For over a thousand years, the communal experience of the Slavic banya (bath) has been as integral a part of Russian life as vodka and limitless sheets of snow. The recently opened Okeanos combines the traditional aspects of this weekly (at least) ritual with a modern setting and amenities -- suffice it to say, you can leave behind any thoughts of whalesongs and cucumber juice. An appointment begins with a visit to the banya, a powerful, 170-degree sauna, the intensity of which is mitigated by intermittent trips to the shower for the bite of an invigorating cold rinse, and capped off by the energizing platza, a gentle brushing with bundled birch leaves against the primed flesh. The entire sybaritic experience is topped off with a Russian sports massage so tranquilizing someone may have to shovel you back onto the sidewalk. We suggest getting together with a small group of friends and spending the better part of the day going in and out of the banya, relaxing in the lounge (Okeanos is wired for wi-fi use), getting a facial (Molton Brown offers treatments), a haircut, or trying any of the spa's other self-indulgent offerings. Caviar king Petrossian is in charge of the menu (we supped on smoked salmon blini and strawberry tarts), and the bar is stocked with ZYR Russian vodka and Heidsieck & C° Monopole Champagne. With the strong possibility of a long winter ahead, Okeanos will revitalize any man -- Russian or otherwise -- worn weary by even the hint of frosty months to come. 211 E. 51st St. near Third Ave., 212-223-6773;
article originally appeared in the 1/06 issue of
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