Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ah, Bano!

Tbilisi is a warm place. The city's name is a derivation of the Georgian word "tbili" -- which means "warm." It's named after the geothermal sulphur springs which run underneath the old part of the city, making parts of the metro system smell like rotten eggs, and supplying the bath house district ("abano ubani") with its wonderful, warm, rejuvenating water.

The bath houses are this:

a series of underground rooms, presenting themselves as little brick domes to the surface-dwellers, comprising a small block of space about five minutes walking distance from my apartment. Inside each of those domes, there's a marble-and-tile room. The nicer rooms have a hot pool, a pool of cold water, and even a hot-brick sauna. Every friday a group of expats meets to share the 50 lari ($30) per hour room rental fee. Generally we get beer, and chips, and at some point get the "massage" -- wherin a man with what feels like a diamond-tipped loofa and a pillowcase full of soap suds assumes that you actually need to be about two centimeters smaller on all sides, and attempts to scrub you down to proper size. This costs five lari (three dollars).

Now, when I first heard that a bunch of guys get together each week, and get naked and hang out in a hot pool of water, my first thought was "not for me." My second thought was "not for me. ever."

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like that was unnecessarily prudish, and so I decided, as a challenge, to go for it. Yesterday was my second time.

The feeling of being pampered is amazing. The water is wonderful -- the sulphur softens your skins, and the heat and humidity literally melt away the stress. Then, when the massage comes, all the dirt, and newly softened skin gets systematically scraped away, and you walk out feeling, as so many people put it "like a new-born baby."

It's been a while since I've been a new-born, but my sense is that they are frequently cold, frightened and in some amount of pain -- given the crying and shivering, and blue-redness that seems to accompany their sudden presence in the world. For me, I think post-abano is much more pleasurable than all that.


Jessica K. said...

Ah, sublime! God how I miss the cheap pampering. Glad you got over the "never evers". And just to throw this out there, pedicures are nice, too.

Chris Michel said...

I dunno if I can bring myself to go for a pedicure. Just because I'm pretty sure, here in Georgia, I'd be looked at like I was insane.