Wenik infusion and oak wenik in the sauna
Wenik infusion in the sauna. For Russians, Wenik infusion is a part of their way of life. Nobody would go to the banya (the Russian sauna) without a dried birch branch. Because during the infusion, participation is the order of the day. In the meantime, the ritual has also found its way to Western Europe – but in a milder version. Nevertheless, this sauna ritual is not recommended for beginners. After all, 110 degrees (230 °F) are easily reached during this infusion. It doesn’t help to sit at the bottom. However, if you are not afraid of the high temperatures, you should try this foreign custom from Russia. You will certainly not be disappointed.
Sauna ritual in the banya
After you have acclimatized for five to ten minutes, the bath attendant enters the room – with a large birch bundle in his hand. He wears gloves to protect his skin – quite a martial sight the first time. But don’t worry, no one is out to get you. First, the bath attendant warms the birch bundle on the sauna stove – this way, essential fragrance oils will be released better later on. Then he dips the bundle in water for some time and “transports” the cool wet with the leaves on the stove. Then he uses his rod to winnow the water in the usually very small space. In the process, a few hot drops always splash onto the bathers – that’s part of it.
It smells wonderfully of birch twigs
Over time, a comforting scent of birch twigs fills the entire room. And the thermometer rises neatly. Three times, the bath attendant sprinkles the stove and then wets the air. As a result, the humidity in the small room also rises. In the end, it can be a bit uncomfortable for Western Europeans. But go for it – as long as you don’t have any physical problems. After this sauna ritual, you will notice that you are wonderfully relaxed. The high temperatures will ensure that your circulation is properly revved up after the sauna bath.
Knocking off and massaging with the birch puffs
But after the Wenik infusion, the ritual is not over yet. Now comes the part for which Russians take their birch bundles into the banya. In Germany, the bath attendant usually brings them. The bathers hit each other on the back with the bundles. Again, this looks a little unusual – but it does a lot of good.
The light blows with the damp branches loosen all the tension in the back. Close your eyes – and enjoy. After the infusion, we drink. In Western European saunas, this is birch lemonade with a lemon flavor. If you want to go really Russian, you can add vodka to your lemonade. Be warned, though: This can be quite hard on the circulation – and is not necessarily healthy.
Oak Venk ritual
In recent years, a variation of this ritual has become established: the oakwenik. The origin of this ritual is also Russian – and it works in principle as described above. The only difference is that now essential oils of the oak act. Sometimes this infusion takes place in a normal sauna. Even though they are usually larger, the thermometer can easily climb to over 100 degrees (212 °F) due to all the water. Therefore, the oak wenik is not necessarily suitable for beginners – but it is a bit gentler.
Sauna birch twig air-dried for the sauna
Our tip: Use the soaking water for your infusion, or hang a tassel on the sauna wall and spray it with water regularly during the sauna bath. This will create a wonderful, natural birch scent.