Hi Blog! It’s been an awfully long time. A lot’s changed since my trip to Ukraine with Pauli and Shorena! I haven’t lived in the US Virgin Islands or in Georgia for quite some time now, and in a plot twist apparent to many, Shorena and I got married! Maybe I’ll write about that sometime, but today, I wanted to tell a different story.
Last weekend, Pauli and I revisited the sulphur baths in Old Tbilisi. Whenever friends come visit Georgia, I recommend they go for a scrub and massage at the bathhouse. They’ve never been so clean in their lives, I’d wager! Some of the wedding guests had the pleasure of making a visit to the baths, and others decided they would have to save it for their “next visit” to Georgia. Shorena and I did our part for #SpendYourSummerinGeorgia by bringing so many foreigners and inspiring them to come back someday!
The first bathhouse I’d been to in Georgia had been closed for years. It looks like a Central Asian mosque with blue tiles on the façade, enticing visitors with its exotic and exciting look. Unfortunately, it had been under renovation every time I’ve been back to Georgia for at least 5 years. This let me explore some of the other nearby bathhouses, but last weekend, I was finally able to return to my original and favorite bathhouse.
The first thing we noticed was that prices had gone up a bit. The second was that, nonetheless, the schedule was nearly full! We decided to take a room on the spot and were immediately ushered inside, where we saw the fruits of the renovations ourselves.
Everything was tiled and rebuilt compared to last time I’d been inside. The seating area was comfortable and sported a changing area where you could hang your clothes. A nice, modern restroom was just inside the changing area. Inside the bath itself, we had an antechamber with a Finnish sauna (with an hourglass mounted on the wall!) and two showers to rinse off the superficial grime of the streets before climbing into the communal bath.
The bath room itself had a large, shallow-ish tub filled with hot water and which had a smaller, circular area nested inside it with cold water. Probably you could comfortably fit six friends in the large tub and one more in the small. If you’re especially close with your friends, you might manage ten in the big tub! The small tub could accommodate one person or two, spooning.
After fifteen minutes of following the regimented bath instructions (shower, ten minutes in the hot tub, ten in the sauna, ten in the cold tub, repeat), the first masseuse arrived for Yelena.
I was immediately struck by her youth.
Every single time I’ve been to the baths, the masseurs have been in their late middle ages, knobby hands hardened from a career spent giving massages. In fact, I recall from years ago hearing/reading/thinking that the ancient profession may be at risk due to the aging population of masseurs and a dearth of young employees. I don’t know what has changed in the bath industry, but for the first time I experienced young masseurs.
When it was time for the men’s massages, a young man came in to scrub and massage us as well. He spoke limited, but sufficient, English, instructing us to lie face down, to roll over, or to sit, as needed. The overall level of service was much higher than I’d previously experienced at this particular bathhouse and not once did I have to rely on my Russian language skills, avoiding reliving awkward propositions from my past.
They also conveniently provided a menu for us, should we wish to order cigars, ice cream, or a 900 lari bottle of cognac. While we did not take them up on it this time, I could see myself wanting to indulge someday in the future. Perhaps next time I’ll get my 10 closest friends, book a bath for several hours, and enjoy cavier, cigars, and vodka like apparatchiks of old!