Friday, March 4, 2016

A Bowl of Uhka at the Steam Bath

This morning after listening to a lecture on the aerobics of running from our guide Arkadiy, my Ice Marathon mates and I attempted to put theory into practice by making another assault on Lake Baikal. Yesterday afternoon, while I slept, a snow storm passed through leaving the ice covered in a blanket of fresh powder a foot deep. That turned our run into an awkward stumble. We soon gave up and reverted to tottering along on roads much to the annoyance of the local canines.

After reviving ourselves at lunch over bowls of uhka (fish soup), we headed for a steam bath located a little further east along the lakefront. This establishment featured a wooden sauna surrounded by expertly crafted ice sculptures. The sauna, which we were told the proprietor rebuilds each winter, was large enough to accommodate a dozen people and heated to a sweltering 95C.

The idea was to sit inside the hot room until you couldn’t take it any longer (ten minutes or so), then scamper down a short pier to a hut made of ice that enclosed a small pool filled with frigid lake water. Dive in, then return to the heat. The effect of the cold water was quite remarkable, The heart rate soared. Pores snapped shut. Certain anatomical parts shrank to the size of peas.

Once we’d gone through that routine three or four times, we retired to a yurt for hot tea and more uhka.

If you’re curious, you can make uhka at home. Simply heat an aquarium to boiling, add potatoes and carrots. Simmer 30 minutes and serve.

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