Throbbing headaches, dry mouths, upset stomachs – hangovers are probably as intense as the parties that precede it. Unfortunately, one doesn’t really realise this while the party momentum is at its peak. Only when the damage manifests itself as nasty sensations in the morning after the carousal does one regret taking those extra pints of beer that ostensibly shouldn’t have done any harm but did.
And if you’re planning to visit Russia – a country know for its nightlife – in your holidays, you will end up partying late into the night on an almost routine basis, the result of which will be spending your mornings in hangover hell. Also, because it is going to be a Russian hangover, it will be one of the strongest ones. So, to cure it you will need an equally strong Russian remedy – the banya.
Although the word “banya” in general means a steam bath, it particularly refers to a typical Russian sauna. These generally are public bathhouses with “parilkas” (saunas) in which temperatures can go up to around 90⁰C. To protect the head from such extreme heat, a particular type of felt hat is worn, although it is not mandatory to do so. Moreover, in order to improve blood circulation, people gently hit each other (or themselves) with veniks or dried birch leaves. A person’s time in the sauna usually ends with a plunge into icy cold water.
The next obvious question to ask is why and how spending your morning in a banya will help you in curing your hangover. Well firstly, the intense heat causes sweating which removes unwanted substances from your body (such as alcohol) and improves the functioning of your kidneys – an organ that was affected most by the previous night’s revelry. An improvement in the circulation will also help you in getting rid of the toxins faster. Apart from that, the tannins in the birch leaves, with which you ought to beat yourself in the sauna, have astringent properties that will aid in your recovery and make you feel more energetic.
Of course, as you probably already know, the only thing that will really cure your hangover is time. The banya will certainly help, but it can do only so much. So, when you’re Russia dealing with a bad hangover, take the day off, visit a banya, come back to your hotel, stay in your bed and just be lazy. Turn on some nice Tchaikovsky music, try not to think too much, take a pain killer to ease your aches and let time do its magic. In no time you’ll be out of your hangover, planning for your next Russian night-out.