Ivanovskie Bani (sauna) in Kiev

русский

On the recent visit to my homeland, I spent a few days in Kiev; pretty much the only option for a naturist experience in winter was to go to a sauna. My friend Sergey found a public sauna online that sounded particularly appealing, and we ventured there with two more mates.

Ivanovskie Bani indeed fulfilled our desire for a traditional Russian sauna (banya) experience. It is located literally on the  Dnieper River, in a modified boat. It has a traditional ambience, and already in the locker you can smell “venik”, a special sauna broom, typically made of birch or oak branches, which is used for massaging. After the lockers, there is a room with showers and a massage table, and then a steam room. You can hire a local masseur to do the banya ritual for you, but we just bought “veniki” and did it ourselves. Though one of the fellow visitors thought that our massage technique was too rough and showed a milder, calmer version with softer and slower moves (but it felt like the heat penetrated even deeper).

Regardless of the kind of massage you prefer in the steam room, after absorbing all that heat, you are supposed to cool down, and this is where Ivanovkie Bani truly stand out: you can splash in the waters of the Dnieper River right outside its doors, and if you are not too shocked you can meanwhile enjoy the views of the river banks with such landmarks as Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves) and the Motherland monument.

Well, it could only get more striking in much colder weather, when the river would be frozen, as it happened when we went to a banya in Moscow a couple of years ago.

After repeating the ritual a couple of times, we felt both relaxed and energized. We had some tea before leaving in the cafe (they don’t serve any meals there, but you can bring food with you or order something more exotic, like crayfish, in advance).

Even though the location is central, it’s not easy to get there without a car (and if you call a taxi, it may take a while for them to arrive), but it’s totally worth it, especially if you want a relaxing break from the busy city life without leaving the city!

PS Keep in mind that most banyas are gender-segregated, and in this one the only women day is Wednesday.

Goluboy [Blue] Bay (Crimea)

 Русский

Another picturesque location to enjoy the sea au naturel in Crimea is Blue Bay near Simeiz. It is located under Mount Koshka, which means ‘cat-mountain’ because of how it looks from a certain point.

Coming from the centre of the town, you’ll have to walk by this beautiful alley on Lenina Street, which already has some hints promising clothing-optional leisure in the end.

After this building, Lenina Street becomes Golubaya Street (Blue Street).

Then, watch out for this sign on the left.

Like at Cape Fiolent, there are some politically-charged signs too, with a very different tone, however: this one says “Freedom to gays!”

Simeiz is actually the only known holiday destination that attracts a large proportion of gays from Ukraine and Russia, and by coincidence the name of this bay, Goluboy, means both ‘blue’ and ‘gay’ in Russian. Which meaning you think is of more relevance is up to you to decide 🙂

From the bay itself, you can see Crimean mountains including the highest peak of Ai-Petri.

And this is how it looks from this peak.

There are a lot of different fishes, and the rocks are covered with colorful algae.

The area is relatively green, so you can stay in shade and even camp under trees,

but most people stay on the rocks in the open,

right under this steep cliff.

There are also many rocks that provide more private setting.

And some of them are also popular for cliff diving. I dived from this one, but unfortunately I don’t have any photo evidence.

Maybe next time?

beaches of Cape Fiolent (Crimea)

Русский

With this post I am starting a series of descriptions of Crimean beaches. Right on time if you plan some vacations in Ukraine after the final of the Euro Cup 2012 😉 Crimea is the main tourist destination in Ukraine with rich history and diverse nature, as well as several nudist beaches.

Cape Fiolent near Sevastopol provides some of the best beaches in the area thanks to the beautiful scenery and clear waters. Several years ago it was treated as a protected area, so the number of visitors was limited and one had to arrive in the morning and get tickets in a nearest pension or hotel, but in 2010 it was no longer the case, which I found rather unfortunate, even though it made it easier in terms of reaching the beach.

In any case, prepare to go down by hundreds of stairs, as the beaches are down by the steep cliffs.

If you go to the beach on the western side of Cape Fiolent, aka Tsar beach, you’ll be stunned with the vast views over the Black Sea.

At sunset, the colors are only more dramatic.

The nudist section is behind that big rock that you see in the center of the photo, but it is actually even marked as such (probably by its visitors themselves).

This beach is mostly pebbled, which is not the best option for sunbathing, so there was only more reason to go swimming. Luckily, I had my waterproof camera too, I was surprised to find rich underwater life.

Most of the rocks are covered by green, red and brown algae and moss animals (bryozoans).

And I’ve never seen that many hermit crabs as there.

Of course they were hiding in shells and were not eager to pose before my camera whatsoever.

But I was able to get a comb jelly photographed, also a relatively rare but beautiful sight; while moving, it created shiny multicolor waves at the edges of its body.

If you go to the beach on the eastern side of Cape Fiolent, aka Yashma [jasper] beach, the views are even more picturesque,

with a small monastery on the left.

Probably it was them who put a big cross on the small rocky island right in front of the beach.

Given a conservative stance of both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches (I don’t know to which one the monastery belongs), I hope they don’t mind that part of the beach is by default clothing-optional. Actually, I was so inspired by the view with the cross, I felt like I could walk on water!

OK, I’ll have to tell you my secret, there was a barely submerged rock a few meters away from the shore.

And this is how the beach looks like from that island with the cross.

The unofficial nudist again hides is protected by the rocks and has a sign.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only sign there. I saw also another custom-made sign, or rather obscene homophobic warning (this time not only in Russian but in English as well), which was apparently painted, erased and repainted a few times. Hope it didn’t represent an ongoing ‘battle’ between different beach visitors and was rather a flick by a single individual idiot.

In any case, whenever I was at that spot, it all seemed very peaceful.

Further behind another set of rocks, accessible only by water, there was a place where fresh water was coming down by the rocks covering them with a thin layer. Useful if you decide to camp there, or at least to refresh.

But I wasn’t the only one who leaned against the rocks there.

Even further away from the beach, there are rocks of contrasting colors,

that look especially spectacular from and underwater.

Algae, moss animals and mussels appear highlighted on the white background of chalk rock.

Then I saw two bright animals side by side: a blenny fish, and a big prawn, 

that was actually transparent but had some bright blue, orange and white spots.

This kind of prawn is like the next level of nudist, with most of its body parts being transparent 😀

The blenny fish first appeared somewhat sad but then flashed with its bright colors before swimming away.

That was definitely a memorable swim; I’d love to come again in search for sea life posing on light background of chalk rocks.

Kiev: central nudist beaches with landmark views

Русский

Last summer I rediscovered the capital of my homeland, Ukraine. I’ve spent most of my adult life outside Ukraine, in Moscow, Berlin and now New York, all of which have accessible naturist beaches, so I was pleased to find that Kiev has its own beautiful naturist beaches in the very centre of the city! Kiev boasts the mighty Dnieper River with some forested islands, that are luckily protected and not used for mansions of the nouveau riche. A couple of neighboring clothing-optional beaches at Hydropark (Gidropark) are located most centrally and have pretty amazing views.

This is how it looks from the bridge on the way from Gidropark subway station.

You cannot really see if it is a nudist beach at the other bank of the river, but trust me, it is! So after the bridge you need to continue till one of the typical city style beaches and take a “canoe-ferry” for 5 hryvnias (approx. 50 cents); from there, you can already see where you should head to 😉

First time I went there on a weekday, so it was relatively empty, and I stayed at the part known as a local gay beach, as my friend advised (he was at work that day).

It was nice and relaxing, except that the music from the opposite beach bar was quite loud, but I actually liked it. It is also possible to go a little upstream and find some small secluded spots.

There is a shaded kiosk where you can buy beverages without having to put on clothes. In the afternoon, I decided to explore the area a little more and went to the southern tip of the island, and it turned out to be clothing-optional too!

I actually liked that part more, as it was more spacious and had a great view with some of Kiev’s landmarks: Motherland monument, Kiev Pechersk Lavra (monastery), and a restaurant styled as Noah’s Ark.

So when I went to Gidropark beach next time with my friends Sergey and Sveta, we headed directly to the tip part. I couldn’t resist mocking the Motherland monument by posing with a bottle of water instead of the sword and a frisbee instead of the shield 🙂

Although the day was going to be fabulous even with those regular attributes of naturist pastime, it turned to be even more fun as someone brought body paint and anyone willing was welcome to join the body art frenzy!

Since it actually was the Independence Day, main themes were quite patriotic and Ukraine-inspired. I had our coat of arms (trident) painted on my chest, but frankly, Sergey did not do a great job, so you can hardly see it on photos.

Sergey himself had sunflowers painted saying ‘Support homegrown’, which referred to Ukraine being the biggest exporter of sunflower oil.


Sveta had hearts colored as the national flag and altogether looked very artistic.

And Petya was arguably the most popular model with the watermelon painted on his buttocks :p The “price-tag” said that the watermelon was sold at 2 hryvnias per hour (whatever that meant!) and that it did not contain GMO 🙂


Having a real knife in the not-so-real watermelon, Petya was probably the most daring model too!

On the other (literally) side, the Independence Day was taken also ironically, as despite the patriotic spirits, it was clear that the country was facing too many troubles.

So instead of wishing a Happy Independence Day, it read ‘Happy Inability Day’, as Ukraine is hardly able to cope with its economic challenges (I could translate it as ‘impotence’ as well, but I assure that is not our problem).

But on such a day, it was hard to think of anything gloomy, so the optimistic side took over!