On many of our group tours we provide the chance to get to experience certain aspects of Russian culture that visitors often miss – the Russian Banya (Sauna) and a once top secret underground bunker.
The Banya is firmly entrenched in Russian culture and myth, introduced to Russian society several hundreds of years ago, and even has its own mischievous spirit known as Bannik who has to be kept happy by regular cleaning and heating of the banya.
The magical attributes of the sweat bath were the reason that the critical stages of a Russian's life - birth, adulthood, marriage, and death - were conducted in the banya. The moment a person moved from the known to the unknown, they were vulnerable to evil forces that could enter and consume the Russian soul. With proper ritual, the banya's powers could be summoned to protect them during life's crucial transitions.
The banyas were a place for people to relax and get warm in the cold winters, and an excellent place for women to give birth, and were and still are held by many to be a cure for many ailments, a way to reduce wrinkles and lose weight. When Lenin got into power the Bureau of Health began providing communal banyas in all parts of the country, and produced a book titled: Why Banyas are Necessary Both in the City and in the Country, and How to Build One. In Pskov we take you to a traditional Russian Sauna where you can experience it for yourself, just watch out for the Bannik!
Visitors to Russia can now find out even more about the communist era with the recent public opening of the Tagansky Underground Command Center – previously a top secret symbol of Soviet power. Cleverly hidden beneath an ordinary apartment building, on a busy street in the heart of Moscow, 18 floors below ground level, this mighty 75,000-square-foot facility was constructed covertly in the 1950’s, to protect the select few against a US nuclear attack. The site was in operation throughout the 1970s, with a staff of 2,500, of whom 1,500 could be on duty at any one time. In the event of a nuclear war, it would have been sealed, with enough stored food for three months and systems to purify the air. In 1990’s with the Cold War thawing and the death of communism, this bunker came off the top secret list and is now open to the public on an interactive tour!
Bolt on this optional activity to your holiday and step back in time to the clandestine and tense era of the Cold War…