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Used for centuries by Russians for everything from washing to religious ceremonies and healing rituals, the Russian banya is a far cry from your typical trip to the sauna. A visit can last a few hours and generally involves alternating time spent sitting naked in a steam room and showers or dips in icy-cold pools. After the second or third steam, patrons massage/thrash themselves or each other with a venik, a bundle of leafy birch or oak twigs.
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