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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Kiev Public Russian Baths

you can't beat spa's and saunas round the world.

So, as all the various Kiev art galleries were closed for the holiday (thanks guys) we sought out the Central Public Baths which is ...

Tsentralni Torgovi Lazni (Central Public Baths)

3A Mala Zhitomirska, 278-0102.
Open Tue.-Sun. from 8 a.m. till 10 p.m.
It's a broken down looking building just up from the main independence square (the right fork where Macdonalds is) You can see it because an old man is selling birch branches outside. Anyway, of course, like everything in Kiev its woefully badly signposted, so i'll save you the trouble of wandering around the whole building and tell you its upstairs on the top floor, through a pine looking door. When you get in, the  entrance hall looks like a pretty dodgy bar in some Godforsaken part of Russia (which it is, if you spoke to certain opinions on the matter)  So the guy there sells the tickets, the vodka and the beer. And dried herrings, if you want them.  Im afraid there is the 'foreigner premium' we paid 120 thingies each ($12) for a VIP changing room next to the bar. Its 100 thingies for foreigners in the main bit but the real price is 40 so try to get near to that. The guy with the beard pockets the difference, i'm afraid.
So we got a sheet for some reason (no towels) and in i went wearing it like a kind of toga thing. The whole thing looks like some Soviet style Cannibal Abbatoir. The first room was full of the most grotesque looking humans lying prostrate on stone slabs, some with steam coming off them. 
going through there is the shower room, with various basins you can use and cold showers. Then to the heart of the beast....
The sauna was old school, ugly, ancient and dirty but still functioning exactly as it should. Like a 1930's Lada. Or a 1930's Russian woman (since 1930's Russian men are all dead)  These massive saunas, being inefficient, are pretty dangerous. Its quite cool at the bottom, but as you just go up one level, the heat is unbearable. As we arrived the guys were in the middle of cleaning it out, and putting water into the stove. So you'd be sitting there minding your own business and phhhhooooaaa  the heat comes down and almost drives you unconcious. 
Like it's been since time immemorial, enormously fat Russian guys beat each other with the branches at the top, you get a great cleanout of all that vodka red bull from the last 3 nights party, Mafia guys covered in tattoos plot their plans and the deaths of their enemies, without earshot of prying ears and eyes, and all is good in the world.
A burn for 15 minutes, then a short cold shower and cooloff, and a beer, about 3 times, is about fine here. I must say that this isn't something for tourists though, i'd say it was even a little scary for some foreigners i know - Banyan Tree it ain't, its even a lot dodgier than Clapton or Bethnal Green Russian Baths.  But, sure if hanging out with enormously fat naked old men is your thing, then get yourself down there. 

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