- Title: RUSSIA: Traditional Russian ice steam bath becomes a tourist "hot spot"
- Date: 2nd March 2009
- Summary: LAKE BAIKAL, IRKUTSK, RUSSIA (FEBRUARY 25, 2009) (REUTERS) MEN INSIDE STEAM ROOM MAN BEATING HIMSELF WITH BIRC H TWIGS MAN POURING HOT WATER ON HOT STONES ON STOVE VARIOUS OF MAN WALKING OUT OF STEAM ROOM AND JUMPING INTO PLUNGE POOL CUT IN ICE OF LAKE BAIKAL ANOTHER MAN WALKING OUT OF STEAM ROOM, WALKING TOWARDS PLUNGE POOL (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) GENNADY SMALYGIN, ICE BANYA VISITOR, SAYING: "To jump into the ice cold water after steam room and then get out of it make you feel as a newborn man." EXTERIOR OF ICE BANYA SIGN MADE OF ICE CUBES READING 'ICE BANYA'
- Embargoed: 17th March 2009 12:00
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVAAC7HO2NZD6SXKHH8ML13JYRPP
- Story Text: A newly opened Russian ice "banya" or bath has been a warm welcome for tourists to Lake Baikal, in Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberia.
Visitors take a traditional steam bath or sauna at temperatures around 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit). Emerging from the sauna with their skin steaming, visitors then walk a few metres into the ice banya and plunge into the lake itself.
The "ice banya" was built at the end of January on frozen Lake Baikal, using 160 tonnes of its ice.
Gennady Smalygin, is an Ice Banya fan and says the experience is reinvigorating.
"To jump into the ice-cold water after steam room and then get out of it make you feel as a new-born man", he said.
The "ice banya" has a unique design with a half-metre thick ice shell covering a small wooden steam room. To heat it without causing ice to melt is a complicated process which involves using a specially-designed stove, where heat is concentrated in one particular spot.
"Here we have to use much more wood than in the ordinary banya, because the outer shell is made of ice and it takes away a lot of heat,"
said Andrei Pylyukh, who is responsible for heating the steam room.
To keep the ice banya running is a time and work consuming business.
The plunge pool, built of ice cubes few meters away from the steam room, has to be constantly cleaned of ice which covers it quickly when temperature outside is minus 40 Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit).
Banya visitors can also have a drink at a restaurant, but few of them stay there long - it is also made of ice.
Ice banya has quickly become one of the main tourist attractions on Lake Baikal. It is fully booked for the coming months, but not everyone will have a chance to visit it. By mid-March the owners will begin covering it to protect from the sun and in April, it will melt.
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