Banya - Russian Sauna

A banya is a Russian sauna. Banyas are similar in many aspects to familiar Finnish saunas, but then differ in others. Both types of saunas are heated in the same traditional manner - an oven set up in the corner of the room with stones over coals. Today the two are sometimes distinguished with saunas having dry steam and banyas wet steam. Some Russian banyas may also have dry steam though. A banya can reach temperatures of up to 200 degrees and it is often necessary to wear special felt hats and mittens in a banya to protect the head and hands from the heat.

Russian banyas are usually made up of three rooms. The first room, called the predbannik or pre-bath, is the entrance room. It usually features pegs for hanging clothing as well as benches. The second room is the washing room, which has a tap with water that is heated by the stove in the steam room. There will also usually be a cold water tap or vessel for cool water in order to mix with the hot water to obtain a temperature to wash before entering the final room. The final room is the steam room, which is the actual sauna. The room is lined with benches for people to sit.

The heater for a banya consists of three parts. The fire box is fed from the entrance room. There is a stove with rock chamber with a hole for throwing in water and then a water chamber at the top of the heater. To prevent vapor from getting into the banya the top of the water chamber is usually closed. To create the steam, water is poured onto the heated stones. People entered the steam room once the stove is hot, but before water is poured on the stones.