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  • Toronto offers more than a few choices when it comes to bathhouses where you can escape the frigid and dark days of winter. One bathhouse at a time, I decide to visit all those that are either exclusively for women or family oriented.

    On this Sunday, my tight muscles find their way to Steamul Russian Bath House where for thirty dollars you can stay as long as you please. Roman welcomes me. He hands me my white robe and towels and I make my way into another world.

    It is not a woman only day today and so after putting on my bathing suit I wander the space to explore the various options available to heat up these muscles and sweat a little or a lot.

    I watch and I learn. That is why today, after my previous experience at Banya, another local Russian bathhouse, I have a wool hat and a bunch of oak leaves called a venik to smack myself with. I am learning the ropes.

    I rotate from dry to wet to super hot to steam to ice water. Before I know it I am very red and very tired. This is hard work. There is a reason they have so many couches in these Bathhouses. If people are not sweating it out, you will find them lounging or eating or drinking.

    I ask Roman about the felt hats he sells. It is hard to translate he says, but the words next to the beer stein say something like, "Sometimes it is time to do business. It is always time to relax and enjoy a beer."

    I get tired of counting the beer bellies on the men and the beautiful tall Russian women and the delightful children with Russian roots. One ten year old boy kindly accepts my invitation to smack my back with my venik.

    I am mostly drawn to the round steam bath perhaps because the steam makes me less visible. There are no children in the steam room perhaps because it is so unbearably hot and steamy. The wet saunas and the dry sauna ... I try them all but I keep returning to the circular space with the granite benches.

    While steaming away I ask the man across from me, Mar, about his use of oil and sea salt. He tells me that first he oils himself and then he salts himself. Makes sense to me. Next time I will bring my favorite oil and sea salt and do the same.

    I learn that Mar is a beekeeper who keeps bees in Mono Mills. He reassures me that the bees are currently keeping warm by flapping their wings and generating heat that way.

    The queen bee is in the middle and she is nice and warm just like Mar and I are in this steam hive in Missssauga.

    Every bathouse has its own personailty and every visit is different depending on how you feel, or what you eat or who you meet. This visit to this bathhouse found me next to a man who after years of living fast is now living slow and for the love of honey and not the love of money. Mar shares some of his precious honey with me. The Russian men around us joke that I should use it on my body like Cleopatra used to. I may next time, if there is any left between this Bathouse Sunday and the next visit to this or some other female friendly bathhouse in the city.

    http://banya.ca/index.php/complete-guide-veniks/
    http://www.torontolife.com/style/toronto-health-and-beauty/2014/01/07/the-top-five-shvitzes-in-toronto/
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