Not sure how this even came up…over dinner on Friday night (Da Silvano – Jennifer Aniston goes there and now so do I), somehow bathhouses came up. Ashley had, of course, done this before…and Robin, the world traveler, had been to actual bathhouses in Russia AND Finland…I, ordinary boring stay-at-home mom from the suburbs, have not. So, we decided that we would go to the Russian & Turkish Baths on Saturday morning.
This place has been around since 1892. I think there may have been a Seinfeld episode based on this place. Very very very authentic and ‘old school’…it’s $30 admission…includes robes, ‘shorts’, facilities, etc. It is NOT Elizabeth Arden. It is NOT for the shy or faint-hearted. Pretty much you are walking around half naked with a bunch of fat Russian men. And getting beaten. I’ll get back to that in a minute! 😉 We didn’t bring bathing suits which I would highly HIGHLY recommend. We wore these black robes, which had the unfortunate problem of exposing ‘side boob’ when you least expected it…and underneath (and you are required to wear these on co-ed days – and naturally, we were there on a co-ed days – and you are grateful that it’s a requirement!) we wore this unisex gigantic shorts.
So, facilities…Russian Sauna…the hottest *&$@ sauna in the world, I swear. It’s almost painful. And that’s before the beating! haha and not kidding. Ice cold pool. Again, painful. But in a good way. Turkish Room (steam room). Aromatherapy Room (also steamy). Swedish Shower. Sun Deck. Back to the Russian Sauna…here’s the deets:
This authentic russian room is the highlight of every visit to the baths. The oven is filled with 20,000 lbs. of rock which are cooked overnight. During the day, these rocks give off an intense heat. This is one of the few rooms of its kind in the United States.
Surrounding a huge rock-walled furnace, women and men alike will be immersed in a hot, very steamy, stone furnaced “radiant heat”. When the heat starts to get unbearable, take one of the dozens of buckets around the room, fill it with ice cold water, and like the Russians hundreds of years before you have done, dump it over your head. Now don’t be self-conscious because as you will soon notice, everyone is dousing themselves with buckets of water. In that sheer moment as the ice-cold water pours over you, comes one of the most enjoyable moments you will ever experience. It is sheer delight. You can also request a traditional Russian Platza treatment.
This was the first room we walked into. It’s so so so freaking hot. There are men everywhere. Sweating. Half naked. More than half, actually. People are pouring buckets of ice old water on their heads. In one corner, a guy is getting a massage, but the masseuse is alternately walking on his back and yanking the guy’s legs up and over his head. In another corner, an enormous guy is getting beaten with a flogger of some sort and having ice cold buckets of water poured all over him. I was like “HOLY SHIT, I am not in Arlington anymore!”. And “get me the F*CK out of here!” The beating is the Russian Platza treatment. For only $35 you too can be publicly beaten. There was no way in HELL I was going to do that. No way. Robin went off to get a massage (so cool – no appts before hand…you just ask and go have it done) and Ashley and I did the other steam rooms. Which were great. My sinuses were very very happy. But, I started thinking that okay, I’m here. In a Russian bathhouse. When am I ever going to do this again? Etc. So, I decided to just go for it…and I asked for the platza!! Ashley did it at the same time (I did’t want that little b*tch watching me get beaten AND I knew that if I saw her go first I would chicken out) Here’s a description of it:
Platza Oak Leaf
Lie down while in the Russian Room and aplatza specialist will scrub you (actually beat you) with a broom made of fresh oak leaves, sopping with olive oil soap. The oak leaves contain a natural astringent, which will open your pours, remove toxins, and actually take off layers of dead skin. Some described theplatza as “Jewish acupuncture”.
Most.Intense.Experience.Ever. Hot. Cold. Pleasure. Pain (mild). Public Humiliation. It was sensory overload. It left me shaken and out of breath. I wasn’t sure if I was going to laugh or cry. I think I did both. Very domineering man, wearing a wet towel on his head and a pair of shorts and nothing else, takes me by the hand and lays me down on a step in the Russian Room. Cold towel over the head. Cannot see what’s happening. Warm water poured over the body. Very firm hands massaging and CRACK CRACKing my back. Bliss. I think I grunted and moaned. Wait. I know I did. Scrubbing with soapy water.Smack smack brush brush with the oak leaf flogger thing. So hot. Please pour cold water on me. Whoosh, cold water. Shock. Heaven. Both arms pulled behind my back and torso lifted off the step. Squealing. Next, both legs are lifted up and I am bent in half in a way I have never been before. More cold water please. YES. Roll over. One leg up and over my head. And then the other. More soapy scrubbing and whacking and brushing. Towel still over the head. What’s happening? Hot water rinsing soap off. Then nothing. COLD BUCKET OF WATER. Thank you. Thank you. Sit up. Cold water. Hot water. He stands me up (can’t really walk, shaky) and walks me out and orders me into the cold pool. I go. So cold. Polar Bear Club cold. Numb. He dresses me in a dry robe and wraps me in a warm towel. Walks me to a bench and sits me down. It’s over. This all took 10 minutes. I don’t know my own name at this point.
We stayed for over 3 hours. I could have stayed longer. I told random people sitting near me that I was going to move, not just to NYC, but actually into the bathhouse. Live there. Be flogged. And blissed out. Robin did a massage (and mud/salt treatment) that apparently like a physical therapy session, wrapped in a chiropractor visit, topped off with the dude washing and conditioning her hair. OMG. How amazing does that sound?
Oh, just to be clear. Not sexy. Not sexual. Nothing felt weird or inappropriate. No leering from the male onlookers. It was just so amazing. I don’t think this long winded description did it justice. It was the best spa experience of my life. Seriously. And I have been to some serious spas. Including the sublime Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea in Maui. If you get a chance, GO. Definitely. Well, fancy friends like “Debbie” or “Fawn” might not want to go. You may be horrified. But, the rest of you? Do it. Love it. Beg for more.