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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale

Patriarchal Baths

Updated: Nov 12, 2018

Outside the baths where you can pay for gender equality

On Saturday, my girlfriend Sarah and I returned from 11 nights spent in the wondrous ex- USSR Soviet state – and the first independent country to have formed part of which as of April 1991– of Georgia.

Granted, there was part of me that fretted having tempted fate somewhat, as I cannot recall the last time that I was so excited about travelling somewhere; suffice to say that it lived up to and surpassed all expectations.

Anyway, in the simplest of terms, we spent 4 nights in Tbilisi, 1 in Gori (Stalin’s hometown), 2 in Kutaisi, 3 in Batumi on the Black Sea and then back for a final night back in Tbilisi before flying home. A treat, if you, like me, love sampling a bit of interestingly enjoyable food, culture and history. The weather was also great, so I didn’t require an intense few sunbed sessions when I returned, as a Brit, to prove that I’d been away.

From the offset, the 4 hour and 40 minute flight from Gatwick with Air Georgia set the tone of going onto a journey to experience something different, from feats such as being aboard a tiny 2 by 2 seated Embraur 19 jet and their not having and vegetarian options. Embrace some throwback glamour.

There is loads that I could witter on about celebrating the joys of Georgia, but I do not want to turn into one of those infuriating people who tell you where you should any shouldn’t go when visiting a place…. Not only does the mystique and excitement fade this way, but I’m sure our tastes in what constitutes a fun time are all so different anyway!

Each place we went to was a wonder in itself, but on here I’ll exclusively share my experience of Tbilisi’s sulphur baths. An added bonus when visiting somewhere where things cost so much less, is that you can afford the odd slice of luxury with feats such as fine dining being so accessible.

The exchange rate of the Georgian Lari is roughly 3 to the pound and for the price of 20 Lari each we could hire out a private room with its own toilet, shower and plunge pool – which felt like about the same temperature of the perfect cup of tea – for an hour. For an extra 20 lari each we could also afford a body scrub massage. It’s all most professional, with a male masseuse being assigned to men and a lady being assigned for females. It was relaxing and rejuvenating. Oh, how t’other half live.

After our little escapade into this decadent side of culture, we stopped at the bar opposite the tiled baths (that we felt were most attractive, which is why we chose to use them in our superficial way) to have a cool off beer feeling cleaner than I can ever remember feeling before.

Opposite where we were drinking, was the public baths. Perhaps motivated by the increasing amount of beer that I was drinking, I was intrigued to sample these baths, which I could claim was to attain a more rounded view of my limited experience of Georgian baths, but in reality it was my voyeuristic side speaking for itself.

Enquiring as to the nature of these baths, it transpired that we blokes would get hot baths, a sauna and a shower. Females were also welcome to try the separated female baths for the same price; but they would only get a shower.

This division is something that my feminism recoiled at. Only what could I do to change things? If I were to boycott in process and others were to do the same, then the wonderful baths would surely just shut down. This would be to nobody’s benefit. So I opted to take the plunge and sample this less salubrious side of Georgian baths. It only cost 3 Lari’s, which as I’ve said is about a quid, so nothing to really lose.

Also, it would actually rather suit us both, as upon any trip you’re inevitably as good as permanently in each other’s company and however much you may love somebody, the odd smidgen of a break from this has to be welcome!

Sarah was more than happy with a book and a few more beers to accompany her as I, with some trepidation, entered the baths.

Predictably I was hardly au fait with the etiquette of this feat. Luckily, I love being naked, so I just happily took everything off, and then it dawned on me that I’d need a key to shut my locker to stow my things. A less dignified moment of mine was having to mime and gesticulate to the attendant that I had forgotten to obtain a key, whilst standing stark bollock naked finished with a pair of manky old flip flops (with the pressure, I’d forgotten that Sarah had kindly packed hers in my bag for me to use), though luckily they took pity upon me and sorted my problem out.

It was an overall enjoyable experience and aside from the sauna being of the best quality that I’d ever been into, it was actually just liberating. It was incredibly freeing.

The one slightly off putting thing was the slight eggy smell was exuded in the communal area, though once you remind yourself that it is just the sulphur, all is fine. So much so that I even went for a second session on our final and unplanned day in Tbilisi to prepare for getting our plane back the next day at the end of the trip.

If anybody cares to launch a petition for equal rights across the baths, believe me, I shall get fully on board with you!

The life expectancy of Georgia is now documented as 74.82, which is somewhat higher than in the nearby countries of Russia and Ukraine, for example. The largely healthy diet can perhaps be attributed for this; although apparently many people are surviving with several prolonged ailments… Alcohol and tobacco consumption is notoriously high; perhaps they just know how to enjoy life? After feasting on a gourmet diet, my weight was down to the good end of its target, falling below 70kg.

Also accrued an average of 14,612 steps per day and this is allowing for us leaving our iPhones in our hotel room as we walked to the beach and also did plenty of swimming in Batumi.

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