Russian and Turkish baths in NYC

When it is cold and gloomy, one of the best things you can do is to go to a bathhouse – as I did yesterday, while the cold spell is back to the US Northeast. New York City has several options. The biggest one is probably the Spa Castle with Korean saunas in Queens, but if you prefer a more central location, Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village is a good choice. Some friends of mine don’t like its dated look, but I actually find that low key style appealing; the room of Russian sauna (banya) looks as if it has not been renovated since the opening of the bathhouse in 1892.

Although the bathhouse is called Russian & Turkish Baths, it has also two Finnish saunas (dry and hot), in addition to two hammams (Turkish steam room, relatively mild temperature), and a bigger banya (Russian sauna, very hot but with humid air, sort of a mix between Turkish and Finnish ones). There are also massage rooms with treatments (e.g. mud scrub). But my favorite treatment there is actually performed right in the Russian sauna room. It’s a traditional Russian banya massage (aka platza, a yiddish term). It is a whole body massage that includes soap wash and whipping with oak branches. It may look a little rough, but in fact it feels very relaxing. As they claim, “the oak leaves contain a natural astringent, which will open your pours, remove toxins, and actually take off layers of dead skin”. And it does feel so. Platza is finished with a dip in the cold water pool, which is supposed to train your vascular system. Yesterday, I used the birch broom which I brought from the Ivanovskie Bani in Kiev. I first massaged two Brazilian friends of mine, and then one of them massaged me. But if you don’t have such a broom and don’t know how to do platza, you can ask local masseurs – they are really good!

On a side note, coming to the US after Germany, I have to mention that saunas here are clothing-optional only in single-sex setting. (This is also increasingly common in Ukraine and Russia.) So unfortunately for heterosexual couples or mixed-gender groups, they will have to walk around in shorts soaked in sweat… If you want to hang out naked, Russian & Turkish Baths offer one women-only and two men-only time slots.

BTW, they regularly offer special deals and discounts through Groupon, kgbdeals.com and savelocal.com, so keep your eyes open.

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.

Happy Nude Year! (after a somewhat pagan Xmas celebration)

naturist 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I rang in the New Year just as you’d expect me to do – in the nude! It was a fun Naked Comedy Show, and perhaps I’ll write about it in more detail later. But here’s a report from my Christmas day celebration, which came unexpected event to me – it was a naked hike in my beloved area of Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park. With the current temperatures almost at their seasonal norm levels (cold!), it’s hard to imagine that we had those almost summer-warm days just a week ago. You might have heard that this December has seen record-high temperatures in NYC, so I decided to take advantage of the freak weather and get out for my first winter hike in Harriman park. I thought the previous post would be the last one about this place from 2015, but thanks to this winter adventure I can now say that it’s truly great any time of the year!

view 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Well, there were no blueberries or raspberries, but quite a lot of other small fruits decorates the bushes.

view 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Otherwise the forest appeared pretty dead… which felt even weirder because it was as warm as in late spring. Just a few trees kept the leaves, while almost all were naked – and we followed the case😉

view 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It was actually nice that the trees were leafless, because the sun could go through – in summer almost all of this hike is in shade, but this time it was good to feel sun rays throughout the hike.

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

The forest was very quiet and besides this friendly prehistoric crocodile that let me pose with him, we hardly saw or heard any animals.

view 0006 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Maybe he also put this rock up like this?

view 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Mountain laurels were the only green bushes (besides coniferous), and they looked somewhat overoptimistic about the weather… Well, maybe they can keep their buds safe throughout the winter, but they looked like they were ready to open and grow.

We then noticed one tree had its tiny flowers open – most likely confused with the weather…

view 0008 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Others were decorated with fruits that seemed to be more suited for winter.

view 0007 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

But once we got to the lake, we decided to decorate a small “Christmas tree” – with what we had: food, and berries from the plants around.

naturist Xmas tree 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Before you call our decoration blasphemous, you should know that it was approved by Jesus. And before you think I’m crazy, that’s a true name of my friend (too bad he didn’t want to appear on photos).

naturist Xmas tree 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

In any case, the tradition of decorating trees has pagan roots, and our phallic theme referred to fertility and revival…

naturist Xmas tree 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Too bad there weren’t many fellow hikers to appreciate that, and we soon ate our decorations. There was a small group of hikers though, who seemed to be genuinely interested in why we were naked. We explained a little about naturism, and how we wanted to enjoy the rare occasion of being able to be naked outdoors in December in NYC area. I have a feeling I may see them hike naked next summer! Otherwise, our company was limited to squirrels, chipmunks and a woodpecker.

woodpecker 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USAwoodpecker 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

We walked around Pine Meadow Lake a little more, and discovered two interesting places. One seemed to be like a secret meeting point of a Stone Age tribe… or dwarves?) With stone chairs around a fire pit, it should be a great spot to camp out with a group!

naturist 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Then we saw a strange structure on the neighboring hill. This was particularly surprising, as it was in a part of Harriman State Park that I knew very well, having hiked through these woods many times. But only now, with the forest being naked, did we notice it. When we got closer, we started guessing what it could be.

view 0009 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It was not an abandoned mansion, as we first thought, but rather a water tower.  Just to make sure it wasn’t some kind of giant sacrifice place, like mayan cenotes, we wanted to look inside.

naturist 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

There was a fallen tree leaning against the wall, so we could actually climb it and have a look. No, it was a water tower after all…

view 0010 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

or a Phallus temple?

We soon had to leave as it was getting dark and cold, but we still hiked naked all the way back. I think it might have been my most memorable Christmas day so far! And having spent the New Year’s Eve at the naked comedy show, I am sure this year is bound to have lots of fun in the buff, which I also wish to all of you!

PS Of course we also skinny-dipped, and the water was shocking-cold, so it was literally a dip. I plan to go to Sandy Hook on Sunday for Polar Bare Plunge for a more social winter skinny-dip – is anyone else up for it?

Thermen am Europa Center (and Winter Badeschiff) – amazing saunas in Berlin

We continue with Berlin series (it’s not over yet!), and here is something for winter time, and looking at the calendar – particularly suitable for Valentine’s Day, if you’re up for a hot date… Literally! I’m talking about two of my favourite saunas in Berlin (one of them doesn’t seem to be open this winter, however).

Thermen am Europa Center is located in the centre of Berlin. It’s easy to see why I loved it, with multiple types of saunas including 2 hamams, several pools of different temperatures, and large outdoor terraces with views over some of Berlin’s landmarks like Gedaechtniskirche.

naturist 0000 Thermen am Europa, Berlin, Germany

 

The biggest pool goes partially outdoors and is very warm. Due to the narrow shape of its outdoors part though, don’t expect to do laps when there’s more than a couple of people. But if you go there primarily for relaxation, you will definitely get it! Thermen am Europa Center is open throughout the year, so it can be also a good idea for a chilly summer evening, which is not a rare thing in Berlin either…

Well, the description below, is for historic reference, as of now… hopefully they’ll reopen it next winter!

Another option is was Badeshiff , which from November till the end of March becomes used to turn into an oasis of warmth with saunas and partially open-air swimming pool with transparent walls over the Spree River! This not only allows-ed you to enjoy the views, up to the tallest city landmark – Alex TV-tower

naturist 0000 Winter Badeschiff, Berlin, Germany

– but also to appreciate the warmth of saunas in contrast to the chilly winter weather outside.
naturist 0002 Winter Badeschiff, Berlin, Germany

However the water in the pool could be warmer

unless you’d swim intensely🙂

But why not, keep yourself active in winter too, and you’ll enjoy the sauna even more!

naturist 0001 Winter Badeschiff, Berlin, Germany

Polar-ish Bare Plunge at Fort Tilden

You may have heard about polar bear plunges on New Year’s day that are popular throughout North America, but apparently my favorite local beach at Sandy Hook hosts a special edition, Polar Bare Plunge. I only had heard about this tradition as a rumor, there’s hardly any info online, but then a friend of mine confirmed that it is indeed held on the first Sunday of the year at noon… I really wanted to go, but in the end I couldn’t make it on time and decided to go with another friend, Miguel, to a closer beach, at Fort Tilden, for our personal Polar Bare Plunge.

Well, it was unfortunate that last Sunday was the warmest day in weeks, with the maximum temperature at +13˚C (55˚F), but nevertheless it seems crazy to me to think I went skinny-dipping just 3 days ago, that it’s -13˚C (9˚F) right now…

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 1.01.40

 

It felt nice to undress outdoors for the first time in a while, and it didn’t feel that cold, I [almost] enjoyed the ocean breeze… We were not sure about the water though.

naturist 0000  Polar Bare Plunge, New York, NY, USA

So, we warmed up by running and jumping.

naturist 0001  Polare Bare Plunge, New York, NY, USA

Miguel rightfully noticed that the more we’d wait, the colder we’d get and ran into the ocean…

naturist 0004  Polar Bare Plunge, New York, NY, USA

I couldn’t figure out from his screaming whether he was in pain or in joy,

naturist 0003  Polar Bare Plunge, New York, NY, USA

but as soon as he ran out of the water, I went in.

naturist 0005  Polar Bare Plunge, New York, NY, USA

Believe it or not, it didn’t feel that painfully cold… perhaps because the water was so cold that the body just got numb immediately :O I ran out after a few seconds, and we repeated the whole thing a couple more times.

This was certainly not the coldest time I’ve been skinny-dipping – I plunged into an ice hole in Moscow on a proper Russian winter day… but then I was just few steps away from a sauna! This time, we could only get dry with towels and warm up by running, so I think it was fortunate after all that the day was warm (for January in New York).  I think I have luck with visiting Fort Tilden on those freak-warm days in otherwise typically cold months – I was there once in the end of November and also in the beginning of April. Next year, I’ll try to make it to Polar Bare Plunge at Sandy Hook though. My friend who made it there this year said there were around 30 people testing the water. We have a year (minus one week) to spread the word, so maybe next time there’ll be a lot more – the more the merrier for such an occasion!

 

banya with an ice hole in Moscow

russian_flag русский

While there is hardly any evidence of the snowstorm Nemo in NYC anymore, and most of the city dwellers yearn for warmth and summer, here is a naturist take on dealing with the snow in Moscow, a city where snow cover stays for 3-5 months a year.

So, luckily Russians have ‘banya‘ – traditional steam room, often located next to a lake or river, and there is a whole culture around it. Unfortunately though, the traditional Russian steam room is becoming less and less common, especially in urban areas. Most ‘banyas’ in Moscow would rather offer dry Finnish saunas, and even steam rooms there are more of Turkish style than Russian. This is mostly because traditional Russian banya requires wood to produce heat and a lot of steam, at temperatures much higher than Turkish hamam,  which makes banya much more expensive and complicated to operated. Another part of banya ritual – skinny-dipping in some natural waters between the sweating sessions – is even harder to achieve in urban environment.

However, there is at least one banya in Moscow that boasts a proper ice hole in the river. My friend Kolya just found it online, and I am not sure, if there is any alternative within the city boundaries. It operates as a rent facility with up to 8 person capacity for 3000 roubles an hour (2hrs min) – for arrangements call +7 (495)507-45-52 or +7(925)002-80-72. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is located in one of the biggest parks of Moscow, Serebyany Bor (Silver Pinery), on the banks of the Moscow River (upstream of the city), next to the well-known nudist beach. This is where I used to hang out on warm days during my student years (I described this beach but unfortunately never managed to get any proper photos there), but this winter was the first time I appreciated this place with all the snow and ice.

Upon arrival, we first tried to get the music equipment work (there was a proper turntable and good loudspeakers but we didn’t bring any music with us).

naturist 0010 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Then we realised it wasn’t why we came there and went to the steam room. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough steam for a proper Russian banya (it was rather a modified Finnish sauna), but it was good enough to make us sweat. And after all, the main reason why we chose it, was not even the sauna itself but the ice hole in the Moscow River.

Kolya was the first one to go for a quick dip, but he practices bathing in ice holes regularly, and even without banyas nearby! It took me a little while to get ready.

naturist 0000 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

The next one already dived in without any hesitation!

naturist 0008 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

It is difficult to describe the feeling, but it is quite close to euphoria! after heating up in the sauna, it actually seems as the right thing to do. Rapid changes in temperature is supposed to train your cardiovascular system to control the tonus of blood vessels. Just don’t stay in the cold water too long.

naturist 0006 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

It was also nice to chill out inside the cabin and look outside the window at some people… playing beach volleyball in the snow! That was some anti-nudist volleyball though, but I won’t judge them as the temperature was below freezing after all.

naturist 0011 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

One of the pleasant side effects of our trip to banya was realising that when people are confronted with ‘casual’ nudity, they are actually fine with it (similarly to the World Naked Bike Rides in NYC and Madrid, or at a naked stroll in San Francisco, for example). There were numerous skiers passing by the ice hole while we were skinny dipping, and we got a lot of smiles and encouragement!

naturist 0003 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

I wonder how many winter visitors of Serebryany Bor witnessed something like that… but I hope those who did were inspired!

naturist 0001 Banya, Serebyany Bor, Moscow, Russia

Naked Gym in Paris (again)!

naturist 0009 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Many people, including me, find working out in the gym too boring… But as in winter the number of outdoor activities is rather limited, and even more limited if you want to do them naked, a gym may seem a little more attractive. And one way to spice up the exercises a little is to do them in the buff!

naturist 0010 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

I already reported about a gym and a swimming pool in Paris with naturist hours a year ago, and we visited it again last December. First, my boy and I had a dinner with the founders of Oh!naturist network, Philippe and Laurent, from whom I actually first heard about this gym.

Then it was a good time to burn the calories.

naturist 0007 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

This time we didn’t go to the pool and treadmills and concentrated on more serious work out😉

naturist 0008 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Also, this time we took our camera with us and tried to capture our exercises on as many machines as possible till the gym would get crowded.

naturist 0001 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

It is, of course, more fun to exercise in a good company.

naturist 0000 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Also we were kind of lucky to see Paris covered with snow. Such heavy snowfalls are rare in Paris, and this one caused quite a bit of chaos in the city. But we decided to enjoy the snow, fully!

naturist 0003 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Not only did we run naked in the snow,

naturist 0006 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Laurent even dared to lie down and create a so-called snow angel.

naturist 0004 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Then, of course, a snowball game followed🙂

naturist 0005 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Luckily, the gym has a steam sauna, so we could warm up.

So if you like to work out and hang out naked in company of good people, this gym is perfect!

naturist 0002 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Go to my previous post for more details and links.

Salle de sport à Paris : faites de la musculation nu !

English

Dans certain pays européens la nudité est tolérée en public, mais il se pose un grand problème naturel : l’hiver ! De plus, les endroits où l’on peut pratiquer le naturisme à l’intérieur sont peu nombreux, surtout si l’on excepte les saunas. Par contre, Paris a une salle de sport qui est naturiste 5 fois par semaine et une piscine 3 fois par semaine, grâce à l’Association Naturiste de Paris. Des piscines naturistes se trouvent à Berlin, à Madrid et à Londres, mais je ne connais aucune autre salle de gym naturiste, alors que le mot “gym” implique la nudité et vient du mot grec γυμνός [gymnos] – nu.

Voici l’endroit où les naturistes parisiens s’entraînent pour garder leur forme quand il fait -10°C !

naturist 0013 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

A l’intérieur il fait assez chaud pour que l’on puisse se mettre nu🙂

naturist 0011 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

La salle n’est pas grande mais équipée avec toutes les machines qu’il faut.

naturist 0015 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Et la grande surprise : la première visite est gratuite ! Il suffit de remplir l’invitation.

En plus, l’entrée est gratuite pour les jeunes de moins de 27 ans !

naturist 0014 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Parfait pour les jeunes sportifs😉

Les adhérents sont très gentils.

naturist 0016 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Merci à Laurent pour les photos !

 

French translation by Laurent

Gym in Paris: Work out naked!

français

In some European countries public nudity is accepted in many places, but there is one big natural problem: winter! And the number of indoors naturist facilities is very small, especially if you exclude saunas. But Paris boasts a gym with naturist hours 5 times per week and a swimming pool three times per week (piscine Roger Le Gall), thanks to the association of naturists of Paris. There are pools which serve naturists also in Berlin, Madrid, London, but I’m not aware of any other naked gym, although the word ‘gym’ implies nudity, coming form the greek γυμνός [gymnos] – naked.

So, this is where parisian naturists maintain their shape when it is -10ºC!

naturist 0013 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Well, actually inside the gym it is warm enough to be completely unclad🙂

naturist 0011 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

The gym isn’t big but with all major types of machines.

naturist 0015 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

And there is a pleasant surprise – the first visit is free of charge, just fill in an invitation form!

Furthermore, youth under 27 years old has free admission!

naturist 0014 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Perfect for the young and active😉

The members seem to be very friendly.

naturist 0016 Gym of Association Naturiste de Paris, Paris, France

Many thanks to Laurent for the pics!

Check out our post from another visit a year later!