the body, and, psychologically, leaving the worries behind”.
The banya is an institution in Russia. It’s a place where businessmen deals have been struck and romantic comedies have been set. Russians even have a special greeting for each other as they emerge: “Happy light steam!”
Bathhouse worker Alexander Bogatov prepares a hot pot at the bathhouse. Preparations begin late in the afternoon, at least three hours before the bathing party arrives.
Dried herbs sit in the sun outside a steam sauna.
Olga Gharkova enters a aromatherapy room at the British Banya bathhouse, Saturday, February 15, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia