FROM RUSSIA WITH PRIDE
Ancient historical accounts put banya in a key role in Russian society in the 10th century. In Slavic mythology banyas even had a protective spirit called Bannik, which was believed to be hiding under the seats, appearing only if a visitor was disrespectful or misbehaved during bathing - in that case Bannik was supposed to throw boiling water or hot stones at the offender
The banya was appreciated by all Russian social classes throughout history. Physical workes used to use the traditional public bath houses, often the only place where they could take a proper bath, after a day of hard work. The wealthy calss, in the other hand, could attend private banyas. These bath houses were also used for a spiritual purpose, usually on Sundays, and is a tradition that continues today. Hitting the body with birch branches, called Veniki, for example, aims to open the pores and increase blood circulation and could also be considered a form of self-flagellation.
Today, in most of Banias, nudity is no longer a standard and bath areas are gender segregated. Modern banias usually include a swimming pool with cold water and a hot steam room, similar to a sauna with wooden benches at different heights - the higher you go, the greater the feeling of warmth by the higher vapor accumulation.
The Sanduny Banya, built in 1808, is currently one of the oldest and most famous banyas in Moscow. Today the traditional bath house is a huge complex with swimming pools, fitness center, beauty salon and restaurant.