Old Believers’ style banya

How to build an underground bathhouse with ants, who invented the unique Moldovan bathhouse, how do Old Believers steam and how to scorch friends?

Traveling around the world and studying the spa culture of other countries, I have understood with bitterness that in Moldova we do not have unique bathing rituals and technologies. We don’t have Finnish saunas, Turkish hammams, Russian steam baths, Roman thermae, Japanese ofuro. We don’t have an authentic Moldovan bath, either.

 And last year, when we needed a lot of herbs for Woloshin banya, we met some Old Believers from Cunicea. They helped us to prepare herbs and brooms, and I eventually went to visit them with my son and steamed in a “black banya”.

It was precisely then, in the frosty month of February, that they told us about the “ant bath”. A bath that is done once a year, in June, and is passed down from generation to generation.

 For the Old Believers’ style ant bath, you need the following:

 1. Dig a hole 3×3 meters and 3 meters deep.

2. Fill one third of it with rubble.

3. Put a few cubic meters of wood cubes on top and burn them.

4. Burn another 5-7 cubic meters of wood one day and one night.

5. Sew 7-10 cubic meters of fresh meadow grass.

6. When the firewood is burnt, cover the heated stones with grass.

7. Mulch the grass and cover the pit with logs, twigs and planks.

8. In 3-4 hours, you can enjoy your underground, herbal Moldovan bath!

 Why Moldovan? Because when I started searching the internet for the origins of this bath and found nothing, then asked Russian experts and got no answer, I realized that such a bath can only exist in one place on earth. Here, in Moldova!

 In fact, there is another strange element – ants. Yes, in the Old Believers’ style bath as it used to be done in the old days, a bag of ants was thrown into the hot grass and then sprinkled with nettle water. The ants release acid and a unique atmosphere is created. Weird story.

 Well, these are just theories and we should test them in practice. So, we just waited until June and started building an underground bath.

 A pit. Stones.

Lots of wood. We burned it for 24 hours.

We found grass in the neighborhood, mowed it for a few hours and laid it on the wood.

We covered it with what we found.

We waited, and got inside. It wasn’t hot, 45 degrees. We kept talking, the smell of meadow grass was wonderful, but we wished it was warmer. Weird, because we burned a lot of wood. The next day it turned out that the bathroom hadn’t cooled down, it was 30 degrees. Hm, something was wrong.

Then we decided to do it all over again, but with experts. We invited the Old Believers. Pafnutii came – a man with great experience, who had seen a lot and built dozens of baths.

He explained to us that there were many cracks through which hot air escaped, and that we had heated incorrectly – we had thrown the wood in the center. They should have been on the edges so the stones would heat evenly.

So, we did it all over again. We cleaned, we burned wood, we mowed grass. To make the smells heavenly, the whole team went out to pick herbs. It was very refreshing, the aromas of the herbs, the sunshine, the meadow. How could you not love this sort of labor?

Burn well and don’t burn out! We burned wood all day.

After the wood burned, we immediately covered everything with grass and stomped on it with our feet, getting rid of the air so the grass wouldn’t burn.

We closed the roof as tightly as we could, no gaps, and waited for the bathroom to warm up.

After three hours we had a real Moldovan underground bath. Hot, humid and dark. The aroma of freshly mown grass, wormwood, mint and sweet clover was hard to describe with words. Olfactory bomb!

We didn’t take pictures inside because the equipment instantly sweats. But it doesn’t matter, because standing inside feels like you’re breaking your connection to the outside world and entering another world. A world of warmth, tranquility and aromas.

We already know that our country has its own unique bath, which you can try in Moldova. It is yet another magnet to attract tourists to our country.

 And that’s worth while.

Ыnjoi your life.

Mentioned projects:
Woloshin banya
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