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Published: March 19th 2006
Our third day in the country started on a bit more of a somber note. We visited a cemetery that housed the remains of some of the greatest Russian minds. Puskin, Dostoyevsky etc. I was not really sure about the rest of them. Liga (the Latvian that was one of our student guides) went from grave to grave in awe. We recognized some, but she seemed to have an intimate regard for every tombstone she passed. There were only about four of us that went with her. The cemetery was actually rather small considering all the amazing people that were buried there. What I remember most about the morning was that it was overcast and foggy, which was most appropriate for the occasion. We went back to the riverfront as a group, split up and ventured around for a few hours, and met up to experience the best that the Russian Sauna had to offer. We had a local tour guide for this experience, and that made it all the more interesting. I would have imagined that a place like a sauna would have had some sort of advertising, at least a sign stating “Sauna through this dim walkway.” Not this
place. We turned a corner, the guide knocked on an unmarked door, it opened and the gals went in. They had booked the place for themselves. Us guys then proceeded to walk around a few more corners and ended up in an unforeseen courtyard with a few naked guys cooling off. As far as I could tell, this was completely unmarked and was ‘man’s land’ by reputation. We walked in another unmarked door and found ourselves in the sauna facility. Dropping off our clothes in the locker room, we picked up some birch leaves (“for beating ourselves with”) and entered the labyrinth of showers, ice cold tubs, and the freakin hot sauna. I had a bit of a cold that day, and had a really hard time adjusting to the temperature. After a few cycles, I concluded that my visit was not going to be complete without a jump into the cold tub. Once in, it took me about 3 seconds to get out. The switch from a really hot room to really cold tub almost put me into shock. But once done, I had to do it a few more times. The whole process works better than caffeine. If
one of these setups was awaiting me every morning, I may be tempted to keep pressing the snooze alarm a few times, but there would be no need for the coffee cup!
After wearing ourselves out, we ended up calling it a day and arrived back at the hostel for some needed down time just as it got dark. This was to be the nice ‘uneventful’ day before the long day of departure.
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