I consider it a good weekend if I do at least one thing I've never done before. Today, that was visiting Banya 5
, a Russian "urban spa" in the developing South Lake Union area. I've visited Japanese and Korean bathhouses, and now having been to a Russian spa I'm glad to find more similarities than differences. They're all based on hydrotherapy - a wonderful experience of immersing yourself in different types of water of varying degrees in temperature, exposing your body to the elements for rejuvenation and a bit of adrenaline from the extreme temperatures. Banya has three pools - hot, really fucking cold, and tepid salt water. There is a (very hot) dry sauna and a eucalyptus steam room. Banya is co-ed and bathing suits are required, which isn't as enjoyable for me but means there is more conversation among guests and less of the shock of hanging out with people naked. At 11AM on a Sunday morning most visitors were Russian and obviously die-hard spa guests.
I was given the advice of enjoying the pools as following: dry sauna until I couldn't stand the heat, quick plunge in the cold water, then a soak in the tepid salt water. Every time I encounter a cold water plunge I think of a million things I'd rather do instead, but I took the advice and didn't regret it.
I got a salt scrub and Elisa did the deep tissue massage - both of which were excellent and I'm pleased with the softness of my skin. Despite what I consider to be kind of a pretentious looking entrance, it is very laid back and relaxing environment. There's also a Vodka bar next door that we'll have to try on our next (evening) trip.
If you're looking for a good way to get a break from the cold, gray Seattle winter, I highly recommend Banya!