For many centuries, Russians have been going to banyas to relax and de-stress in the winter. In fact, there’s nothing more quintessentially Russian than a banya in winter! The “banya” (bathhouse) used to be considered a sacred place because the unification of all the elements of nature was observed in it – water, air, fire and earth. Nowadays the tradition of going to the bathhouse more popular than ever with both Russians and tourists. The ritual of the banya involves steaming for long periods in a wooden chamber fitted with a small furnace. Don’t be surprised or start calling for help if you see adult men beating each other with sticks: bathers take turns to beat each other with a “venik” (besom) – a birch switch that stimulates blood circulation.