Moscow is more than historic sights. There is also plenty to do here; for example, you may want to take a walking tour around the historic sights. There's also boating, biking and the banya (hot bath), while Moscow's parks are filled with opportunities to dance, paddle, pedal, play ping pong and more.
Nothing beats winter like the banya. Less hot but more humid than a sauna, the Russian bath sweats out all impurity.
Enter the steam room (parilka) naked (yes, the banya is normally segregated by gender). Bathers can control the temperature – or at least increase it – by ladling water onto the hot rocks. You might add a few drops of eucalyptus to infuse the steam with scent. Then sit back and watch the mercury rise. To eliminate toxins and improve circulation, bathers beat each other with a bundle of birch branches, known as veniki (or you might have a professional do this for you).
When you can’t take the heat, retreat. A public banya allows access to a plunge pool, usually filled with ice-cold water. The contrast in temperature is invigorating, energising and purifying.
A banya is not complete without a table spread with snacks, or at least a thermos of tea. And just when you think you have recovered, it’s time to repeat the process. As they say in Russia, 's lyokum parom' (easy steaming).
The dos and don’ts of the banya:
- Do take advantage of the plunge pool (or at least the cold shower, if there is no pool on-site). It’s important to bring your body temperature back down after being in the banya.
- Don’t bother with a bathing suit. Most public bani are segregated by gender, in which case bathers steam naked. In mixed company, wrap yourself in a sheet (provided at the banya).
- Do rehydrate in between steams. Tea or even beer are common, but it is also important to drink water or juice.
- Don’t stop at one! Most bathers will return to the parilka (steam room) several times over the course of an hour or two.
Need to Know
On the last weekend in September, the Moscow Marathon (www.moscowmarathon.org) attracts tens of thousands of runners, who follow a scenic 42km city-wide course. Shorter road races take place throughout the spring and summer, including two half-marathons, a 5km 'colour run' in June and a 10km night run in July.
Moscow's revamped parks are the focal point for outdoor activities, as they host running clubs, bicycle rental, yoga classes, volleyball tournaments, dance lessons, children's activities and more. Check the website of individual parks, especially Gorky Park and Sokolniki, for an ever-expanding calendar of events.