We couldn't leave Tbilisi without doing the traditional sulphur baths; it's got a huge historical significance and is the reason for Tbilisi becoming the capital. It is said some King of Iberia's falcon fell here which led to the discovery of the hot springs. The name of the area "Abanotubani" means "the bath district" and the capital "Tbilisi" means warm place in Georgian. The king ordered the capital to be moved here and the rest is history.
First written documentation is dated to the 14th century, archaeological excavations have found Roman baths and piping from the first century, to then the baths being built in Persian traditions.
The true historical significance of the town comes with the Mongol Dynasty. In the 13th century, this became a major stop along the Silk Road and there were 63 bath houses at that time (although only about 10 still stand today).
The water was believed to be so healing that it could cure "invalids" and people would travel across the mountains just for the baths from Russia and Mongolia alike.
So... without further ado, allow us to walk you through this unique experience.
We arrived, already dying of heat and covered in a lovely layer of sweat, at the most recommended bath house in the area, "No. 5". The first thing that greeted us was the rank smell of sulphur, if you're unaware, that is the smell of rotten eggs. We were then greeted by two women sitting at the counter chatting amongst themselves who barely acknowledged us. They gave us one word answers to all the questions but no more than was necessary. The rooms were all busy but with a deposit, we were to come back in 15 minutes. We found a lady who made red wine ice cream and that seemed like as good a breakfast as any, so while Justin got coffee, I indulged.
We came back just in time and were led to our room which was pretty simple looking compared to others we saw online. We also read that standard protocol was to strip down to your birthday suit, so we did just that.
No one said anything at the door, so we started questioning if we were supposed to bring our bathing suits but carried on. We start getting into the hot bath, and even I who always has steamy showers, couldn't get in. We were legitimately concerned for 1st degree burns (it was about 107 degrees). While we chickened around taking 10 minutes to get in waist deep, there was a booming knock on the door. Our "masseuse" was here.
Justin got out of the tub to go let her in. He wrapped himself in the towels we rented (literally, bed sheets) since we still weren't sure if we were supposed to be wearing anything... he opens the door and she nonchalantly walked in with her bucket without a word. Picture a burly woman, who honestly reminded me of the Norwegian store/sauna owner in Frozen. She smiled a lot but didn't talk. She did, however, slap a lot.
She walked in right up to the slab of stone past the tub and slapped it while looking at me as I hit in the deep hot bath. Trying to not be all self conscious, with a deep breath, I climb out and do what feels like the walk of shame over to the "table". She motions for me to sit facing her and without a word lifts my arm and starts scrubbing me with a mitten. Justin, meanwhile was just hopping back and forth between the hot and the cold bath (we splurged on the room with both, by splurged, it was 95GEL, about $50) and was trying to find a happy medium.
I kept getting scrubbed and she was just lifting my limbs and going at it. I just closed my eyes because there was no way in hell I was making eye contact. She scrubbed hard though, and was definitely getting dead skin off. She slapped the table hard to motion for me to lay down face down. She scrubbed everything, told me to turn over and carried on. There was no room to be uncomfortable. You just had to close your eyes and let it happen, and once you stop thinking about it, it was quite relaxing. Just when I thought she was done, I opened my eyes just in time for her to dump a bucket full of cold water all over me. Surprisingly, it felt good, even for me who hates the cold. She then got some sort of pillow case full of soap bars, soaked it, and started rubbing me with it. There was such a thick layer of soap on me, I actually smelled good for the first time in a month. She rubbed me right down with the bars which felt almost like a stone massage, but just so we're clear, the "massage" we paid for was definitely just a run down. No muscles were reached, but it felt fantastic nonetheless. Everytime she needed me to turn over, she would just slap my butt. A few more dumped buckets of water, and I was done. She started packing up and I got confused, pointing at Justin. She said "no", took her payment, and left. A few minutes later, there was a new booming knock on the door, and justin opened the door to a fairly little guy with a bucket. I'm justin sitting there, soaking in the tub. So considering they still had standards that a woman couldn't scrub justin, apparently it didn't matter that a man was in the room with me just... there.
Same thing, the guy slapped the table for Justin and started him off lying down on his front. He initiated the whole process by slapping Justin's ass on each cheek. I was trying to suppress laughter as I watched on. He seemed to get a pretty decent scrub down and a few bones cracking, so I was a little jealous with my currently sore back.
The rest seemed pretty similar and after the guy left, we just relaxed in the baths hopping back and forth between hot and cold.
I did spend a good 20 minutes sitting on the floor with my head between my knees and was matching the colour of my red purse. But it still felt fantastic. We were SO relaxed.
So, basically, this was the most expensive and luxurious bath either one of us has ever had. It was like a momma scrubbing down her baby, or better yet, the sort of bath you see in movies where a king or queen are getting washed.
Which was perfect following yesterday's post discussing entitlement.
We are now heading north into the mountains, so not sure when we'll have wifi again.