Everyone who has been to Russia is probably familiar with the word "banya." It can refer to a sauna at your friend's dacha or it can imply a full-on public spa with a Turkish sauna and a dry sauna and so on. Russians also have a custom of hitting each other with dried birch leaves to increase circulation and also give oneself blisters. A real banya boss will wear gloves to prevent said blisters, and a sauna hat to prevent the drying out of your hair.
The other day my girlfriends and I took banya to another level by renting out our own private banya, which included a wet and dry sauna, a pool, bathroom, hangout lounge and karaoke setup. It was amazing! And very hard to find. Like treasure-hunt hard to find. I get that these places can't afford prime real estate, but we had to walk behind a mall, through a security area, and into a mislabelled "cafe" in order to find this place. That's okay because it was really, really worth it. The 7 of us drank mimosas, put on face masks, danced to the music, and, you guessed it, sweated our backsides off in the sauna. Next time we won't forget the birch branches. I suggest taking your friends to the banya at any and every available opportunity!
The writer of Not Home Syndrome can be seen wandering around Moscow, searching for pour-over coffee