Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Rest Stop has Replaced the Bath House...

Moscow, Russia

We went to a bath house. It is my favorite memory of Moscow. Stop giggling.

It took us a while to find the place. We stood right in front of it saying things like "surely >this< isn't it..." for about five minutes before finally going in. It was not at all what I expected. The entrance is a fairly ornate wood and marble job with a theatre-style ticket window. General admission costs 800 roubles a head. You trade your ticket at the door and walk into what must be the most ornate locker room in the world.

There are several ranks of facing leather-upholstered dark wood pews surrounded by a number of curtained private rooms. It is well lit and their are very Russian-looking paintings and colored glass all the way up the high walls. The place looks like the bar at a 19th century gentleman's club. I expected to see men in suits trading witticisms between puffs on pipes. Instead, there were naked (except for towels) Russian men trading mostly disinterested looks between scratches.

Customers pick a seat, get naked, grab a towel and some slippers and head off to the baths. There are several strong showers with ample hot water, a very cold marble pool that reminded me of a Vegas casino, wooden tubs of super-cold water, and the hottest steam room in the world complete with (birch?) branches for smacking your friends with. The general pattern seems to go something like shower/steam/shower/pool/steam/shower/steam/shower. After all that, you wrap yourself in your towel/blank and go sit in the locker room / bar and have a beer or (in our case) some tea with honey and lemon. We watched tennis on a big flat-panel TV and chatted very briefly with the guy in the next seat.

At first, I was afraid that we were someplace where we would not be welcome. The parking lot was full of Range Rovers and Merc SUVs. There was not a word of English spoken. As it turns out, nobody seemed to care that two tourists had wandered in off the street. The staff sorted us out when we looked confused and otherwise left us alone. After days of very generous and active hospitality, it was reassuring to feel some good old-fashioned indifference. I feel relaxed and ready for the long train ride to Omsk.


Post a Comment

<< Home