I was wandering around Tbilisi in search of a good place to have dinner when I came across several brick, domed rooftops which happens to be sulfur bathhouses.
I came to understand that these bathhouses are an important part of Tbilisi’s history. Tbilisi got its name from the hot springs that run under this district. According to legend, it was these sulfur springs that made King Vakhtang Georgasali to decide to settle there and make it the new capital.
I must admit, visiting one of these sulfur baths in Georgia was the most embarrassing but also one of the most hilarious experience during my recent travel.
There are five sulfur bathhouses left in Abanotubani district, or so I counted, compared to around more than 60 at the peak of its popularity. I wasn’t sure which to choose but someone approached me and invited me to try it. He lead me to what I never thought was a bathhouse. The exterior was elegant as it was inside. It appears totally different from the other bathhouses. I even thought it was a mosque!😅
You can choose to go for a public bath or a private room. Even though public bathing will cost me a lot cheaper, bathing with strangers still didn’t sound very appealing to me so I opt for the latter and it’s rented by the hour. One of the staffs accompanied me to my room and I was told that I should dip myself in the water for 20 minutes while waiting for the masseuse to arrive. I must say, I am not very fond of any activity that involves water but I was impressed and felt okay when I came inside the big bathing room. There was a changing room, a toilet, a sitting/waiting area, a pool of hot sulfur water (40°C-50°C), a massage slab and shower. I paid for the room, the towels, shower gel, scrub and massage.
Since I booked a private room, I used it naked. The water was literally hot! As I tried to submerge myself, I already felt like drowning. It’s a small tub/pool but I had some difficulty breathing and I felt like the water’s gonna swallow me whole. Good thing the smell of sulfur wasn’t that strong. When I finally managed to fully submerge myself, it felt like the longest 20 minutes of my life!
Then the masseuse came. A stout fifty-ish woman with an austere face. I watched her walk to the waiting area where she suddenly stopped and stripped her clothes except her underwear. She came in front of the pool with her piercing gaze and pointed to the marble slab at the corner of the room. She then filled in a bucket of water. Naked, I went out of the pool and clumsily made my way to her. I smiled and said hello. She didn’t smile nor reply. She just looked at me and pointed where I should stand. It was awkward as hell! I moved as instructed and when I turned to face her she was already carrying the bucket and threw the water at me! Ice cold water!!! I literally shrieked out of shock and I even felt furious I screamed why did she do that? She started laughing too hard then and asked me, “Good?” Hell, no! But yes, it was, to be quite honest, a few seconds later! She continued laughing her evil witch, sly laugh. I ended up laughing with her instead. I came to know much later that she also doesn’t know English so you can probably imagine how it was for the rest of my time with her there.
She started to scrub my arms while standing then she let me lay down in the marble slab to exfoliate the rest of my body. After the scrub, she filled in a kind of small sack with soapy water and covered me up with it. It’s the second best part of the whole experience, I felt like a baby and my skin felt softer and smoother.
Then came the best part — the massage! The human moment that I finally managed to totally relax! Her hands were so light but were really very good at what they do. I had a full-body massage and it was so totally worth it! After 20 minutes, she doused me again with buckets and buckets of water as she laughs her evil laugh. After feeling content and satisfied (I guess) throwing water at me, she finally stopped and started gathering all her stuffs in the bucket then left laughing.
I took another dip in the hot pool for a few more minutes and ended up laughing to myself. It was a fun experience. I then showered and got dressed and moments later, the phone rang and my time is up.
I left the bathhouse relaxed, happy and satisfied. Once outside, I remembered I was hungry and so I went on looking for a place to dine in. What happened next is another story that will stay in my heart forever but for now, I’ll keep you with the bathhouse experience.
Have a wonderful day, homo sapiens! 🙂