Friday, July 27, 2012

Mari El Republic and the Russian Banya

For our last excursion we went to Mari El Republic, the republic right next to Tatarstan where they speak a Finno-Ugric language close to Estonian and are pagans. I thought I would feel very at home in this place and that it would remind me of the Baltics and so I was really excited to see what this place had in store for us. Our first stop on the excursion was a little town that used to be a kolkhoze, or collective farm during communist times and now has tried to reinvent itself and its 250 inhabitants as an eco-tourism destination. We traveled 3.5 hours on some not so great roads to this small village. Here is a picture of me at the highest point in Mari El.
This was our welcoming party complete with fol dancing and traditional Mari music of course!
 The welcoming committee!
 Participating in traditional folk dancing.
 The main reason we went to this town was to experience a traditional Russian Banya, or sauna. Here is a picture of the banya with a not so traditional shower curtain!
Before we could go in the banya wood had to be chopped and water had to be carried to the banya. Since men always get to use the banya first, which I of course grumbled at, the women ate a fantastic meal in the home of one of the townspeople!

After that the women got to use the Banya where we were hit with tree branches and sat in a really hot steam bath. Since I have asthma and the hot steam hurt my lungs, this experience didn't last very long for me! After that it was raining and the originalplanned hike was replaced by some more traditional folk dancing!
 We ended the day with a Mari fashion show!

2 comments:

  1. Wait, are you the fourth person in standing from the left on that last photo?

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  2. No that's Emily from South Dakota! Wow I better get home otherwise you are going to forget what I look like!

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