Bath Bakhmaro: Scrubbing My Way to Bliss in Tbilisi

Our scrubber at the Bath Bakhmaro in Tbilisi.
Our scrubber at the Bath Bakhmaro in Tbilisi.

I’m still feeling relaxed and clean four hours after emerging from Tbilisi’s famous sulfur baths, called Bath Bakhmaro, located in the historic district and hard to miss by its distinctive brick domes.  We had anticipated our visit since we first came to Tbilisi, and so we arranged to rent two rooms for our party–five women in one and four men in another.

The cost for the rooms was 5o lari and 10 more to pay the guy or gal who scrubbed us from head to toe.  For $11.86, I was treated to absolute bliss, that lasted a lot longer than any massage I’ve ever had.

Plus, the water was hotter than any so-called hot tub I’ve ever slipped into and it was naturally heated hot spring water with a special sulfur aroma. Not bad, though when you enter the arched doorways of the spa it hits you quite distinctly.

When our appointed time came (you must arrange this ahead of time), we entered our bath and removed our clothes, some of us using thin towels provided for one lari, others using thick terry towels borrowed from the Holiday Inn. We walked from our private changing room into a tiled room with deep tub about five feet deep, with seats built in.  Next to this was a table made of marble and tile where we would get our scrubbing.

Max relaxing after our scrub and soak in Tbilisi.
Max relaxing after our scrub and soak in Tbilisi.

In the next room were two showers that poured out cold water, which we would appreciate after soaking ourselves in the 40 centigrade sulfur water, (104 fahrenheit).  I was going to wear a bathing suit, as did a younger colleague of mine, but after I saw my other two buddies butt naked, I figured what the hell, and took it off.

We soaked in the hot pool for a while and then jumped out and took a cold shower. It took a while to get all the way into the cold, but after a few of these hot and cold exchanges I was much more willing to let the cold really cover me, and then run back to the hot pool.

Then our man entered wearing a bathing suit and motioned Max, my colleague to come forward and lie on the table.  He began scrubbing him from the shoulders down the body to the legs, using force to really scrub.  Then he poured a few big buckets of the hot water on top of Max and told him to turn over, and he repeated the procedure. We kept coming in and out of the tub enjoying the contrast.

Then later our man had scrubbed all of us, he motioned for Max to come back. Now it was time to use soap to lather us all up. Max lay down and the scrubber took the loofa and put it inside of a mesh bag with lots of soap and proceeded to lather him from head to toe.  Then he poured the water a few times to remove it, and had him sit up and he washed his arms and chest. At one point Max couldn’t see a thing he was so covered in soap suds!

We all did this and then were instructed to get back into the cold water and do a few more hot/cold plunges. After a final cold rinse we emerged from the bath and sat, blissfully, in the changing room. No silly mellow music, no calm woman coming to you with herbal tea, simply the most relaxed and mellow feeling you can imagine.  At the end we paid our bill and gave our scrubber a few laris to thank him. None of this $20 tip thing you have come to expect in the US.  No, just simple bliss, for under $12.

We came out and compared notes with our female colleagues. Their scrubber did her work topless, which we thought was kind of cool. We are not sure about whether the women folk all got naked for their scrubs or modestly left on their suits. I guess what happens in Tbilisi will stay in Tbilisi!  Bath Bahkmaro, 5 Grishasvili St, Tbilisi, 272 05 94.

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