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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Thimble-Bath Means Summer Is Here

In Russia, as you've probably heard, it is not advisable to sit outside on hard, cold surfaces. It's not just the dirt factor, which is certainly a considerable one. It's your health that is really at issue. Plopping yourself down on the ground or on your favorite marble monument, Russians will tell you, is running the risk of everything from bronchitis to infertility. This was easy enough for foreigners, many of whom value the right to sit where they please, to brush off. Silly foreigners. They obviously haven't acquainted themselves with page 2,476 (or so) of "The Merck Manual," an extremely grave Western medical journal, where it is written that sitting on a cold surface might lead to a case of hemorrhoids. Not a matter of life and death, of course, but not very pleasant. Why then, if exposure to cold things poses such a profound threat, is the hot water systematically turned off for an entire month (read: six weeks) every year? I know, I know, the pipes. But it just doesn't make sense: Freezing your entire body in one fell swoop can't be any better than slowly chilling one particular part of it. And not washing just doesn't seem like the solution, either. If you are like many foreigners searching for a solution, you've probably got four burners on your stove, four pots to put on them and the 15 minutes it will take for all the water to boil. This, junior scientists, adds up to approximately one centimeter of hot water in your bathtub -- an entire inch once you add the appropriate amount of cold water. What a luxurious bath-taking experience it is. The worst part is, that's just not how it is done around here. Anyone who catches you shivering in an inch of water in your tub will mock you terribly. Russians have been dealing with this cold-water burden for years (what are these pipes made out of?), and they know how to get the job done with minimum fuss. To do it, you need three essentials of Russian homemaking: a tazyk, one of those large plastic washbasins that often seem to double as salad bowls during large parties; a taburetka, one of the wobbly four-legged stools around the kitchen table; and a chashka, a tea mug or anything that you can use to scoop up water. You still have to wait 15 minutes, but this time it's only for one or two pots to boil -- a considerable dishwashing-saver. Pour the hot water into the tazyk, add cold water, and place gingerly on the taburetka next to the bathtub. You are allotted two chashki of the water to get wet; the rest goes toward rinsing off whatever suds you generate in the meantime. You'll shiver as much as you did in your puddle-bathing method, but this is better, they say, because the water you are rinsing with is cleaner. And for the five seconds that boiled water rains down on your head, it almost feels like your month is over and you're back in the shower again.