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 Cosmos exhibit at Artplay is superb. I love what this place does with their exhibits, in particular the multimedia room, which projects images 360 around the room in a way that transports guests to the time and place of the art. In this case, we saw stunning views of space, mixed with some homages to Russian astronauts. I know Russia is very proud of Gagarin and being the first to send a man into space. The cosmos exhibit weaves together this sense of nationalism with local art in "Feeling of space"
Check it out before it ends on February 26th.
ул. Нижняя Сыромятническая, д.10
Metro Tverskaya/ Pushkinskaya
Sytinskiy tup., 3, Moskva, 123104
I've wanted to check out Draw&Go classes for ages! Finally, my friends and I made it happen. We signed up for a 3 hour "fashion" class. Honestly, I've never been good at art or drawing. I'd like to say that it's because my left-handedness always smudged the picture, but I know plenty of talented left-handed artists.
As it turns out, I need not have worried about my lack of talent. The teachers there guided us every step of the process, giving advice where needed and physically correcting errors where called for. This was also my first experience ever using watercolors, a reasonably forgiving medium. My friend bought a promotion for 50 classes.... I look forward to joining her again soon.
Happy New Year! It's a magical time in Moscow. Half the city leaves. Immigrants/expats go home to spend time with family, Russians go back to birth cities to see family, and Muscovites leave for holiday or dacha with family. On the whole, it's a family type of holiday here in Russia. Those who do stay behind have off from school and work, so the museums and parks are flooded with children and families.
Some foreign friends and I decided to take a walk around VDNKh park the other day. I positively giddy with the buzz of electricity, the squealing ice skaters and tiny Christmas market set up nearby. That's when I noticed my friend looking very uneasy. "What's wrong?" I asked, concerned. "Oh, it's nothing. It's just really dreary weather, combined with the ominous looming soviet architecture and falsely westernized market and English Christmas music is a lot to take in at once." When I stopped to look around, he was exactly right. Black thunderclouds were rolling in. The tiny Christmas stands blaring English Christmas music were cast in shadows by the surrounding enormous museums, which really were quite daunting. After living in Moscow for two years, I have completely adjusted my sense of what is "cheery" versus what is "gloomy." My friend, who only moved to Moscow a few months ago, was horribly homesick for Winter Wonderland back in London. Funny how two people can have two very opposing reactions to the same experience. I wondered how the "me" from a year ago would have felt.
These musings were abruptly cast aside when, back in the metro, we spotted the completely decked out "New Years" train. Christmas lights and decorations line the entirety of the outside and inside of the cars. Dressed up Snowman and Reindeer characters were handing out lollipops to kids. I've never seen so many smiles on a Russian metro. People were yelling out "Happy New Year" to each other and giggling as the Reindeers passed by. "If this isn't holiday cheer, I don't know what is," I thought.
I've been wanting to try a pottery class for a while now and finally made it happen. Appointment booking in hand, my friend and I head off in search of our masterclass. It was like a scavenger hunt! We had to go to a garden, buy tickets to the "orangery" (greenhouse), go through the garden into the second greenhouse and then look for the studio within. A very nice lady helped me through the process on the phone. In Moscow, sometimes working for your "supper" makes it all the more tasty. We were patting ourselves on the back and feeling very satisfied before the "potting" even began.
For those who want to book a class and follow the exact same instructions, you can go to this website. An hour class is 1400 rubles. BEWARE: It will cost extra if you want them to actually glaze your treasures and put them in the kiln.
Weather Forecast Predicts Lows of -23 (C) Next Week in Moscow
I'm not prepared for this! It's only November and there have been countless inches of snowfall already. Last year it was still in the 20's (C) around this time.
Now the forecast is calling for an arctic frost to blow over Moscow, causing temperatures to drop as low as -17 to -23 (C) this week.
Aeroflot had to cancel or delay over 100 flights this week because of the inclement frosty weather. I'm assuming they weren't prepared for all of this mess, either.
The worst part of all of this? The rumors that this will be the coldest Russian winter of the last 100 years. Last year was the coldest winter I've ever experienced in my life, and it was apparently milder than usual. Now let's follow that up with the coldest season of the last century.
I need to buy a bigger coat, stock up on hot chocolate, and cancel all of my upcoming appointments for the next 3 months ASAP. Let's do this!
Following my previous post, I was talking with my British friend about his experiences in Russia. These made us laugh, hopefully you will too.
How I Drink VS How Russian Men Drink
How I Pick Up Girls VS Russian Men Pick Up Girls
"My approach is to stumble through and apologize profusely. A Russian man will blindside you with his assertiveness."
How I Drive VS How Muscovites Drive
How I Cook VS How Russian Men Cook
Me Asking for Forgiveness VS Russian Men Asking for Foregiveness
There are lots of funny differences between cultures, but that's not to say there aren't more similarities. Asking a woman for forgiveness is one of those universal facts of life.
Me Getting Ready for a Night Out VS Russian Ladies
How I Grocery Shop VS How Russian Women Shop
How I Look at Home VS How Russian Girls Look at Home
When I do my Brows VS Russian Gals
How I Face Moscow Winter VS How Russians Face Winter
On Friday, October 7th I visited the Moscow Museums of Oriental Art. You can call and make reservations to have private ceremonies with your very own tea Shaman. Okay, he wasn't really called a tea Shaman, but he took me on a spiritual tea journey I will never forget. For 90 minutes, our tea guide introduced our small group of 4 to the wonders of Chinese tea ceremony. While we sipped cup after cup of delicious teas, he explained the history and characteristics of each blend we sampled. I learned how to really smell tea, and the beauty that exists in the art of tea ceremony. It was interesting for me to compare Chinese and Japanese tea ceremony. The most striking difference was that we didn't apologize to our neighbors for receiving or drinking tea before each other. Japanese ceremonies love to add honorifics and apologies to anything formal.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. I recommend taking a walk around the museum afterwards if you haven't yet been. There are lots of interesting exhibits and artifacts from different areas of the east: Pakistan, India, China, Korea, Japan, and more.
The writer of Not Home Syndrome can be seen wandering around Moscow, searching for pour-over coffee