© 2011 expatmonkey. All rights reserved.

Let’s Get Naked

Dark and steamy. Like my soul.

“A great sense of freedom and well-being permeated me. All my tiredness had gone and I felt strong enough to lift a mountain.”
                         –Alexander Dumas, 1858 (after visiting the Tbilisi sulfur baths)

Tbilisi’s downtown sulfur springs are responsible for several bath houses dating back more than 500 years. Both Pushkin and Alexander Dumas praised them, and according to one website, they are “also good from the view of point of urologic problem arrangement.”

Another site provided this helpful tidbit: “The service of the rubbers, known from time immemorial, has again been included in the service packet. They work individually for gentlemen and ladies. Different rubbers serve the common compartments and the private ones.”

Well I should hope so.

I’ve been a fan of the Russian banya since my first experience in Kazakhstan in 1997, when my naked host-grandfather first beat the hell out of me with birch leaves and then exfoliated my back as though he were power sanding a backyard deck. Since then I’ve tried to find good baths in the places where it’s not considered weird: the former Soviet Union; the Middle East; Chelsea, MA.

But Tbilisi’s the only place I’ve ever gone consistently, with a small group of friends after work every Friday, and thus it holds a special fondness for me.

So if you’re looking to arrange your urologic problem, or just sweat in the sauna, plunge into a marble ice pool, and then chill out in the warm sulfur spring bath, Tbilisi may be the place for you. Especially if you’re sick and tired of your rubbers being used in the “common compartment.”

“Not since my birth have I witnessed such luxuriousness as at the Tbilisi baths.”

— Aleksandr Pushkin, 1829
tbilisi at night
An apartment building on one of the sidestreets on my walk home from the baths
sonya, yak bell, drum
Pre-bath skype chat with my brother and my niece Sonya, who I'm delighted to see still wears the yak bell I gave her for Christmas.


  1. Maggie

    Yay for the yak bell!

  2. Heide

    Wow! A shock of memory. My first banya experience was almost identical to yours, but it was Tanya beating the hell out of me with the birch branches. The same banya, though.

  3. expatmonkey

    Ha! I could see Tanya being equally vicious as Dyadya Boris!

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