Fellow traveller Larry Lamb alerts us to this NYTimes article “For Russians, Summer in the City Means a Freeze on Hot Water”. Yes there is a personal story behind that.

A few years back, Larry and I were traveling in Moscow on our way to Siberia. The MGIMO folks put us up in a spacious appartment on Leninski Prospect near the Sputnik Hotel.

There were a few things I noticed that were unusual about the place.

It was quite warm, the radiators were really puffing away. And there were no controls on them and no thermostats in the apartment. I looked out the window and noticed that even though it was 50F outside, all my neighbors had their windows open. That’s how you regulated the temperature in your rooms.

The kitchen came with a giant electric tea kettle, bigger than the British ones I’d seen. There was also a great collection of wooden spoons and the like.

The shower worked well and the warm water was refreshing. The towels were thick and fluffy and somehow made without benefit of cotton or any water absorbing material for that matter. They rearranged the moisture on your body until you could step into one of the rooms that were dry from the radiator heat.

Little did I know that all of this could be combined into something wonderful under the right conditions. But not yet.

Larry and I and others made it to Siberia and returned to Moscow. Once there Larry left me for a luxury hotel and his wife. I had a very large apartment to myself.

As I came into the apartment building, I saw a new sign on the door. It had dates that included my stay but that was all I could make out.

Once in the apartment, I learned what had happened. There was no hot water! And when water is cold in Moscow, it is damned cold–even in summer.

Luckily I had been in a banya in Siberia.

I noticed I had many of the makings of a banya here.

First I put the tea kettle on. I put towels in the sink. I closed off one small bed room and closed the windows — soon it was very hot and very dry. I took the wooden tools into the bathroom with the boiling tea kettle.

I soaked the towels as best I could with the hot water until the bathroom was steamy and the towels were scalding.

I jumped in the cold shower (no hot water to be had). I leapt out and whacked myself in the Russian style with the wooden spoons. I then grabbed the towels and wrapped myself up in them briefly. Til I was hot. Then back in the cold shower.

Now out to the dry sauna of the small bedroom for the finish.

At the end I was one of the few folks in my section of Moscow who didn’t smell from the lack of hot water.