So what do you do when your flight out of Tbilisi is cancelled, they kick you out of the airport, and put you up in a Holiday Inn? You go to a Turkish-style bath in a serval hundred year old structure.
Modest folks need not apply to this millenniums old tradition. Allow me to explain…take 4 guys that barely know each other, strip them naked, toss them in a 107 degree pool of sulfurous, rotten egg fart smelling water together and have Giorgi, a 6’4″ 280 pound hairy man bathe and massage them all.
Then have tea together whilst sporting only a towel.
Yes. This happened. Today. In Old Town Tbilisi.
And it was magical. Once Giorgi ground out his cigarette on the floor and gathered his scrubbing glove, he called yours truly up from the rotten egg fart soup we were stewing in.
I laid on my stomach and he went to work pleasurably removing the top layer of my skin. I flipped over and he repeated. Then I sat up and he worked over my neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. When done, I showered, jumped into a pool of 50 degree water, then back in the hot spring. It was now my buddy’s turn.
3 more times and I was up again. This time, I got soaped up and massaged. Giorgi didnts miss a crevice and asked if I lived in New York. That was the extent of his English because I asked him what he did between soaping up naked men and eating wrestling ring turnbuckles, he just smiled awkwardly and leaned on my sternum cracking my back. He clearly did not get the George the Animal Steel doppleganger reference.
After the soaping, I jumped in the shower to rinse off, dipped in the ice cold water, then went back in the hot spring. My skin tingled. Relaxing doesn’t even describe how I felt. I was Jello.
After a few more cigarettes Giorgi was finished with all of us and we sat in our towels enjoying some tea. None of us believing what we just experienced.
Sure, it was strange to have 4 grown naked men jump into a hot stinky pool together, only to be manhandled by a large, shirtless, hairy Turk. But this tradition dates well back to BC. This is what both men and women did weekly, it was their only time to bathe. And being the masseuse was a respected and fairly decent paying gig. In truth, this scene is only weird to Americans. We discussed at dinner who would write about the baths and most are not going to. I am choosing to write about it because this is what people did for milennia. These bath houses are, in some part, the reason why Tbilisi is the capital and a very important part of Gerogan culture. And I am writing about it because actually it was an amazing experience and surprisingly not weird at all. None of the 4 of us would have ever in a million years expected that we’d do something like this or enjoy something like this.
So that’s how I’ll end this post:while I don’t recommend you see the inside of a Turkish prison, I do recommend you and a group of your buddies come to Tbilisi and try out their sulphurous baths. You will not regret it.