The thoroughly renovated and equipped with state-of-the art gear Pushkarskie Baths are losing regular clients. A traditional Russian steam room with a birch broom was replaced with a modern Finnish one. It seems to be all good – new showers, comfortable waiting rooms, but customers lack national authenticity. Alexander Burenin went for a session
Alexander Burenin, reporter: “These baths have everything so that a man leaves it clean and rested. But for many seniors, who have been coming here for almost half-a-century, it’s not only about washing and steaming. They desire to have a good birch broom session at least once a week, but for now this famous bath accessory has to be left at the door”.
They really have a tradition – these men come to the Baths a lot more frequently than cinema characters, not once a year, but at least once a week. The Bath Club usually gathers from 5 to 10 men, but coming here is like a ritual of its own. They get down to actual washing after at least an hour – the first stage of Baths time is about heartfelt conversations on any subject.
Any conversation demands thinking over – the necessary break is made to skillfully treat a neighbor to a fine birch broom therapy. But those procedures are outlawed at Finnish saunas. Customer of the Pushkarskie Baths are happy about everything, except one thing.
Maybe that’s why there’s fewer visitors in the new building that anticipated. The administration doesn’t want to involve itself in fights with regular customers. They can’t come up with a definite answer as to why a traditional steam room wasn’t set up in the first place, but promise that it will be back.
Natalya Plakhuta, head of the Pushkarskie Baths: “We won’t solve this problem tomorrow, this month or until New Year’s. But we will find an investor next year and do everything accordingly”
A necessary feast follows the bath time. Breaking the stereotypes – the main drink here is hot tea. They sigh – “young ones know nothing about the ritual”. These people can talk for hours about differences of domestic bath process and foreign one, they don’t like dry steam with eucalyptus flavor. It was only outside that the men showed the stuff they brought with them. The favorite hat with a red star, worn back-scrub and, of course, a birch broom. All this inventory would not be needed at a Finnish sauna. But they’re still bringing it every time – hoping that they will get to use it some day.