|09:55 am - Banya 5|
Banya 5, which I went to for the first time yesterday evening after work, is absolute heaven. It's clothing-optional on single-sex days (Wednesdays for women, Thursdays for men), which I much prefer.
First thing to do is the hot tub, which is kept at the optimal 104°F and has jets and bubbles. Once you're warmed up enough, you proceed to the steam room. Here the steam blasts out in long bursts every few minutes or so, filling the small room while you sweat. Small sprigs of eucalyptus (I think) near the door scent the steam. This is the most challenging part for me, as I'm not used to breathing such hot wet air, and the first time made the blood around my head buzz.
After that, you move on to the parilka, the heart of the bath-house, behind a heavy wooden door. This is kept at 200-220°F, but it's a much drier heat. You stay for as long as you can stand it, and then plunge into the cold pool, which I was informed was kept at the same temperature as Puget Sound, around 55°F. Especially important is to dip your head under to cool the brain, the heating of which I was cheerfully told was responsible for the "fight or flight" response that made you leave the parilka. At this point your body is starting to sing. Finally, dip in the 85°F salt pool: this is the most pleasurable part. When I did this I felt so relaxed and so full of somatic energy I noticed a change in my consciousness.
Then do it all over again (or whatever you feel like). I did this little cycle five times over the course of about three hours. Afterwards I felt more relaxed than a sleeping cat.
Everything is very clean, and pretty much everything you need (towels etc.) is provided. There are lockers and showers and a drinking fountain of course. A visit costs $30+tax for as long as you like, and they're open 2pm-11pm (10pm Wednesdays).
If you're in Seattle, you must do this; your body will love you for it.
(From my journal.)