I celebrated New Year’s Eve day in a very Russian manner. In the afternoon, I met two girlfriends at the most famous Moscow banya (bath house) called Sandovsky Bath. Thank goodness one of them was Russian because there are certain rules that must be followed and it was a lot easier to have someone lead the way. It was a fantastic and relaxing way to reflect on the past year and what an exciting and wonderful course my life has taken. At the banya there are large couches where you sit and drink tea, and then you go into the hottest wet sauna I have ever been in, after which you cool off either in a cold plunge pool or by dumping buckets of ice cold water over your head. After doing this a few times we paid women to beat us in the wet sauna with brooms. When the women finish they dump cold water over you and there is no escape. It is actually more pleasant than it sounds. In between the rounds we drank tea and chatted.
I came home from the banya to Michael preparing me a delicious dinner. The custom for New Year’s Eve is to eat dinner at home with your family. He had a plate of cheese and honey prepared and made pasta with fresh mozzarella cheese. Not only was it tasty, but I was excited because it was the first time he cooked me dinner. Now that I know what an excellent chef he is, I will be asking for many more Michael home cooked meals. We also shared a lovely bottle of champagne.
Around 11:00 pm, Michael and I decided to walk toward Red Square. The celebration there is the biggest in the city, and is like celebrating in Times Square in New York. At midnight there is a large fireworks display. Just before midnight we reached the outskirts of the square and were able to see St. Basil’s Cathedral and the fireworks. The square was full of drunk revelers and excited children. See the video below.
New Year’s Day, we went to the most amazing ice sculpture festival. The sculptures were over 15 feet high and had very intricate details. One of my favorite sculptures was an ice slide. The festival was held in one of the fields used in the 1980 Olympics, which the US boycotted. We took a walk around the Olympic Park. It provided an interesting glimpse into history. The grounds are used for concerts at times, but many of the surrounding buildings and parks built for the games had a very Soviet and 1980’s look.
See a few pictures below:
From Russia with Love, Heather